Tricks for Rev"ing Up the Crowd When Opening for a Big Band

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Let's begin our NASCAR season recap with a look back at the year in wagering.
If you bet alongside me in 2005, I am presumably a kind of folk hero to you, wandering the countryside with oil and axle grease under my fingernails, disseminating auto-racing wisdom with a kind of Johnny Appleseed flair.
For the year, by giving you three outright selections (i.
e.
, three drivers I thought could win that week's race), I picked 17 outright winners in 37 events, a 46% clip.
Each week, I also gave you a single head-to-head matchup I believed would win you money (i.
e.
, a driver who would finish ahead of another driver in that week's event); on those wagers, I was a ridiculous 28-for-36, a 78% winning percentage.
In total, that meant that if you bet a dime per unit along with me each week, you netted 54.
6 units, or $54,606.
30, for the 2005 Nextel Cup season.
Pretty snazzy, eh? Even snazzier, if you consider that I changed my wagering format this season.
Under the previous two years' systems, this year you would've won an incredible $86,145.
60; however, I changed my betting pattern in '05 in order to assure you of more weekly wins, and fewer dry spells between net-positive weeks.
That worked like a charm: for the year, I made you money in 30 out of 37 total events: an 81% clip.
That trade-off made the change in betting format well worth it.
Plus, none of these calculations include my season-preview wagers, in which I encouraged you to bet a unit on three drivers to win the Nextel Cup championship.
One of those selections, Tony Stewart, rode home with his second career championship last week in Homestead; his preseason 10-1 odds mean that you can add +8 units to my season total.
(It's worth noting, for the sake of thoroughness, that I was a double-winner in the season's final event last week at Homestead: Greg Biffle both won the race at 6-1 odds, and also beat Tony Stewart in his head-to-head matchup.
For the week, that meant I finished up $2,871.
80 if you bet a dime along with me per unit.
) My longest-odds winner of 2005 was Matt Kenseth, who paid 20-1 at the fall Bristol race.
My shortest-odds winner of the year was Stewart, who paid a mere 4-1 in winning the road course race at Watkins Glen.
Who would've believed that a previously barely known driver named Greg Biffle would be my most-frequently-picked driver of 2005: I selected him for 18 outright wins (and was correct four times: at Texas, Dover, Michigan and Homestead), and I picked him 23 times overall.
My favorite head-to-head bet was on Stewart; I took him in seven different H2H matchups, and won six of them.
My best value picks on straight-up selections were Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards; if I picked them to win a race, I was correct a full 1/3rd of the time.
And considering all wagers (both straight-up and H2H), Edwards gave me my best winning percentage: 60% of the time I included him as a selection, he pulled through for me and won either that race, or at least that H2H battle (and sometimes both).
But enough about me.
In Vegas's eyes, the biggest longshot winner of 2005 was Dale Jarrett winning the fall Talladega race at 40-1 (it was a pretty fluky win, and was one of only a handful of 2005 races to finish under caution).
Speaking of flukes, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
won at Chicago with probably the 25th best car of the day, but a lucky caution and fuel strategy helped Junior deliver on a 35-1 victory (which pissed me off no end, considering I'd picked his closest competitors).
Edwards's Pocono win and Kyle Busch's late-season conquest of Phoenix each came in at 25-1, and Jeremy Mayfield's fuel-strategy win at Michigan came in at 22-1.
That was it for big long shots over 20-1.
For the year, a full half (18 of 36) of Nextel Cup points races were won by drivers who were listed at 10-1 or less, which goes to show you that only a handful of drivers are likely to win a race in a given week, and chasing big underdogs usually leaves a bettor sucking exhaust fumes.
From a manufacturer's perspective, it was a split pot for Chevy and Ford.
Each manufacturer won 17 races, while Dodge notched only three wins (one of which was Mayfield's tainted Michigan jaunt).
