Following a doubleheader at Darlington, the Cup Series is back in action this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway for one of the biggest events of the season. Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 is the longest race of the year, and a victory in the 400-lap marathon is something every driver hopes to add to their resume.
Thanks to the altered schedule, Sunday’s race will be just the second time the series has visited a mile-and-a-half oval in 2020. The first race was a February trip to Las Vegas, and after Chase Elliott and Kevin Harvick dominated for long stretches, a late caution turned things into a pit strategy game, and Joey Logano emerged with the win.
Unlike the two races at Darlington that used a combination of a random draw and then an inversion procedure, the Coca-Cola 600 lineup was set by qualifying. This changes things up a bit, especially in the Slingshot game where place differential points play a big role. However, I am still sticking to the drivers who have been fast in 2020 and who have enjoyed success at Charlotte in most of my lineups.
You will see plenty of Hendrick Motorsports driver and Joe Gibbs Racing drivers in my lineups for all three contests, especially Fantasy Live and the Driver Group Game. Not only do the check both boxes in terms of speed in 2020 and speed at Charlotte, but many of the HMS and JGR guys are starting up front tonight.
I am still targeting drivers from these teams in the Slingshot game, but I rounded out my lineup with guys starting deeper in the field. It is a little chalky from that standpoint, but with a couple of quality options having qualifying issues, the place differential upside was too much to pass up in this scoring system.
NASCAR.com Fantasy Live
Martin Truex Jr.
He led 116 laps in Coca-Cola 600 victory last year, and since 2015, Truex has seven Top 5s in eight starts at Charlotte, leading more than 90 laps five times. He also has three wins during that span, and he has finished third or better in each of his last four starts here. Known for his excellent long-run speed, he should be able to pile up some serious stage points after a Top 10 qualifying effort.
Busch has been a boom-or-bust fantasy play so far this year, but with three Top 3 finishes in the last four races, his upside is as high as ever. Last year, he led 79 laps and finished third in the Coca-Cola 600 while also finishing third or better in all three stages. Track position has been an issue for him all year, but he is slated to start 11th tonight. Expect plenty of points.
His week-to-week speed is arguably the best in the series, and Elliott should be in line for a monster performance Sunday. Elliott led 43 laps and finished fourth in last year’s Coca-Cola 600, finishing fourth or better in all three stages. He also led 70 laps and won both stages at Las Vegas, the only mile-and-a-half oval track the series has visited thus far in 2020. From the No. 3 starting spot, I have Elliott winning Stage 1 and the race.
We saw Bowman emerge as one of the stronger performers at the 1.5-mile ovals last year, picking up a win at Chicagoland and closing the year with six finishes of 11th or better in the final seven races. He also notched his second consecutive Top 10 in the Coca-Cola 600 in 2019, and he finished second in Stage 2. Bowman has been fast all season, and he was in the mix for the win at Las Vegas until the caution with a handful of laps to go. After qualifying 12th, he should have no problem grabbing stage points early and often.
Johnson’s Charlotte resume is one of the best in NASCAR history, and while his numbers have slipped in recent years, he has still managed three straight Top 10s here. More importantly, he’s found some speed at the 1.5-mile tracks over the last year, and he logged a Top 5 at Las Vegas in February. Rolling off from the front row, I think the seven-time champ could post one of the top scores tonight.
Garage Driver – Kurt Busch
He has six Top 10s in his last eight starts at Charlotte, but I decided to go with Busch after he grabbed the pole. If he is able to parlay the track position into a chunk of stage points, I’ll throw him into the starting lineup. Brad Keselowski is a nice option if you want to play it safer, and William Byron is a high-upside sleeper.
Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet Driver Group Game
Chase Elliott (A)
I had Martin Truex Jr. penciled into this spot initially, and there is no denying that he has been unbelievable at Charlotte in recent years. However, Elliott has shown elite speed all season, and he had the car to beat at Las Vegas. He also had a great run in last year’s Coca-Cola 600, finishing fourth or better in all three stages and in the race.
Alex Bowman (B)
Bowman has back-to-back Top 10s in the Coca-Cola 600, and he’s become one of the best in the business at the 1.5-mile tracks over the last year. He closed 2019 with six finishes of 11th or better in the final seven races at mile-and-a-half ovals, and he was running second at Las Vegas in February when the late caution flag jumbled things up. Kurt Busch from the pole and William Byron from 10th are also intriguing plays.
Jimmie Johnson (B)
He re-emerged as solid option at the 1.5-mile tracks last year, and Johnson has looked even better in 2020 as all of Hendrick Motorsports seems to have enjoyed a resurgence. He finished fifth at Las Vegas back in February, and he has three straight Top 10s at Charlotte. Starting on the front row gives him serious stage point potential, and I don’t think a Top 5 is out of the question tonight.
Matt Kenseth (C)
I’ve been burning through starts from Tyler Reddick, and while I can’t complain about the early returns, I think I am going to try to save a start and pivot with Kenseth. I don’t think it hurts to have a veteran in this 600-mile marathon, and Kenseth has always had a high floor at Charlotte. He has four finishes of 11th or better in his last five starts here, and he has just one finish outside the Top 20 since 2009. A Top 5 qualifying effort only sweetens the pot.
Fantasy Racing Online Slingshot Fantasy Auto
Kyle Busch ($12,300)
I debated between Kevin Harvick and Kyle, but while Harvick has the edge in place differential upside, Buch still has some points to gain in that category and is better positioned to grab a lot of stage points after qualifying 11th. Plus, Busch has been strong at Charlotte. He clobbered the field in 2018, and he finished third in 2019 while also finishing third or better in all three stages.
Chase Elliott ($12,000)
Although most of my picks are skewed towards the place differential category, I made an exception for Elliott because he is my pick to win tonight. He led more than 40 laps and finished in the Top 5 at Charlotte last year, and he had the car to beat at Las Vegas before a tire issue ended his day. Starting third, I think he can pile up stage points and pick up the win.
Aric Almirola ($9,500)
A spin in qualifying has Almirola starting 40th tonight, but he has finished 13th and 11th in two starts at Charlotte with Stewart-Haas Racing. More importantly, the SHR cars have shown plenty of raw speed lately, and Almirola has finished 12th or better in the last four races this season. He could gain upwards of 30 positions tonight.
Matt DiBenedetto ($8,200)
He will start in a backup and scored from the 33rd position, but DiBenedetto’s worst finish all year was a 19th-place effort at Daytona. He has cracked the Top 15 in the other five races, so a place differential of +20 or more isn’t out of the question.
Cole Custer ($7,700)
Custer qualified back in 28th, but he has finished 22nd or better in four of the five races since Daytona, finishing 19th at Las Vegas. I think the rookie will finish in or near the Top 20 tonight, giving him a solid score for the price.