Hello again race fans, gambling fans, and gambling on racing fans, we’re back and so is F1! Summer break has finally come to an end and cars are on track at the beautiful Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps for this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix!
Before that (well, hopefully because of rain in the forecast) however we have some Saturday night racing at Daytona in NASCAR! We have the rare inversion of the racing doubleheader, with NASCAR on Saturday night in primetime, and F1 on Sunday morning!
So let’s start in Daytona!
Daytona’s late-summer night race is the NASCAR Cup Series regular season finale, with just two spots available in the 16-driver playoffs. To qualify for the playoffs, a driver must win a Cup Series race, or finish in the top 16 on points.
An unprecedented 15 drivers have won races in Cup this year. Kurt Busch is one of those, but has been suffering lingering concussion issues and hasn’t been cleared to race since his wreck in qualifying at Pocono in July. This week he dropped out of the playoffs, with his timetable still unclear for returning to the driver’s seat of the #45 23XI Racing Toyota.
So 15 winners, but 14 winners in the playoffs. That means two spots are open. Currently, Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr are in those two spots. If there’s a new winner at Daytona, one of them gets bounced out, currently that would be Truex on points with Blaney 25 ahead.
If Blaney or Truex is the new winner, then they both make the playoffs with the points battle becoming void at that point. Daytona is a track where just about anything can happen as long as you’re not collected in a big wreck, so nothing’s a guarantee.
It’s pretty hard to predict Daytona. You can predict a big crash drastically altering the race, but you can’t predict who’s going to be involved. Just ask Harrison Burton, who ended up upside-down at the Daytona 500 in February.
Superspeedways are all about being at the right place in the right time. Some drivers are great at managing races at superspeedways, and you see odds going towards those who’ve shown that prowess at 200ish miles per hour.
Ryan Blaney, involved in that playoff battle, is one of the race favorites (currently +1200 as of this writing) as the winner of last year’s summer Daytona race. Blaney also has two wins at Talladega, and is as good a pick as any to come up victorious on Saturday night.
Another driver on the outside looking in is Bubba Wallace. His team has won this year, but the driver who got his first Cup win at Talladega hasn’t made it to victory lane yet this season. Along with his Talladega win, he finished in the top five at five different superspeedway races, including finishing 2nd at this year’s Daytona 500.
Another consistent superspeedway racer is looking for a playoff spot in Michael McDowell. The 2021 Daytona 500 winner has six superspeedway top tens in 14 races at the big ovals. Despite his knack of getting his #34 Front Row Motorsports Ford Mustang in contention, he is a huge longshot this weekend.
Let’s get to the picks:
OUTRIGHTS: Bubba +1200, Denny Hamlin +1200, Kevin Harvick +2500, Michael McDowell +4000
TOP 10s: Bubba -140, Kyle Busch -140, Tyler Reddick -110, McDowell +200
HEAD-TO-HEADS: Truex over Blaney +120, Denny Hamlin over Chase Elliott +105, Kevin Harvick over Christopher Bell -100
Now we turn our attention to F1,
And even though they’re at one of the best tracks in the world this weekend at Spa, the real action has been off the track. All the buzz is about a now-vacant Alpine drive for 2023. If you haven’t followed along with F1 news over the past month, well why not!
“Silly season” lived up to the billing this year, starting with the somewhat expected retirement of former dominant force and current Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel. While his decision might not have been the biggest surprise, the chain reaction of his departure has created chaos around the F1 paddock.
After it was almost assumed Fernando Alonso would be continuing at Alpine, he and Aston Martin then suddenly announced he was jumping to the British team for 2023. This announcement came on August 1st, believed to be the day after Alpine’s developmental contract with Aussie prospect Oscar Piastri expired.
Why’s that a big deal you may ask? Well everyone assumed Piastri, the hottest young prospect not driving in F1, after winning championships in all the “feeder series” levels like F2, F3, and so on, was going to slot right into Alpine. That, uh, didn’t work out, to say the least.
