Fantasy NASCAR Picks: Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte

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Now back to the great analysis from Pearce!

Notes: Dover is my #1 current form stat to trust and Kansas is my #2 current form stat. Be careful, with the wall riders. Both tracks have an upper groove and Charlotte does not. Average running position should be similar, but the hog correlation is less significant.

Intermediate Track Stars

  • Kevin Harvick – If he doesn’t crash, he’s optimal. Deal with it.
  • Kyle Busch – 400 laps is 400 opportunities to run a fast lap. Let’s say he earns a minuscule 10% of the fast laps. That’s 20 fantasy points on top of 40 finishing position points. A conservative estimate is a 60 point floor.
  • Martin Truex, Jr – A lot of this pick depends on practice. When he was fast in the previous Kansas night races, he was fast in practice. It’s the same in Charlotte. He was not fast in this year’s Kansas practice and he was not fast in the race. He’s been vocal about his lack of speed. Truex sounds like 2017 Keselowski, and 2017 Keselowski sucked in DFS. Truex was tight all night at Kansas, and the team just couldn’t figure it out. That doesn’t sound like Truex. It’s a very bad sign heading into the Coca-Cola 600.
  • Kyle Larson – In 9 Charlotte races, Larson has led 20 total laps. He ran 40 fast laps in last fall’s day time Charlotte race. In the night time races at Charlotte, Larson has never run more than 13 fast laps. The fast groove is on the bottom at Charlotte. This isn’t Kansas; don’t expect a #1 DFS score from Larson.
  • Joey Logano – The #22 team struggled and experimented at intermediate tracks last season, so the recent Charlotte track history doesn’t mean much to me. This season, Logano has the best average running position at intermediate tracks. He’s a solid play this week. If you believe one driver hogs the fast lap and laps led points, then Logano will pair well with that hog.
  • Ryan Blaney – In his words, he loves the full throttle fast tracks. Kansas is one of those tracks. Charlotte is pretty close to that style, but Blaney’s Charlotte speed has not matched his Kansas speed in his young career. It may not be a matter of Blaney’s lack of speed. His underwhelming Charlotte performances could be that Truex, Busch, and Johnson have been great at Charlotte.  
  • Erik Jones – The closer to the front he starts, the lower his ownership will be. The probability of Jones being in the optimal lineup drops as well. He has top 5 upside, but maybe not in a 600 miles race. Jones will either be cute or chalky. There isn’t an inbetween.
  • Clint Bowyer – He will definitely hang around for the 600 miles. He can finish anywhere between 5th and 15th, but it’s hard to believe that he leads laps. When he led at Dover, he had the fastest true long run car (15 to 30 laps). He’ll need that car to lead laps.
  • Denny Hamlin – Run this race 100 times, and five times Hamlin guesses right on strategy (65 times he gets hit with a pit road penalty). Hamlin and his team know that they can’t out run Harvick, Truex, and Busch. They need to gamble for the win.
  • Aric Almirola – Only if 8 to 10 place differential points are guaranteed.
  • Chase Elliott – Post Kansas quote: “Yeah, just scratching and clawing to run mediocre. We have a lot of work to do.” Elliott needs to find a lot of speed in practice to be in play.
  • Jamie McMurray – He’s taken a lot of heat from DFS players this season, and rightfully so, but he’s not that bad. Here are his average running positions at the intermediate tracks this season: 19th, 21st, 14th, 9th, and 17th. If he starts near 20th, then you can definitely go back to the Jamie McMurray well …and fall in where you will be trapped for days until a TV crew, the national guard, and a pep band are called in. Twenty-three days later, you’re pulled out in front of a national TV audience and the Media proceeds to blame everything on the well.
  • Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. – He has hung on to the lead lap in the last two Coca-Cola 600 races. He said his car was an 18th place car at Kansas and all of the changes that they are making aren’t helping the car. Kenseth agreed, and confirmed that the Roush cars are garbage.
  • Paul Menard – The Dover freak malfunction stings, but don’t let it cloud your judgement. Menard hasn’t lived up to the preseason hype, but he’s having a solid season. 15th, 10th, 17th, 31st, 12th. Those are his average running positions at intermediate tracks. They’re not his finishes. Running between 10th to 15th can easily lead to a top 10 finish. Barring bad luck, he should stay on the lead lap at Charlotte.
