The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series travels to Charlotte, North Carolina, this Memorial Day weekend for the Coca-Cola 600. This is the longest race of the year and, usually, the teams that are performing well through the first 11 races perform well in this marathon.
The Coca-Cola 600 has been the site of many drivers' first win. David Pearson, Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte, Matt Kenseth, Casey Mears and David Reutimann are some of the drivers who won their first race in the Coca-Cola 600. It would not be a surprise to see Kyle Larson score his first Sprint Cup victory this week at Charlotte.
Fantasy teams can learn a lot from what happened Saturday in the Sprint All-Star Race. Carl Edwards won the pole and ran up front in the first segment. Kyle Busch dominated the second segment before he was sent to the garage after being involved in a wreck with Clint Bowyer. Kasey Kahne led most of the laps in the third segment before having issues with his car. The race was then dominated by Kevin Harvick and Jamie McMurray.
Any of these drivers would be good selections for your fantasy team this week.
The strategy for selecting the winning combination this week is to select drivers who have dominated the races at intermediate race tracks this season. Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Busch, and Gordon all have wins this season on this type of race track. The race track most similar to Charlotte in its shape and banking is Texas Motor Speedway. Logano won the race at Texas and should be a favorite this week.
Racing for the Win
1. Kevin Harvick: Harvick is the driver to beat this week. He has been fast at every race track this season and has been almost untouchable on the intermediate race tracks. Harvick started on the pole and led 119 of 267 laps at Kansas. His pit crew slowed him down, allowing Gordon to win the race. If his pit crew can keep him up front Sunday night, he will be hard to beat.
2. Jeff Gordon: The Coca-Cola 600 sets up well for Gordon. He has five wins and 22 top-10 finishes at the track. Gordon’s car has been great on the long runs this season. He should have plenty of time to make it to the front and lead many laps in the 600-mile race. Gordon has a series-best average finishing position on the intermediate race tracks this season and will chase Harvick to the checkered flag.
3. Kasey Kahne: If you were ever going to use Kahne for your fantasy team, this is the week to do so. Kahne has four wins and has finished 12 races in the top 10 at Charlotte. He has a series-best driver rating and a series-best average finishing position over the last four races at the race track. he looked good in the All-Star race and will run up front Sunday.
4. Joey Logano: Logano has been great at the intermediate race tracks this season. He finished fourth at Las Vegas, won the race at Texas and finished fourth at Kansas. He also led 215 laps in those races. He is almost a sure bet to start the race up front and should lead some laps as well. Expect a top-five finish from Logano this week.
5. Carl Edwards: Edwards had a fast car in the All-Star race and should be fast again Sunday night. Although he has never won the Coca-Cola 600, he has finished five of his nine 600-mile races inside the top 10. Edwards will be up front at the end of the marathon race.
6. Jimmie Johnson: Charlotte is often referred to as “Jimmie’s playground.” I am not so sure that will be the case this week. Johnson will easily run inside the top 10, but the six-time Charlotte winner has not been as dominant this season as he was in the past. Expect an easy top-10 finish from Johnson this week, but do not expect to see him in Victory Lane.
7. Matt Kenseth: If you want to select the safest driver in the field for your team this week, Matt Kenseth is your driver. Kenseth has finished every race this season on the intermediate race tracks in the top 10. He usually does not qualify up front or run up front, but when the laps come to an end, Kenseth finds his way to the front.
8. Kyle Larson: Do not be surprised to see Larson win his first race Sunday. He has been very good at the intermediate tracks, and his teammate just won the All-Star race. The Chip Ganassi cars will be fast, and Larson will figure out how to pass cars at the top of the race track. He is a good pick for a top-10 finish this week.
9. Kyle Busch: Busch had one of the cars to beat in the All-Star race until he was involved in a wreck with Clint Bowyer and Logano. Busch has never won a race at Charlotte, but he has finished nine of his 20 races in the top 10. He has the second-best average finishing position on the intermediate race tracks this season. He will easily finish inside the top 10.
10. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Earnhardt will be driving the Superman-themed paint scheme this week. That could mean trouble for the field, as Junior ended his 143-race winless streak in 2012 while driving a Batman-themed race car. He usually performs well with comic heroes on his hood. I doubt there will be a red cape on the back of the car, but if any driver can make his or her car faster than a speeding bullet, Earnhardt can.
11. Denny Hamlin: Hamlin has not had much success this season on the intermediate race tracks, but that could change Sunday. Charlotte is his best intermediate track, as he has finished 10 of his 17 starts there in the top 10. He had a good car in the All-Star race and should be fast Sunday night.
12. Jamie McMurray: McMurray came out of nowhere to win the All-Star race last week. After finishing 39th at Kansas, he would have been one of the last drivers to be considered a favorite at Charlotte. Chip Ganassi Racing found some speed, though, and the organization will bring it back to the track Sunday. McMurray has won two races at Charlotte in his career. He would be a great pick for any fantasy team this week.
13. Brad Keselowski: Keselowski has been fast at every race track, but he needs to figure out a way to keep his car up front. After winning the race at Las Vegas, Keselowski has finished outside the top 10 in the rest of the races at the intermediate race tracks. He will qualify up front but finish just outside the top 10.