Alpine announced less than 24 hours after the Alonso move that Oscar Piastri would then become their driver in 2023. Interestingly though, their statement came with no quotes from the driver in question.
Piastri had a young driver/developmental deal with Alpine and was part of the Alpine team this year as a test driver. Seemingly, he didn’t have a contract in place for Alpine in F1 next year, whether that be because he or Alpine thought Fernando Alonso would still be in that seat.
Hours after the Alpine announcement, Piastri took to Twitter to publicly refute that he had signed such a contract with Alpine and would not be driving for them. The move caught many at Alpine totally off guard, and still leaves them a racing driver short for 2023.
But why would Piastri turn down a drive in a competitive, midfield car in his first season in F1, an opportunity not many rookies get? Well, what if a better seat opened up? Enter a struggling Daniel Ricciardo and McLaren.
Ricciardo has not been living up to expectations with McLaren during his time there. Throughout the summer as his struggles continued, doubts began to form over his contract option being picked up for next year. Both parties have “mutually agreed” to part ways after 2022.
Back before the season started, Danny Ric tested positive for COVID, and was sidelined right before the Bahrain Grand Prix. He ended up recovering and testing negative in time to race in the season opener, but Alpine “lended” Oscar Piastri to McLaren in case his fellow Aussie couldn’t compete.
Jump back to now, and Piastri has signed a deal with McLaren for 2023, according to Alpine boss Otmar Szafnauer. There hasn’t been an official announcement either way just yet, as both teams and Piastri are at the mercy of the Contracts Recognition Board. The CRB meets next week to determine the true fate of Piastri for the 2023 season.
Oh yeah, and Audi is joining F1 in a few years. Audi is going to buy Alfa Romeo/Sauber (who’s partnership ends after next season) and produce their own engines. This becomes official right around the same time Indianapolis-based Andretti Autosport announced a massive new headquarters for a planned F1 team.
Okay, that’s roughly where we’re at as we get back to racing this weekend. Fan favorite in Daniel Ricciardo currently without a home, a tug-of-war for Oscar Piastri, a new F1 team and the Andretti name desperately trying to get into F1.
Now let’s get to the on-track action,
and a slightly reconfigured and massively renovated Spa-Francorchamps Circuit has been tested by F1 machines for the first time during Friday’s practice sessions.
Barricade walls at the famous Eau Rouge, potentially F1’s most famous and potentially dangerous corner, have been pushed back for safety’s sake. A gravel trap has been added at turn one, La Source, and now drivers will be punished for going wide at the race start.
In practice, by no surprise to anyone, Ferrari and Red Bull were clearly fastest. However, grid penalties for new engine bits will be handed to our championship leaders, Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc. McLaren’s Lando Norris, Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, Haas F1’s Mick Schumacher and Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas will also be sent to the back of the grid.
With all due respect to the greatness of Max Verstappen and his dominant 2022 campaign thus far, we now have a bit of chaos! Can Verstappen and Leclerc march through the field? Can Mercedes take advantage of this opportunity for their first race win of the season? Is there a shock winner on the cards?
If practice times are any indicator so far, we’re not so sure about that last part. Carlos Sainz has been looking very pacey in his Ferrari and sits as the current co-favorite pre-qualifying at +280. Lewis Hamilton, despite less than stellar practice runs, is the other +280 co-favorite, the most optimistic the odds have been for the 7-time World Champion all season.
This is a rare F1 race where the odds are so open, usually a favorite (Max Verstappen) is not even plus money, let alone +280. Lotta value out there!
Let’s get to the picks:
OUTRIGHTS: Lewis Hamilton +280, Fernando Alonso +8000, Daniel Ricciardo +25000(!)
PODIUM FINISH: George Russell +100
TOP 10: Daniel Ricciardo -110, Valterri Bottas +125, Yuki Tsunoda +300
SPECIALS: Team Fastest Lap: Red Bull +135 Qualifying Winner: George Russell +600 Winning Margin: Between five and ten seconds +380
It’s a weekend at two of the most iconic racetracks in the world. Let’s go racin’.
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