NASCAR Picks for Charlotte
Length: 1.500 miles
Location: Concord, North Carolina
ARTICLE: Coca-Cola 600 Practice Recap: Drivers to Watch
Coming off the short, 90-lap format of the All-Star Race last weekend, the Cup Series will shift gears completely for this weekend's Coca-Cola 600. Although both races are held at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the similarities end there. While the All-Star Race is all about a series of short dashes, Sunday night's race is a test of endurance. The 600-mile event is the longest of the season, and the extra 100 miles at a fast track like Charlotte can take a toll on both drivers and their equipment. From keeping up with the changing track conditions throughout the marathon-like race to having a car that can handle the long green flag stretches that tend to occur, there is a lot that goes into a successful run in the Coca-Cola 600.
For fantasy owners, building your lineup around drivers that have been successful at Charlotte is obviously a smart starting point. However, it is also important to know which drivers have been particularly successful in the Coca-Cola 600, especially when you are talking about potential sleeper candidates. After all, the race is a different animal than the 500-mile event held at the track in the fall, and Sunday night's race tends to favor those drivers that have a knack for staying out of trouble and taking care of equipment. With all the attrition that occurs throughout the night, a driver that normally finishes around the top 20 can creep towards the top 15, turning a mediocre fantasy option into a solid one.
Matt Kenseth, #20 Husky/Dollar General, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
His first-ever Cup Series win came at Charlotte, and he has remained consistent at the track throughout his career. In fact, he has finished in the top 15 in his last eight starts at Charlotte, winning the fall event in 2011. Throw in the fact that Kenseth has been blazing fast just about everywhere this season, and there is no reason to expect him to slow down at a track that has always been one of his best.
Kasey Kahne, #5 Farmers Insurance/Quaker State, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Since the start of the 2006 season, no driver has more wins at Charlotte than Kahne's four. By the way, three of those wins have come in the Coca-Cola 600, including a win in the race last year. Kahne has also compiled a 4.3 average finish at Charlotte in his last three starts, so he is a pretty safe bet to deliver an excellent finish.
Jimmie Johnson, #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
There was a time when Johnson was next to unbeatable at Charlotte, and he does have six career wins at the track to go along with an 11.5 average finish. On the other hand, he also finished outside the top 10 in three straight starts prior to a third-place run last fall. Don't get me wrong. Johnson is still a strong fantasy play, but he isn't quite the guarantee he was a few years ago.
Kyle Busch, #18 Mars Brands/Interstate Batteries, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class B]
It is a little hard to believe, but Busch has never won a Cup race at Charlotte. That being said, he has come close on several occasions, and Busch has finished eighth or better in 10 of his last 11 starts at the track. During the stretch, he has tallied eight top-five finishes, including three straight.
Denny Hamlin, #11 FedEx, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Based on the current trend, it is only a matter of time before Hamlin gets himself a Cup win at Charlotte. He has reeled off five straight top-10 finishes at the track, compiling a 5.4 average finish during the stretch. More importantly, Hamlin finished second in both races at Charlotte last year, and he didn't show any signs of rust when he returned to full-time racing at Darlington two weeks ago.
Carl Edwards, #99 Fastenal/Aflac/UPS/Subway, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Although he has never won at Charlotte, Edwards has been very consistent at the track throughout his career. His 12.0 average finish is the third best among active drivers, and he has 10 top-10 finishes in 16 starts. Edwards has been particularly solid lately, finishing third, ninth and seventh in his last three starts. He may not deliver a top-five finish this weekend, but he should make a solid addition to any fantasy roster.
Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite, Penske Racing [Yahoo Class A]
He has been good (but not great) at Charlotte throughout his young career. He only has one top-10 finish in seven starts at the track, but he also has just one finish outside the top 20. Perhaps more importantly, Keselowski finished fifth and 11th in two starts at Charlotte last year, so it appears he is figuring out the 1.5-mile oval. Not to mention the fact that he is usually good for a top-10 at just about any track these days.
Martin Truex, Jr., #56 NAPA Auto Parts, Michael Waltrip Racing [Yahoo Class B]
While finishes of 12th and 10th at Charlotte last year are respectable in their own right, it is Truex's body of work at 1.5-mile tracks in general that make him an intriguing fantasy option. In the last 10 races at the so-called cookie-cutters, he has nine top-10 finishes and has scored more points than any other driver. Truex can definitely help fantasy teams this weekend.
Greg Biffle, #16 3M/Bondo, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Biffle rolls into Charlotte this weekend in the middle of his best stretch at the track. He has finished in the top 15 in his last five starts, compiling an 8.2 average finish during the stretch. Biffle also finished fourth in both races at Charlotte last year, so he is a much better fantasy option than his 16.4 average finish suggests.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., #88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class B]
He actually missed the fall race at Charlotte last year as he recovered from a concussion, but Junior has been dialed in at the Coca-Cola 600 recently. He finished seventh in the race in 2011 and was sixth last year. A top-five finish is probably a bit optimistic, but Junior should bring the No. 88 home somewhere in or around the top 10 Sunday night.
Kevin Harvick, #29 Budweiser/Rheem, Richard Childress Racing [Yahoo Class A]
His career numbers at Charlotte aren't great, but he has been on a roll at the track recently. He has compiled an 8.3 average finish in his last six starts at the track and has finished eighth or better four times during the stretch. Harvick also won the Coca-Cola 600 two years ago, so he does have some upside to go along with his sudden reliability at Charlotte.
Clint Bowyer, #15 5-Hour Energy, Michael Waltrip Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Normally one of the more consistent drivers, Bowyer has had some issues at Charlotte over his career. That being said, he did use a little fuel mileage strategy to get to Victory Lane last fall. Overall, he has just four top-10s in 14 starts at Charlotte, so fantasy owners should be a little cautious if they are expecting Bowyer to contend for another win this weekend.