At 600 miles, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway is the longest race of the year in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Pit Strategy is one of the bigger situations to watch for when it comes to this week as evidenced by last year’s race, in which Austin Dillon stayed out on older tires and had enough fuel to win. I recommend creating at least one lineup that goes contrarian this week because of the increased possibility of pit strategies affecting race results.
Kevin Harvick ($12,200 on DraftKings, $13,500 on FanDuel) is a must-play this week. He is attempting to become the first driver since 2010 to successfully complete the Charlotte double, which is to win both the All-Star race and the Coca-Cola 600. Harvick has been dominant at 1.5 Mile Intermediate tracks this season with three of his five wins this season coming at thise track type and he has led 561 laps, which is the most of all drivers in 2018. He is the driver to beat every week and is the first driver to win five times in the first 12 races since 1997. Harvick was 14th in first practice and starts 39th after failing to set a qualifying lap. There were races this season where Harvick did not show practice speeds indicative of a Top 10 finish only for Harvick to compete for the win, so I think he will remain a contender for first this week. Harvick also starts towards the rear of the field, meaning he will be one of the safest picks and should score plenty of Place Differential points. You need to have multiple lineups centered around him to cash in this week, but do not forget to diversify your lineups on the chance that he has an issue with his car.
Kyle Busch ($11,100 on DraftKings, $11,700 on FanDuel) was the runner-up of in last year’s Coca-Cola 600. In 28 starts at Charlotte, Kyle Busch has 16 Top 10 finishes. He has finished sixth or better in two of his last three starts at the site. Kyle Busch has finished in the Top 10 in every race at 1.5 Mile Intermediate tracks this season and he is one of only three drivers to lead over 100 laps at thise track type. He was 15th in first practice, 18th in final practice, and starts first. Based on practice speeds, Kyle Busch will fade back from his starting position, but this is just like last year’s race, in which he did not show better speeds than most in practices however hebut became one of the fastest late into the race. I expect Kyle Busch will be a late race contender, especially as how the conditions in which cars handleand handling change greatly throughout the race. Kyle Busch is one of the best drivers when it comes toin races where the handling and conditions change over time and the Coca-Cola 600 is an event where said conditions will differ greatly the further into the race.
Kyle Larson ($10,600 on DraftKings, $10,800 on FanDuel) is one of the best picks to place in your lineup this week. He has two Top 10 finishes in his last three starts at Charlotte and has three Top 10 finishes in his last four starts at 1.5 Mile Intermediate tracks. Larson has been improving the more he races at thise track type and it has been showing this season. He was ninth in first practice, second in final practice, had the second-best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in final practice, and starts 11th. Larson’s practice speeds point to a finish in the Top 10 with a chance of placing in the Top 5. He will likely pick up a few points from Place Differential as well.
Chase Elliott ($9,500 on DraftKings, $10,200 on FanDuel) is a driver I like for lineups this week. Elliott has two Top 10 finishes in five starts at Charlotte, which includes a finish of second in his last start. He also has three finishes of 12th or better at 1.5 Mile Intermediate tracks this season. Elliott was sixth in first practice, 12th in final practice, had the fourth-best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in final practice, and starts 22nd. Elliott will compete for a Top 10 finish based on practice speeds, but his starting position will allow him to score several points from PD.
Clint Bowyer ($9,400 on DraftKings, $10,600 on FanDuel) is another top pick I like a lot for Charlotte. Bowyer has two Top 10 finishes in the last four races at 1.5 Mile Intermediate tracks and he has placed in the Top 10 in five of the last seven races this season. He also has finished with positive PD in four of the last five races in 2018. Bowyer was 17th in first practice, sixth in final practice, had the ninth-best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in final practice, and starts 28th. Bowyer was faster than a lot of the drivers that are starting ahead of him in practices and his equipment has been better than in previous seasons. I strongly believe that Bowyer will compete for a Top 10 finish and will obtain plenty of points from PD.
Denny Hamlin ($9,200 on DraftKings, $11,200 on FanDuel) is one of the most consistent drivers at CMS. He has only finished outside of the Top 10 three times since 2010 and placed in the Top 5 in four of his last five starts at the site. Hamlin has placed seventh or better in three of the last four races this season, showing that he has plenty of momentum and remains a good choice for lineups regardless of track type. Hamlin was first in first practice, fifth in final practice, had the third-best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in final practice, and starts third. As someone who has been faster than most throughout practices, Hamlin is someone you can count on to compete for a Top 5 finish.
MID-RANGE PRICED PICKS
Ryan Blaney ($8,900 on DraftKings, $9,700 on FanDuel) scored his best career finish of eighth in his last start at Charlotte. Blaney has finished in the Top 10 in six of 12 races this season. Although he only has one Top 10 finish in the last three races, Blaney ran in the Top 10 for the majority of each of the races before having bad luck. Blaney was second in first practice, third in final practice, had the 10th-best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in final practice, and starts eighth. Blaney has shown better practice speeds than most and I think he will avoid trouble this week. He is one of the more favorable picks.
Erik Jones ($8,200 on DraftKings, $10,000 on FanDuel) has one Top 10 finish in two starts at Charlotte. Jones has been consistent at 1.5 Mile Intermediate tracks this season, by finishing 11th or better in four races at the track type. Jones was fifth in first practice, first in final practice, had the best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in final practice, and starts fourth. Jones was one of the fastest throughout practices and has provided better finishes since joining Joe Gibbs Racing this season. I do not expect that to change this week as Jones will finish in the Top 5.
Ryan Newman ($7,900 on DraftKings, $8,700 on FanDuel) has 15 Top 10 finishes in 34 starts at Charlotte. He has finished in the Top 15 in all but one of his starts at CMS since 2013. Newman was 16th in first practice, 15th in final practice, had the sixth-best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in final practice, and starts sixth. Charlotte is one of Newman’s favorable tracks and his 10 Consecutive Lap Average in final practice points towards Newman having a faster car than most during long green flag periods. CMS is not a track known for wrecks so therefore, cautions are uncommon. There will be plenty of green flag periods during this week’s race, which means that Newman will be as fast as he was during final practice and he’ll compete for a Top 10 finish.
Kasey Kahne ($6,700 on DraftKings, $8,600 on FanDuel) is a former four-time winner at Charlotte. In 28 starts at the site, Kahne has 15 Top 10 finishes, which and two of in his last three starts. Kahne has finished 21st or better in all of his starts at 1.5 Mile Intermediate tracks this season. He was 13th in first practice, ninth in final practice, and starts 26th. Kahne’s practice speeds point to a finish in the Top 20 with a chance of placing in the Top 15.
William Byron ($6,500 on DraftKings, $7,800 on FanDuel) is making his first Cup Series start at Charlotte. Byron has two Top 20 finishes at 1.5 Mile Intermediate tracks this season. He was 11th in first practice, 13th in final practice, and starts 21st. Byron has displayed better practice speeds than a couple of drivers who are starting ahead of him. Expect Byron to finish in the Top 15 while scoring a decent amount of points from PD.
Ty Dillon’s ($5,400 on DraftKings, $6,000 on FanDuel) best finish at Charlotte is 21st, which came in his last start at the site. Dillon has two Top 25 finishes at 1.5 Mile Intermediate tracks this season. He was 25th in both practices and starts 20th. Dillon has finished with positive PD in eight of 12 races in 2018. Based on his practice speeds, he will finish in the Top 25 with a chance of placing in the Top 20.