There’s a bunch of extra variables to consider this weekend with the Coca-Cola 600. We have an extra 100 miles than normal to race on Sunday, which may not seem like a whole lot, but it’s an extra 20% over the typical 500-mile race. This means that pit crews will have to be perfect for one or two (or more) stops, which should have some drivers nervous (hello Martin Truex, Jr.). The 600 miles also make this historic race one of the most grueling on the schedule, and it opens up the door for some more strategy to play out. The fact of the matter is that it’s not unlikely for the fastest car to not end up in victory lane here. Oh, and don’t forget that we’ve seen fuel strategy come into play here as well.
Everything kicked off this weekend with practice and qualifying on Thursday, and it was Martin Truex, Jr. who ended up on the pole for this year’s Coke 600. The full starting linup can be found here. The Sprint Cup drivers weren’t on the track again until Saturday, when two practice sessions were held. You can get those speeds here: Practice #2 — Happy Hour. Also, check out our notes for each: Practice #2 — Happy Hour.
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Final Top 15 Ranking For Charlotte
1. Martin Truex, Jr. – Starts 1st – DraftKings Price: $9,800 – Yahoo! B Group
**Risk Factor: Medium Risk**
It’s hard not to consider the #78 Toyota as the favorites heading into Sunday night. This car is bad fast, and let’s not forget that Truex probably had the best car in last year’s Coca-Cola 600 as well. He was driving a Chevrolet last season, yes, but you could definitely argue that the Toyotas are even faster right now. After a disappointing 5th-place finish in last year’s Coke 600, Truex followed that up with a 3rd-place finish in the fall race here at Charlotte, and statistically this has been one of the best tracks on the circuit for Martin over the last two years. In Practice #2 on Saturday morning, the #78 Toyota was one of the best on the track no matter how you looked at it. Truex ranked 3rd on the overall speed chart, 1st in ten-lap average, and 1st in fifteen-lap average as well. In Happy Hour, he was fastest overall and in ten-lap average. This team is knocking on the door of a win once again, but you always have to keep in mind that Truex hasn’t had a top 5 finish since the season-opening Daytona 500. Also, do you trust this #78 team to not make a mistake over 600 miles on Sunday night? I know I don’t. Then again, that does give them extra time to rebound in case they make a mistake early. From a speed perspective, Martin Truex, Jr. is an excellent fantasy pick this weekend, but don’t forget that the fastest cars in the Coca-Cola 600 only go to victory lane about a third of the time. I can guarantee that Truex is going to lead a lot laps here on Sunday night but I can’t guarantee he gets to victory lane. I think the winner goes through the #78, though.
2. Jimmie Johnson – Starts 7th – DraftKings Price: $10,200 – Yahoo! A Group
**Risk Factor: Low Risk**
The last two points-paying races (Dover and Kansas) have been at tracks where Jimmie Johnson has been a virtual lock for a good finish and he has gone on to disappoint. In fact, over the last five Sprint Cup races, Johnson has just one finish better than 17th, and that was his 3rd-place result at Richmond back in April. So maybe reverse psychology will work this weekend for Jimmie because he hasn’t been that great of a pick here at Charlotte as of late. In the last three races at this track, the #48 Chevrolet hasn’t been able to crack the top 15, and he probably couldn’t have been any worse of a pick in the two events last season, as Jimmie came home 40th and 39th. Like I said, maybe reverse psychology will work. Johnson will start Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 from the lucky #7 starting position, and he looked to have a decent amount of speed during Practice #2 on Saturday morning, posting the 2nd-fastest lap and ranking 2nd on the ten-lap average chart. In Happy Hour, Jimmie was 3rd on the overall speed chart and 2nd in ten-lap average. If anyone has anything for Truex heading into Sunday, it’s “Six Time.” JJ used to dominate this track back when it was Lowe’s Motor Speedway, but he’s had his ups and downs here as of late. When he’s on, he’s on though, as evidenced by his dominating Coke 600 win back in 2014. This #48 Chevrolet has been one of the best on the intermediate tracks all season long and that shouldn’t change on Sunday.
3. Kevin Harvick – Starts 8th – DraftKings Price: $10,500 – Yahoo! A Group
**Risk Factor: Low Risk**
One pit crew that needs a race to redeem themselves is the guys on this #4 team. That performance at Dover a couple of weeks ago was absolutely pathetic. The #4 Chevrolet was good enough to dominate that race, but the pit crew literally lost spots on all but one or maybe two pit stops. That’s not going to get your car to victory lane, and it sure as hell isn’t going to win a championship. As far as Charlotte Motor Speedway, Harvick has been stellar here as of late and should be a contender for the win on Sunday night. Obviously it comes down to whether his crew can hold up their end of the bargain. Harvick was 7th-fastest in Practice #2 with the 5th-best ten-lap average, and he ranked 24th and 17th on those two charts (respectively) in Happy Hour later on Saturday. He hasn’t finished worse than 9th over his last six starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and that includes two victories over that span–including the 2013 Coca-Cola 600. The #4 Chevrolet isn’t good enough to dominate this race on Sunday night but you can never count Kevin Harvick out.