14. Brian Vickers: Vickers has finished each race this season at the intermediate race tracks inside the top 15. He only has three top-10 finishes at the race track, but his equipment this seems to be able to keep up with the competition. Vickers will add another top-15 finish Sunday night.
15. Clint Bowyer: It looked as though Bowyer had found some speed in the Sprint Showdown race. He dominated the race Friday night, but the speed did not translate into a good race Saturday night. The No. 15 team is getting closer to becoming a competitive team at the intermediate race tracks, but it is not there yet. Expect Bowyer to find his way inside the top 15 this week.
16. Paul Menard: Menard started the season with three straight top-10 finishes at the intermediate race tracks, but he looked lost at Kansas and could not find his way to the front in the Sprint Showdown race. Menard may qualify up front, but do not expect much more than a top-20 finish from him this week.
17. Greg Biffle: Biffle has not been consistent enough at Charlotte to select him for your team this week. He has finished eight of his 22 starts at the race track inside the top 10 but has no wins. He has been inconsistent at all of the intermediate tracks this season, with only one top-10 finish and two finishes outside the top 20. He will finish just inside the top 20 this week.
18. Ryan Newman: Newman is one of the best drivers in the history of the sport at starting up front at Charlotte. He has nine career poles at the track, but he has yet to visit Victory Lane. Newman may start inside the top 10 again this week, but he will fall back in the field as the race continues.
19. Danica Patrick: Patrick had the race of her career at Kansas. She attributed most of her success to a conversation with Kevin Harvick before the race. If Harvick can teach her how to get around Charlotte like he did at Kansas, Patrick will be a great selection for any fantasy team. She comes with a lot of risk this week. The decision for Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing is whether to gamble with Patrick or play it safe with Trevor Bayne.
20. Tony Stewart: The Stewart-Haas Racing cars were fast at Kansas. All four cars qualified inside the top 10. That could happen again this week, but it is not where you start, it's where you finish that matters in fantasy NASCAR. Stewart has had a hard time keeping his car up front this season. He will have a hard time once again Sunday night.
Trying to Stay on Lead Lap
21. Kurt Busch: How cool would it be to see Busch run up front in the Indianapolis 500 and follow it up with a finish up front in the Coca-Cola 600? As much as many fans would like to see Busch succeed, the schedule will be too much for him this week. He will deserve much praise if he can just finish both races.
22. AJ Allmendinger: Allmendinger ran well in the Sprint Showdown and was running well in the All-Star race until he was knocked out of the race by Brian Vickers. Still, the No. 47 team is starting to find some speed. Allmendinger may not have a car capable of finishing in the top 10, but he will easily finish inside the top 25.
23. Aric Almirola: The No. 43 car used to dominate the 600-mile races at Charlotte. Unless Richard Petty straps into the car (how cool would that be?), though, the No. 43 team will only finish inside the top 25. Almirola has just one top-10 finish this season on the intermediate race tracks. Two of his finishes were outside the top 24. Save him for the short race tracks.
24. Austin Dillon: Dillon has yet to score a top-10 finish at an intermediate track this season. Three of his four finishes have been outside the top 15. Dillon is still learning, and the 600-mile race is unlike any other race he has competed in. It will be a learning experience for him this week.
25. Trevor Bayne: Bayne has competed in four races in the Sprint Cup Series this season. He has managed to finish two inside the top 20 and two outside the top 30. The two top-20 finishes came on the intermediate race tracks (Las Vegas and Texas). He would be a good selection for Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing teams this week.
26. Martin Truex Jr.: You just cannot count on Truex for your fantasy team this season. He's finished only one race inside the top 10 and has finished nine of the 11 races outside the top 15. There are better drivers for your team this week.
27. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: The No. 17 team has not been able to figure out its intermediate race track program this season. Stenhouse has not finished any of the races on the intermediate tracks inside the top 20. His best finish was at Kansas, where he finished No. 22. Hopefully he will figure things out later in the season and be worth using on fantasy teams.
28. Marcos Ambrose: If Ambrose were to finish inside the top 20 this week, it would be his first of the season on an intermediate track. His average finishing position on this type of track is 24.5. Save Ambrose for the race at Sonoma in the next month.
29. Casey Mears: Mears has only one win in his Sprint Cup Series career. It came at the 2007 Coca-Cola 600. Since that race, though, he has had only one top-20 finish at Charlotte. Do not expect Mears to run up front this week.
30. Justin Allgaier: Allgaier has never competed in the Coca-Cola 600. His crew chief, Steve Addington, should be able to keep Allgaier competitive in the marathon race, but it won't be enough for him to finish up front. A top-30 finish is all that can be expected from Allgaier this week.
Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing Picks
Group A: Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon
Group B: Joey Logano, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Jamie McMurray
Group C: Kyle Larson, Trevor Bayne
Fantasy Live Picks
Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Joey Logano, Trevor Bayne, Josh Wise
Fox Fantasy NASCAR Picks
Captain: Matt Kenseth
Driver 2: Kasey Kahne
Driver 3: Greg Biffle
Driver 4: Jamie McMurray
Driver 5: Kyle Larson
*I am out of starts with: Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski.
If you need any further advice with your team, look for me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR.
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