  • Ryan Newman – “They crashed kind of underneath me, in front of me and just got all wadded up. I mean I had no place to go.” Listen to me Cole Trickle, when there is a wreck in front of you, let off the accelerator. Maybe even use the brake a little. There is a reason cars land on top of you. Wrecks happen directly in front of you and you drive straight into them at full throttle. Stop ruining DFS lineups Superman. There was a place to go. There was only one place NOT TO GO – and that was forward at full speed. You chose… poorly. Rant aside, I like the way Newman runs at Dover and Charlotte. The biggest part of a 600 mile race is hanging onto the lead lap, and we know who is the biggest diva when it comes to getting lapped.
  • Austin Dillon – Newman’s RCR car has not been bad this season. Dillon looked like his normal 15th place self to start the season, but something has changed. As the so-called expert, I am supposed to be able to explain why Dillon is slow. I can’t because even the team can’t figure it out. That’s how it works. If a team knows why they are slow, they fix it and they’re not slow anymore. The slow cars are the teams that can’t figure out why they are slow. Dillon’s average running position at Dover was 27th and his average position at Kansas was 22nd. Those are important races leading into Charlotte. Also, why does he spell Dillon like a weirdo? The cool way to spell it is “Dylan.” It’s like his family couldn’t decide if they wanted to go full cowboy. Dillon is the chuckwagon cook, while Dylan is the guy that rescues the sheriff’s daughter from blood-thirst comanchees.
  • William Byron – Intermediate track average running position: 23rd, 28th, 16th, 14th, and 17th. Let’s throw in dover too – 16th. STOP TAKING TWO TIRES. You’re a 6K driver. Settle for a top 20.
  • Alex Bowman – Bowman, Byron is there a difference? Just the letters in between the B and the N.
  • Chris Buescher and A.J. Allmendinger – This team has found something. There average running position has steadily increased throughout the season. It’s around 20th, and that’s where it should stay. They’re not going to out run the top teams, but they can finish better than some top tier drivers if they are mistake free. JTG Daugherty should definitely run in in front of the NASCAR Plebeians.
  • Jimmie Johnson – If you haven’t notice, these drivers are ranked by average running position at intermediate tracks. I suggested on the podcast that you take a firm stance. Current form for Johnson suggests that he’s not a good race car driver anymore….He’ll qualify in the 20s and you’ll throw out all of the reasonable data, and trust Jimmie Johnson’s Hall of Fame numbers from 2005 to 2015. Just because he qualified poorly – which is another sign that he isn’t very good. Then you’ll say, well, he’s struggled in qualifying over the last couple years. Again, another sign that he’s not the old Jimmie Johnson. If he is blazing fast in practice and openly loves his car, then play him. If he starts 30th or worse, then play him. That’s where I stand, I suggest you make up your mind before the weekend begins.
  • Daniel Suarez – We can’t handicap him. He wrecks or has a pit road issue 75% of the time. At Kansas, he managed to pull off both. That was the week after finishing 3rd at Dover, but also getting busted for cheating (rear window). No one knows what Suarez will do each week. He’s the ultimate GPP play.
  • Kasey Kahne – He had a good car in practice at Dover and he ran well during the race. He had a good car at Kansas, but struggled in the race. He’ll have a hard time staying on the lead lap.
  • Bubba Wallace – His average running position was 31st at Kansas. That has a lot to do with tagging the wall and an unscheduled green flag pit stop, but the reason that happened was because he’s driving a 31st place car. RPM’s majority owner (Andrew Murstein, it’s not Richard Petty) was in the news this week complaining about how slow NASCAR management is moving, and that immediate cost cutting changes need to be implemented. This sounds like a team that is going broke. They are renting a garage from RCR, and are attempting to pick up sponsors on the fly. Whether or not RPM is around next year is another question. What is not in question is that this car is a slug.
  • David Ragan and Michael McDowell – These Fords are 20-25th place cars. Sometimes they both qualify well, or one qualifies well and one is near 30th. It really tests your strategy. Do you take the driver that can move forward and hope he doesn’t get lapped, or take the driver that can hang on to the lead lap. Practice usually plays a significant role in differentiating between the two.
  • Ty Dillon – He’s a 25th to 30th place driver. If there are a bunch of cautions, then he can flirt with the top 20. If there are bunch of cautions at the end, then can flirt with a top 20. It looks like he’s taken a major step backwards this year, but he hasn’t. He’s the same driver. Last season he was lucky. Wrecks worked out at the perfect time and he got lucky dogs and wave arounds. Basically, he was a pitcher that maintained a .200 babip throughout the season (Ervin Santana last year or Zack Greinke’s Cy Young season). It happens. The sad part is that with all of the luck in the world, Ty Dillon was just a 20th place driver.
