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THE PROPHET'S HANDICAPPER'S ALMANAC
DALE JUNIOR TO HONOR DAD WITH "INTIMIDATOR BLACK" AT TALLEDEGA
I'm not one to suggest that a "fix" might be in the offing, but I do expect NASCAR to give Dale Earnhardt, Jr. every benefit of the doubt during the Aarons 499 race this weekend. Junior is honoring his late dad's induction into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame this week by running a black paint scheme on his Chevy at Talladega. The paint scheme (which you can see at nascar.com) looks just like "The Intimidator's" old ride with the exception of the Budwiser logo and the #8 where the #3 should be. Look for the marketing conscious NASCAR braintrust to give the #8 car every chance to win this weekend in what would be the feel good story of the year in stock car racing.
Not that Junior has historically needed much help at the track. His 5 victories here is exceeded only by his dad, of whom it was said that he could "see the air" giving him a decided advantage on the restrictor plate track. In twelve career races, he's got an average finish of 10.7 which is second among active drivers to Dale Jarrett's 9.9 average finish. Going deeper in the data, however, reveals sheer dominance on this track. It took a few races for Junior to get the hang of the track, posting finishes of 42. 14 and 8 in his first three career starts. His struggles in 2005 were well documented, and it wasn't any different at Talledega with finishes of 15th and 40th. In the 7 races between, however, he posted finishes of 1,1,1,1,2,2,1. That's an average finish of 1.28 in that stretch. Junior certainly seems to have inherited his dad's ability to "see the air", but beyond that DEI spends more money on their restrictor plate program than any other team in the sport. Junior has gotten off to a solid start this season, and I expect to see him in contention this weekend. A win by the #8 car would certainly be in the best interest of NASCAR, and Junior has definitely got the skills to make it happen. He's +500 at Pinny, and I don't expect the price to get any better as the weekend progresses.
NHL STILL GOING OVER
NHL playoff totals went 3-1 to the OVER on Tuesday night, 1-2-1 OVER on Wednesday and 3-1 OVER on Thursday making it 16-10-2 to the OVER for the playoffs to date. It appears that linesmakers have adjusted playoff lines downward by a 1/2 goal from what they'd have posted during similar regular season matchups. I don't expect this adjustment to continue, and particularly if the OVERs keep rolling in. Expect to see more 5' and 6' totals as the playoffs progress. Or maybe not--linesmakers and the public could make the case that the games will become tighter as the playoffs progress, resulting in (theoretically at least) lower scores. I don't see this happening due to the league's insistence that officials call playoff games "by the book". With more public and league attention on the later round games, refs will be even less likely to "let 'em play" and will be calling every interference and obstruction call they can. More penalties means more power play goals which means more overs. Look for the strong OVER tendency to continue in the NHL playoffs...