Hello again racing fans, gambling fans, and gambling on racing fans. After a brief hiatus to “do actual work” and “cover sports in person”, the blog is back for F1’s Austrian Grand Prix and NASCAR’s return to the reprofiled Atlanta Motor Speedway!

We start the weekend in the beautiful hills of Austria:

As I type this, I’m watching F1 qualifying. The sport is in rare air at the moment, with three teams battling right at the front, something that’s not incredibly common in the history of Formula One. 

While that makes predicting what happens a bit harder, it sure does make for better racing. Last week’s British Grand Prix was a great example of that better racing. If you haven’t seen it, I urge you to watch the fight between Charles Leclerc, Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton after the safety car restart.

Better racing in the sport makes for better gambling odds, but maybe not for Max Verstappen. The Championship leader returns to his team’s home track and a track that’s become a home away from home for him and his Orange (or Oranje) Army.

While it was closely run in qualifying, it was still Verstappen topping the timesheets, but by less than a tenth over the two Ferrari drivers of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz. Mercedes showed good pace, but both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell crashed in Q3 of qualifying. 

Lewis Hamilton pokes his head out of his car following his crash in qualifying

Lewis was unable to set a time in Q3, and will start P9 following a 10-place grid penalty to Red Bull’s Sergio Perez who “left the track without justifiable reason” during a quick lap in the second stage of qualifying. George Russell, able to set a time before his accident, will start P4 on the second row.

A disaster of a qualifying session for Mercedes, both Hamilton and Russell’s qualifying crashes were a result of losing the car in a turn fighting against the wind. However Perez’s penalty gives a lifeline to Russell in the sprint, and Lewis Hamilton will be fun to watch as he tries to cut through a few cars and make his way to the fight at the front.

Further down the grid, McLaren also had mighty struggles on Friday. A practice session saw Lando Norris jump out of his car with smoke rising under his seat, and neither McLaren driver made it to Q3 of qualifying. Daniel Ricciardo will start the sprint P15, and Lando starts just in front in P14.

America’s F1 Team, Haas, took advantage of their midfield rivals slipping and got both cars into Q3. Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher will be 7th and 8th alongside each other on the fourth row for tomorrow’s sprint race.

Yes, it’s a sprint weekend, which means Saturday will feature a sprint race to settle the qualifying positions for Sunday. The sprint might be a way for a team who had a disappointing quali session, like McLaren or Mercedes, to make inroads for Sunday’s Grand Prix.

The last sprint, at Imola back in April, saw Charles Leclerc take advantage of a slow start from Max Verstappen, but the flying Dutchman passed Leclerc with two laps left to take the checkered flag. A similar result at the Red Bull Ring isn’t too farfetched.

Verstappen believes his Red Bull is at its best in race trim, and they don’t feel as comfortable in qualifying, despite him claiming pole position. That should be a warning to the field, if they didn’t already think this was Max’s weekend to lose.

Without further ado, let’s get to the picks for F1 this weekend:

Sprint Race Top 3 Finish – George Russell +150: Despite his crash, Russell getting a solid lap down in Q3 puts him in 4th, right behind Charles Leclerc and alongside Carlos Sainz. A good start and getting past Sainz can put Russell in the podium places and Mercedes has proven to have the race pace to fight at the front.

Sprint Race Special – Max Verstappen to win, Charles Leclerc top 3, Pierre Gasly top 10 +200: Parlaying all these together the biggest risk here is Pierre Gasly making the top ten. It’s been a bit of a disappointing season for Pierre and AlphaTauri, he hasn’t been hitting the heights he was in 2021 as consistently. The Red Bull Ring is a great venue for him to get back on track in front of all the Austrian energy drink company’s big wigs.

Sprint Race – Mick Schumacher over Kevin Magnussen head-to-head +200: Mick starts right behind his teammate KMag on Saturday after a fantastic British Grand Prix last week. Schumacher gave Max Verstappen fits in the closing laps at Silverstone, and is more than capable of keeping the momentum going if he has a clean race.

Feature Race – Mercedes Fastest Lap +1200: Despite Lewis Hamilton capturing the quickest race lap last weekend, there’s still great odds on Mercedes being that quick on back to back weekends. Sure, that’s taking into account the fact that Max Verstappen exists, but a Mercedes that was right on the pace in qualifying before their accidents is definitely worth the value on this play.

Feature Race – Max Verstappen to win by over 10 seconds +188: If this is the race many expect it to be, with Max Verstappen comfortably ahead, there should be a decent gap to those behind him. I just don’t doubt Max’s ability to get the job done at what is clearly now his second home track.

Across the Atlantic,

NASCAR Cup Series makes its return to the reprofiled tri-oval of Atlanta Motor Speedway, providing superspeedway-style racing in a much smaller 1.5 mile track. With that superspeedway style, the drivers who thrive in the draft and can manage the race in one piece will end up on top at the end. 

That is, of course, if they aren’t in a wreck across the finish line, which is how March’s QuikTrip Folds of Honor 500 ended for multiple drivers near the front as William Byron took the checkered flag. 

Bubba Wallace, who’s only win to date came at *the* superspeedway, Talladega, is an ever-present in these races. Bubba’s problem this season hasn’t been his own performance, but the performance of his pit crew. 

Joe Gibbs Racing, 23XI co-owner Denny Hamlin’s race team, leases pit crews to 23XI. On multiple occasions this season, that leased pit crew has cost Bubba Wallace a race. 

None were quite as egregious as the mistake the team made in Nashville a few weekends ago: Bubba pitted for a caution, and the crew left a wheel loose on his car. Bootie Barker told him to drive slowly so the wheel wouldn’t fall off and come back around for another pit stop to fit the wheel on. The mistake by his crew put Wallace a lap down.

Leave me the fuck alone, dude.” Bubba told his crew chief on the radio. “Don’t talk to me the whole fucking race.” Bootie Barker continued to talk, but Bubba didn’t say a single word back on radio throughout the rest of the race.

Bubba clearly has the talent to put races together, and Toyotas have looked to have gained pace throughout the season. Unfortunately, when you watch a NASCAR Cup Race, you tend to think something bad is going to happen to Bubba or his team is going to ruin his Sunday. 

So if you, like me, fear for the reliability of the team of one of the better drivers on superspeedways, you look at some of the others who come good in pack racing. Michael McDowell makes a living showing up at superspeedways, and the surprise Daytona winner is always worth keeping an eye on in these races.

Let’s get to the picks for the Cup Series race in Atlanta: 

Outright Winners – Kurt Busch +1800, Kyle Busch +1300: While the 23XI Racing project hasn’t worked out entirely for his teammate Bubba Wallace, Kurt Busch claimed the team’s first victory while sporting a Jordan paint scheme, much to the delight of co-owner Michael Jordan.

Boss sure liked that one.

Top Ten Finishes: Michael McDowell +200, Ricky Stenhouse Jr +185, Christopher Bell +110, Denny Hamlin -125

Winning Manufacturer: Toyota +215

Good to be back in the saddle. Let’s go racin.