If ever there was a reason for Dodge to scrap the new Charger and go back to the more competitive Intrepid, there it is.
Guys like Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne, Rusty Wallace, Jamie McMurray and Casey Mears were handicapped by the Dodge struggles, and considering Wallace is leaving the sport and McMurray is defecting to Roush (Fords), Dodge needs some help to stay relevant, but quick.
Then again, the Ford side of things isn't all harmony, either.
Of the 17 Ford wins, an amazing 16 of them were by Roush cars (only Jarrett's superspeedway win kept Roush from a clean sweep).
That means a team like Robert Yates racing (who actually co-engineer the engines that appear in both the Roush and the Yates cars) really needs to step things up, or risk being left in the dust.
With the Chevys, the Gibbs cars win four events (all Stewart), while the Hendrick cars won 11, Richard Childress Racing won one (Kevin Harvick) and DEI won just one as well.
So teams under every manufacturer need to step it up.
All of which brings us to next year.
The landscape of NASCAR will be dramatically different in 2006; no fewer than 23 cars will see major changes (most of them driver changes) next year, and some of the biggest names in the sport are changing rides or bowing off the stage entirely.
Yes, the 2005 Silly Season has been incredibly silly.
Here are the changes: #OldNewNotes0Mike BlissJeff Green 1N/AMartin Truex Jr.
(rookie)2Rusty WallaceKurt Busch 07Dave BlaneyClint Bowyer 10N/AScott Riggs(keeps same number, but changes teams)11Jason LefflerDenny Hamlin(rookie)14Scott RiggsSterling Marlin(replaces #10; #14 in honor of Marlin's dad)15Michael WaltripPaul Menard(running 7 races in '06, full-time in '07)18Bobby LabonteJ.
J.
Yeley(rookie)21Ricky RuddKen Schrader 22Scott Wimmer?????(no announcement made yet) 32Bobby Hamilton Jr.
?????(no announcement made yet)40Sterling MarlinDavid Stremme(rookie)41Casey MearsReed Sorenson(rookie)42Jamie McMurrayCasey Mears 43Jeff GreenBobby Labonte 49Ken SchraderBrent Sherman 50Jimmy Spencer?????(may not run; may be Yates's third team)51N/AStuart Kirby 55N/AMichael Waltrip 94Mike Wallace?????(may not run)96N/ATony Raines(Terry Labonte will run first seven races) 97Kurt BuschJamie McMurray(will change from 97 to 26) The highlights include the departures of Rusty Wallace and Ricky Rudd, the major-team swaps of Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray, Bobby Labonte and Michael Waltrip, and the influx of young-gun talent to such important teams as Gibbs Racing (J.
J.
Yeley and Denny Hamlin) and Chip Ganassi (David Stremme and Reed Sorenson).
Unlike 2005, when Kyle Busch basically had the rookie-of-the-year field all to himself, there will be no fewer than six rookies with impeccable pedigrees and multimillion-dollar resources behind them.
So what should we look for in 2006? Well, it's unlikely that we'll see the kind of wagering advantage we saw in '05 ever again.
That is to say, the Dodges will have to get their acts together.
It was far too easy to completely disregard them at any of the unrestricted intermediate tracks (which make up such a large part of the NASCAR schedule), and the superspeedways.
It's that factor, more than any other, to which I attribute my handicapping success this year.
Hopefully we'll be able to divine some new trends early next season, and ride those all the way to the bank.
Toyota, long rumored to be ready for Nextel Cup action, won't play in 2006, but rumors keep swirling that 2007 could be the year, and that would throw things into a tizzy as well.
We should see some major changes at Charlotte (where the track simply got too fast), which could also upset some of the season's predictability.
And yet, in the end, I expect that the Roush cars will all be strong, the Hendrick cars will continue their dominance, Tony Stewart will always be a handful, and all other teams will be nipping at their heels.
Christopher Harris covers Nascar for Brian Gabrielle Sports
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