  • Matt DiBenedetto – The magic is starting to wear off, but all of the chaos at the end of the Kansas race bailed DiBenedetto out. All of the drivers that I am about to discuss are going to get lapped. It’s a matter of who gets lapped the least. Wrecks at the end do not matter when you’re multiple laps down. A punt can’t gain positions on restarts, if he’s on a different lap. This could be a moot point because the last three Coca-Cola 600 races have ended with long green flag runs.
  • Corey LaJoie – He finished 24th at Kansas after the mess at the end. The week before he blew two engines at Dover making it four blown engines on the year. Punts are risky enough, but you are playing Russian Roulette with LaJoie’s engines. This is the Deer Hunter play. You’re requesting more rounds in the chamber. Charlotte is a 600 mile race, with three practice sessions and qualifying. The Apollo 13 crew had better odds of making it home.
  • Ross Chastain – One of his worst weeks of the season was Kansas (his finish looks okay, but he did not run well). There wasn’t an Xfinity race to prepare Chastain for the Cup race. This is more evidence that running Xfinity races helps drivers prepare for the Cup race. It’s debatable. There are a lot of variables, but for some, it works and others it doesn’t.
  • Gray Gaulding – He finished 10 laps down last week. That matters because Suarez finished 9 laps down. One lap is a couple more points. Two more laps and he has a chance to compete with Ross Chastain on the last restart and finish 26th instead of 29th. That’s 6 points. Big deal you say? That’s enormous for a punt. Those 6 points for a sub 5K punt are the same as 12 points for a 10K driver. Bowyer lost 12 points at the end of the Kansas race because of the Byron wreck, and the GPP shifted. Getting the punt that loses the least amount of laps is a big deal.
  • Landon Cassill – In the last two 1.5 mile track races, his average running position is 29th and 32nd, but both of those races ended up wreckfests. Texas was crazy and Kansas eventually got there, too. Meanwhile, Cassill is just turning laps and collecting whatever small paycheck they give to back markers. He out raced Gaulding and Chastain. That’s important. When we look at punts, the first question is how does he measure up against the other punts. You have to outrace the punts before you can beat the low tier drivers that make mistakes.
  • J.J. Yeley – The ownership behind this car is highly questionable. The name of the team is NY Racing Team. How stupid is that? I don’t know where they got this car or the engine. I am guessing it’s Tommy Baldwin’s equipment. Who is the crew? This is the old Team Xxxtreme Motorsport that is a running joke on Reddit. They once had their stock car and hauler stolen out of a hotel parking lot. They found it park in the backwoods of Georgia. You can’t make this stuff up. It was stolen by Jason Terry, but not the Jet. The theft was in 2015, the Jet’s last season with the Hawks was 2004. The team shut down in 2015 when John Cohen was facing fraud charges. It’s a shame. Cohen is the only african-american owner in NASCAR, and diversity is much needed in the sport, but the circus surrounding his team is not needed. At least we have a full field this week, and Cohen has a sponsorship with Steakhouse Elite, so they’ll be around for awhile. I’m not going to lie, I sort of thought Tommie G was behind this. NY reference in the team name, “Elite” sponsor, and the other stuff
  • Jeff Earnhardt – The 55 car isn’t any better than the 00 car that he did nothing with.
  • Timmy Hill – He finished 14 laps down and there was a wreckfest at the end of the Kansas race. I can’t imagine that this Carl Long ride does any better in a 600 mile race.
  • Parker Kligerman – The Gaunt Brothers are going to try to run a 600 mile race. I just don’t see it. This car was fine in the plate races, but that doesn’t matter. It finished Martinsville, but those 250 miles do not kill engines. At Bristol, the car was 18 laps down. Kligerman has less experience than the other punts. And he has a weaker car.

XXS Xfinity Thoughts (DK still has not released salaries, so I am winging it)

  • Brad Keselowski – The #22 car with Cup driver is unstoppable.
  • Jamie McMurray – Why is his he running these races?
  • Brandon Hightower – Taking over for Stephen Leicht at JP Motorsports. He must have brought a sponsor with him. He’ll try to run the race, but can he? Looking at his small career sample size, he might as well be Stephen Leicht. He’s a decent dirt track racer though.
  • Ty Majeski – Three straight crashes, and 4 in 6 career races.
  • Ray Black, Jr. – He ran well for B.J. McCleod in the 8 car at Dover. Now, he’s in the 78 car for BJM. If he gets the punt price, then I love it.
