Fresh off what I thought was an entertaining All-Star Race, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series stays a Charlotte Motor Speedway for the longest race of the season, the Coca-Cola 600. The marathon-style, 400-lap event at the mile-and-a-half oval is considered one of the crown jewels of the sport, ranking alongside races like the Brickyard 400 and Southern 500 in terms of prestige.
On paper, the extra 100 miles of racing doesn’t seem like much, and there have been times where the added laps have had little impact on the outcome. On the flip side, there have also been plenty of example where that final 100 miles changes everything. From equipment failures to pit strategy and self-inflicted mistakes, a night’s worth of hard work can be undone in a heartbeat.
Not surprisingly, the length of the race also leads to a bit of a higher attrition rate among the drivers. You also need to remember that as the track transitions from evening to night, the changing temperatures can cause some cars to come to life and some to start to fade.
Keeping both factors in mind, this is one of the few races at a 1.5-mile track where I’m willing to go out on a limb a bit with my fantasy picks. I am also more willing to chase place differential points if a decent driver starts deeper in the field. Between the drivers dropping out and the track constantly changing, there’s a good chance that a few drivers who seem like afterthoughts when the green flag waves will be towards the front by the time the checkered flag flies.
Top 10 Rankings
Busch is the defending winner of the Coca-Cola 600, and last year’s performance was one of the most dominant in recent memory. He led 377 of the 400 laps on his way to the win, and he has led laps in each of the last four races here, leading 20-plus laps in three straight.
He has been on an absolute tear at Charlotte, logging five Top 5 finishes in the last six races. Truex has actually finished third or better five times in that stretch, winning twice and leading 90-plus laps four times. This is a great week to use him in the Driver Group Game and at Fantasy Live.
In nine starts at Charlotte with Stewart-Haas Racing, Harvick has piled up seven Top 10s and finished third or better five times. He has also led at least 100 laps in three of those starts, leading double-digit laps six times. Harvick has led more laps at mile-and-a-half tracks this year than any other driver, so another strong showing in all fantasy formats should be on tap.
Keselowski has piled up seven Top 10s in his last seven starts at Charlotte, including a fourth-place run in last year’s Coca-Cola 600. He has also been a monster at the 1.5-mile ovals this year, winning at Atlanta and Kansas and finishing second at Las Vegas. You have to consider him a Top 5 option this weekend.
Charlotte has been a great track for Hamlin recently. His eight Top 10s in the last 10 races here are tied for the most in the series, and he has five Top 5s in the last races, leading laps in four straight. Hamlin is worth a start in any fantasy format this weekend.
Only one driver has finished in the Top 10 in all four races at mile-and-a-half tracks this year, and that driver is Kurt Busch. He has a 6.0 average finish overall in those starts, leading laps in three of them. Busch has also been solid at Charlotte, logging six Top 10s in his last seven starts. Pencil him in for a solid showing Sunday.
Elliott has been one of the hottest drivers in the series in recent weeks, leading more than 30 laps in six of the last seven races and 40-plus laps in three straight. Elliott has finished as high as second in six starts at Charlotte, and you have to consider him a Top 5 threat at any track right now.
Logano has been in a little slump at Charlotte, but he does own a dominant win here in the fall of 2015. More importantly, he enters the race as the point leader, and he has been one of the safest fantasy options all year. He wouldn’t be my choice for a Group A play in the Driver Group Game, but I am expecting a strong showing from Logano.
His numbers have been trending up at Charlotte, and Larson has logged three Top 10s in the last four races here, including a seventh-place run in last year’s Coca-Cola 600. He is also coming off a win in the All-Star Race at Charlotte last weekend, and while the rules package will be a little different, Larson should still have a good setup to build off of. He has Top 5 upside.
Jones has quietly been one of the best in the business at 1.5-mile tracks for a while now, and the trend has continued in 2019. He has a 6.8 average finish in the four races this year, notching Top 5s at both Texas and Kansas. Don’t hesitate to use Jones in any fantasy format this weekend.