Fantasy NASCAR Rankings: Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway

Fantasy Expert Brian Polking reveals his must-see top 30 NASCAR rankings for the Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway!

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend for the longest race of the season, the Coca-Cola 600. The marathon event will test all aspects of a race team as crews, drivers and the cars themselves are asked to perform for an extra 100 miles while crew chiefs have to figure out the right adjustments to keep up with an ever-changing track as the day becomes evening and the evening becomes night.

Before I dive into this weekend’s rankings, I’d like to talk about the aero package that NASCAR experimented with during last weekend’s All-Star events. I already knew I was in the minority when it comes to restrictor-plate racing, so I’m not surprised that the package appears to have been a hit.

In the grand scheme of things, anything that can save NASCAR’s declining ratings is a good thing, but the aero package definitely wasn’t for me. I could already do without the plate races at Talladega and Daytona. To me, they are just glorified demolition derbies that push luck ahead of skill behind the wheel and encourage fans to cheer for wrecks. I understand that safety necessitates the use of plates at these tracks, but I sure hope the use of restrictor plates remains limited to these two tracks.

This is racing. It’s supposed to be about who can go the fastest. Using restrictor plates to slow everything down just to manufacture closer racing seems to go against the very nature of the sport. For someone like myself who never thought NASCAR needed to be overhauled and has been forced to watch an every-changing championship format and countless other rule changes, it’s hard to view the use of restrictor plates at other tracks as anything other than NASCAR’s latest gimmick.

Based on the initial fan reaction, it appears I’m out of touch with a majority of the fans today. Personally, I don’t mind if a driver wins a race by a wide margin. In fact, I like when the driver with the best car ends up winning. Blowouts happen, but there have also been plenty of memorable finishes and there are plenty of instances when the fastest car doesn’t win because of bad luck, mistakes or strategy calls.

I think it’s a misconception that there has to be a close finish for the race to be good. Do you appreciate the sport itself or not? I can watch a basketball game and regardless of the score I can appreciate the defensive rotations, the passing or a rebound in traffic. Similarly, I can watch a driver slide a car off the corner or wiggle in the corner and appreciate the racing no matter what the margin to the leader is.

Yes, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch have been dominant early on this year, but overall, the list of competitive cars has never been longer. Like I said, I’ll figure out how to deal with anything that actually help attract fans to NASCAR, but I’d be lying if I said I wanted to see more of what I saw this past weekend. This is supposed to be racing. Can you keep up or not?

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1. Kevin Harvick, #4 Jimmy Johns/Busch Beer, Stewart-Haas Racing

We are back to the normal aero package this weekend, and I expect Harvick to resume his dominance at the 1.5-mile tracks. He has three wins and a second-place finish in the four races at mile-and-a-half ovals this year, and he also has a series-best nine Top 10s and six Top 5s in the last 10 races at Charlotte.

2. Martin Truex, Jr., #78 Furniture Row, Furniture Row Racing

He might not have a win yet, but Truex does have three Top 5s in the first four races at 1.5-mile tracks this year. He has also been dominating at Charlotte for a while now, leading more than 90 laps in four of the last six races here while picking up five Top 5s and a pair of wins.

3. Kyle Busch, #18 M&M’s, Joe Gibbs Racing

Busch is still looking for his first Cup win at Charlotte in a points race, but it hasn’t been from a lack of speed. He has finished third or better here seven times, and he has led 993 laps, including 20-plus in both races last year. Meanwhile, his 5.0 average finish in the first four races at 1.5-mile tracks this season ranks second in the series.

4. Joey Logano, #22 Shell-Pennzoil, Team Penske

He’s in a many slump at Charlotte, but Logano has looked like his old self at the 1.5-mile ovals in 2018. He is one of three drivers who has finished in the Top 10 in all four races at 1.5-mile tracks this year, posting a 5.5 average finish in those races.

5. Ryan Blaney, #12 Menards/PPG, Team Penske

Blaney has led the third-most laps in the series this year, and the speed has been there at the 1.5-mile ovals. He logged Top 5s at Las Vegas and Texas, and he led 54 laps at Kansas before crashing while battling for another Top 5. In the Driver Group Game, you won’t find a Group B option with more upside.

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