  • Elliott Sadler – Elite tier Xfinity drivers will come down to price, qualifying, and practice. There’s no point in going into it now. The Cup hog will absorb all of your salary. It’s hard to roster an expensive Xfinity driver.
  • Christopher Bell – Elite tier Xfinity
  • Justin Allgaier – Elite tier Xfinity
  • Tyler Reddick – Top tier Xfinity
  • Kyle Busch – Wait for practice. The 18 JGR Toyota has improved recently, but it was against weak fields.
  • Daniel Hemric – Top tier, but same pricing dilemma as the elite tier.
  • Chase Elliott – I am assuming he’ll get the Cup driver price, but he’s not in an elite car.
  • Matt Tifft – Top Tier
  • Brandon Jones – Edge of the top tier, but sometimes he is in play because he’s priced incorrectly.
  • Cole Custer – Top tier, but I hate playing him. The equipment is better than the driver.
  • Ryan Truex – Too expensive for what you get.
  • Michael Annett – If he’s cheap enough and he can earn seven place differential points.
  • Joey Gase – Reverse Cup bump. The last four races he was an inside the top 20 driver. Now, he’ll be on the other side of 20th and closer to 25th.
  • Austin Cindric – He’s in a Penske Ford, but he has not looked good this season. He had an elite car in races with weak fields and he did nothing.
  • Alex Labbe – I love rooting for him, but he can’t do much in fantasy.
  • Chase Briscoe – This is a very good car, and if he’s priced below 8K, then he is very playable. Like Custer and Cindric, he’s been given a great opportunity and done nothing with it.
  • Ross Chastain – 15th to 20th.
  • Josh Williams – He’s back in the 90 car for Mario Gosselin. The #90 and the #8 for BJM have been prefered punts when we can get them at the right price.
  • Joe Nemechek – He needs to start last.
  • Ryan Reed – 12th to 17th.
  • Jeremy Clements – 20th. Maybe cracks the top 20 by capitalizing on others’ mistakes.
  • Ty Dillon – The #3 car is a slug. He’ll be priced too high. He needs at least 10 place differential points.
  • Ryan Sieg – 20th
  • Garrett Smithley – 25th-ley (but is probably more of a 27th place driver).
  • Tommy Joe Martins – He’s back in the #8 car. Only thing that matter is starting position and price. Don’t get this guy fired up on twitter.
  • Vinnie Miller – If he starts last.
  • Spencer Boyd – Straight punt, but he finishes races. He needs carange to move forward through field.
  • B.J. McLeod – Dusting off the 99 car this week. BJM is fielding three rides at Charlotte. More dependable back markers might help spread ownership this week.
  • Dylan Lupton – I had high hopes for Lupton and this team, but it’s been a disaster. There was the many Lupton wrecks, the Tony Wreck-ovich situation, and then they fired Kaz Grala and his team because the team owner has medical conditions. I don’t see it turning around, but if Lupton is priced in the 5K range, then I’ll play him.
  • Kaz Grala – This is the first race ever for Fury Race Cars. They may have rushed into this. Grala and his crew were looking for a car, and Tony Eury, Jr. was starting a team, but he did not plan on starting this soon. How do I know that? Tony Eury is at Indianapolis this week. He’s been helping Danica with the Indy 500. He’s not in Charlotte for his stock car team’s first race. Kaz will be fine eventually, but this seems rushed, and I bet DraftKings prices Kaz like he’s driving his JGL car. Kaz is just a smidge above a punt.
  • Mike Harmon – Quick, off the top of your head, how’d Harmon do in his last race? Better question – what was Harmon’s last race? It was Talladega. His last real race was April 20th at Richmond. April 20th, that’s why you can’t remember it. He ran half of the laps and parked. That’s what start and parkers do at short tracks. The end of the season bonus requires drivers to run so many laps. They can’t go full blow start and park. They have to turn some laps. Harmon doesn’t care. He rents this car to someone else half of time. He’s DNQ’d four races already. Another guy you don’t want to mess with on twitter.
  • Chad Finchum – Optimist: He has finished 2 of his last 3 races. Pessimist:  He has finished 2 of his last 8 races.
  • Timmy Hill – There is a lot of red on his racing-reference page. Start & Park or Start & run half & park.
  • J.J. Yeley – Start & Park or Start & run half & park.
  • Jeff Green – S&P Hall of Fame.
  • Josh Bilicki – Bilicki glitch if the price and qualifying are right.
  • David Starr –  Same as Spencer Boyd.
  • Morgan Shepherd – S&P HOF