The Chase for the Sprint Cup Series championship heads to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Bank of America 500. Hurricane Matthew has threatened the southeast with plenty of wind and rain, and the Concord, N.C. area could be in the crosshairs for plenty of rain on Saturday. The forecast calls for a 90 percent chance of rain throughout the day Saturday with breezy conditions, but the weather should pull out by Saturday night with just a 10 percent chance of showers and winds from 25 to 35 mph. You can follow along on the Charlotte radar here.
The jet dryers do a great job of clearing the track of water, so expect this race to start on time or perhaps with a slight delay. When the green flag does drop, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick ($10,700) will be on the pole leading the pack. He has three career wins in Charlotte, posting seven Top 5s, 14 Top 10s and an impressive 14.7 Average-Finish Position (AFP). He tends to hang in the back of the front pack during races at Charlotte, leading just 322 laps in his career at the track. However, NASCAR’s Loop Data shows he has run 98.5 percent of his laps inside the Top 15 with a 3.2 AFP over the past five starts, so Harvick is a must-have in Charlotte. He was a runner-up in the May race at Charlotte.
The red-hot Martin Truex Jr. ($10,900) is right behind Harvick in Driver Rating over the past five races in Charlotte, posting a 111.6 Driver Rating with a series-best 523 laps led during the span. He has run 90.0 percent of his laps inside the Top 15, posting a 9.6 AFP. MTJ has taken the checkered flag in three of his past five races, and no one is hotter in Sprint Cup than the New Jersey native. Truex led a dominating 392 of the 400 laps in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte earlier in the season, as he and crew chief Cole Pearn aced the car setup test in the first stop at the North Carolina track.
Hendrick Motorsports driver Jimmie Johnson ($10,000) was third at Charlotte during Memorial Day weekend, and over the past five starts at the track he has a 103.9 Driver Rating with 171 laps led. In his career he has seven wins in 30 starts at Charlotte with 14 Top 5s, 18 Top 10s and 1,740 laps led to lead all drivers.
Johnson’s teammates will be popular DFS plays, too. Alex Bowman ($8,000) is back behind the wheel of the No. 88 in place of the injured Dale Earnhardt Jr. (concussion). He had outstanding practice and qualifying sessions, and he will start on the outside of Row 1 next to Truex Jr. Rookie Chase Elliott ($8,900) finished eighth in the May race at Charlotte, and he goes off third right behind his teammate Bowman Saturday night. Elliott doesn’t have a long history in a Cup car at Charlotte, but he has finished eighth and 18th in two starts. He is comfortable at the track and a great play at this DFS price level.
Kasey Kahne ($8,500) rounds out the Hendrick team, and might be the best play of them all. He has been 14th or better in seven straight races, including four Top 10s in his past five outings. While he was 22nd in the Coca-Cola 600 this season, he has four wins, nine Top 5s and 13 Top 10s in 25 career starts with 13.2 AFP, fifth-best among all drivers with at least six career starts at the track. Kahne is an outstanding mid-tier DFS value based on his success and comfort level in Charlotte.
Penske Racing’s Joey Logano ($9,100) ranks third in Driver Rating (109.0) over the past five starts in Charlotte, turning 93.6 percent of his laps inside the Top 15 while leading 245 laps. He leads all drivers with a 9.5 AFP in 15 starts, winning once with an amazing nine Top 10s. His teammate Brad Keselowski ($9,800) isn’t quite as automatic as Logano, but he has been consistent. In 14 career starts he has a win, three Top 5s and six Top 10s with a 13.9 AFP. Logano starts 10th, Keselowski starts 20th, so there is a good chance both post plenty of Place Differential points. If you were to use a Penske one-two punch at the top of one of your lineups in GPPs, it is a sound strategy.
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch ($10,200) starts in the fourth spot looking for his first-ever win at Charlotte. He has 25 starts under his belt with 10 Top 5s, 14 Top 10s and a solid 15.8 AFP. Despite the lack of checkered flags, Rowdy isn’t a bad play for Saturday’s race. Denny Hamlin ($9,300) also has no victories in 22 tries at Charlotte, but he has managed six Top 5s and 14 Top 10s with a 12.4 AFP, third-best among all active drivers. Hamlin will start from the ninth position.
Carl Edwards ($9,400) is the only current JGR driver to win a race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, taking checkers in May 2015. He has the best AFP (10.9) of all four drivers in the JGR garage, posting seven Top 5s, 15 Top 10s and 21 Top 20s in 23 career starts. He starts from the eighth spot right in front of Hamlin. Matt Kenseth ($9,700) struggled the most in qualifying, slipping to 17th on the starting grid, but if history is any indication he’ll rebound nicely once the green flag drops. He has two career wins with 18 Top 10s and a 14.0 AFP in 34 career starts, although neither of his wins came in a JGR car and he ranks outside the Top 10 in Driver Rating over the past five Charlotte races, according to NASCAR’s Loop Data.
ON THE DOWN LOW
As far as the lower-priced options are concerned, there is plenty of good picks for a high-low DFS lineup strategy.
SHR’s Tony Stewart ($7,800) was bumped out of the Chase last week, but he still has plenty of race for down the stretch as he nears the end of his illustrious career. He could have simply packed it in after being eliminated last week, but instead he had a championship-caliber qualifying effort Friday. He will start fifth in Saturday’s race, his final appearance in Charlotte. He has just one win at the track, but 13 Top 10s and 24 Top 20s in 34 career starts with an impressive 14.8 AFP. Smoke isn’t a bad No. 4 or 5 DFS option.
JTG Daugherty Racing’s A.J. Allmendinger ($6,900) hasn’t had a ton of success in Charlotte, posting just one Top 5 and two Top 10s in 17 career starts. However, he has managed eight Top 20s and a 21.7 AFP. He looked great in qualifying, and will start in the sixth spot Saturday night, so consider ‘The Dinger’ a nice sleeper in DFS play. SHR’s Danica Patrick ($6,200) will start from the Lucky 13th spot in Saturday’s race. She had a decent 21st-place finish in May. She has two Top 20s in eight career starts at the track with a 25.8 AFP.
Roush Fenway Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($7,000) is coming off a solid 11th-place finish at Dover, and he has three Top 20 finishes over his past five outings. He posted a solid 15th-place showing the the first stop at Charlotte, and has five Top 20s in nine career starts at the track with a 20.9 AFP. He won’t be in contention come Saturday night, but as a No. 5 or 6 DFS option you can certainly do much worse. Stenhouse’s teammate, Greg Biffle ($7,200), is another low-end option who could outperform DFS salary expectations. He finished 11th at Charlotte in May, and he has six Top 5s, nine Top 10s and a stellar 16.7 AFP in 27 career starts. ‘The Biff’ goes off 14th, while Stenhouse starts behind him in the 15th position.
If you’re really in a salary pinch trying to fit in a No. 6 driver, Tommy Baldwin Racing’s Regan Smith ($5,500) gives you salary relief while not losing much in DFS point production. While he struggled to a 28th-place showing in May at Charlotte, he has one Top 10 and six Top 20s in 10 career starts at the track with a solid 20.7 AFP. He starts 35th Saturday and should pick up plenty of Place Differential points at a cut-rate DFS price.