Driver Group Game Picks Charlotte

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The Cup Series has a home game this week when they race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Before I get into the picks, let me wish everyone a Happy Memorial Day weekend and say thank you to all of those who have served in the military or as a first responder. Our country would not be what it is without you. Now, onto to the picks for NASCAR’s marathon race. The Coca-Cola 600 can be seen Sunday at 6 p.m. ET on FOX.

 

STRATEGY FOR CHARLOTTE

NASCAR has competed on three 1.5-mile tracks this year (Las Vegas, Texas and Kansas). The most similar track in size and shape to Charlotte Motor Speedway is Texas Motor Speedway, but the tires will not wear out this week like they did at Texas. The length of the Coca-Cola 600 makes this race hard to compare to any of the other races on the schedule. The drivers who were fast on the intermediate tracks over the last month (Texas, Dover, Kansas and Darlington), should be fast again this week. Speed isn’t everything in the Coca-Cola 600. There are going to be 12+ pit stops and the Gen-7 car has averaged 17 cautions per race at Charlotte. We will need drivers with a fast car, fast pit crew and the luck to avoid the many wrecks. The Coca-Cola 600 is more unpredictable than traditional 400-mile races on the intermediate tracks.

Here are the picks for the Coca-Cola 600

 

GROUP A DRIVERS

The stats scream “Play KYLE LARSON this week” but I am going to fade Yung Money. I am not sure how doing the double (Indy 500 + Coca-Cola 600) is going to affect Larson. I expect he will be awesome in both races, but I am running low with my allocation with the No. 5 car, so I will pivot to two other drivers who should be great picks Sunday.

WILLIAM BYRON (7): This is not only a home game for the NASCAR teams; it is a home game for Byron. The Charlotte native has been very good at his home track. Byron won the pole, led 91 laps, won Stage 1, finished 8th in Stage 2, 4th in Stage 3 and finished 2nd in the race last year. He was one of two drivers who were able to score Stage Points in all three Stages last year. Byron will have a good chance to win his 4th race of the 2024 season at his home track.

DENNY HAMLIN (7): It is hard to fade Hamlin right now. He won the race at Dover, finished 5th at Kansas and 4th last week at Darlington. Hamlin has also led laps in every race this year so he is almost a lock to score bonus points for leading laps Sunday. Hamlin crashed out of the Coca-Cola 600 last year, be he won the race in the Gen-7 car in 2022. I have plenty of allocations left with Hamlin, so I will have him in my lineup at Charlotte.

(OTHER PICK) KYLE BUSCH (9): Do you want to take a chance with a driver who you may not use much this season? If so, Kyle Busch is your guy. Rowdy has been a beast in the Coca-Cola 600. He finished 6th, 2nd, 3rd, 29th (engine failure), 4th, 3rd, 3rd, 1st and 9th over his last 9 races at Charlotte. That is an average finishing position of 6.6. Busch also had one of the cars to beat at Kansas this year. The No. 8 team should be really good this week if they bring the same speed they had at Kansas to the race at Charlotte. History suggest, they will.

GROUP A DRIVER RANKINGS: 1) Denny Hamlin 2) William Byron 3) Kyle Larson 4) Kyle Busch 5) Martin Truex Jr. 6) Ryan Blaney 7) Chase Elliott 8) Christopher Bell

 

GROUP B DRIVERS

TYLER REDDICK (4): I really hate to use another allocation with Reddick, but he is just too good at Charlotte to fade. Reddick has raced in 5 Coca-Cola 600’s. He has finished 5th, 6th, 9th, 14th and 8th. That is an average finishing position of 8.4. The No. 45 car just dominated the race at Darlington. Reddick led 174 laps and had a good chance to win, but he wrecked while racing Chris Buescher to the checkered-flag. I think Reddick will learn from his mistake and be in contention to win again Sunday.

TY GIBBS (7): Gibbs has only raced in one Coca-Cola 600 and it wasn’t very good. He started 19th and was wrecked when Kyle Larson spun out in front of him. Gibbs was running in the top-10 at the time of his wreck. The No. 54 car has had a lot of speed on the intermediate tracks this year. Gibbs should have some momentum after his 2nd-place finish at Darlington. I would not be surprised if Gibbs had his breakout win in the Coca-Cola 600 Sunday.

BRAD KESELOWSKI (8): We really needed another team to step up so that we would not be forced to use up our allocations with the Joe Gibbs Racing, Hendrick Motorsports and 23X1 Racing drivers. Welcome to the party RFK Racing. Keselowski finally got the monkey off his back with a win at Darlington. He also finished 2nd at Texas earlier this year. Keselowski has two trips to Victory Lane in the Coca-Cola 600. His last win was in 2020. The No. 6 team has too much speed right now to fade, so I will have Keselowski in my lineup at Charlotte.

CHRIS BUESCHER (6): Buescher probably should have two win stickers on his car, but instead he is still looking for his first win in 2024. Buescher came inches away from winning the race at Kansas and then he was winning the race in the final laps at Darlington two weeks ago. There is a saying in NASCAR… “If you keep knocking on Victory Lane’s door, sooner or later someone will open it.” That door could open for Buescher this week at Charlotte. He started 11th, led 12 laps, won Stage 2 and finished 8th in the Coca-Cola 600 last year. Buescher should be good again this week.

(OTHER PICK) RICKY STENHOUSE JR. (9): The Coca-Cola 600 tends to be a crazy race and people who take chances are often rewarded. Could this be the week Stenhouse is a “knock-out” pick? The stats suggest it is the best race of the season to use the No. 47 car. Stenhouse has finished 7th in both races at Charlotte in the Gen-7 car. His average finishing position in the last 9 Coca-Cola 600’s is 9.4. That is a large sample size with a lot of success. I do not have the guts to use Stenhouse, but he should be a good play if you are feeling lucky this week.

GROUP B DRIVER RANKINGS: 1) Tyler Reddick 2) Chris Buescher 3) Brad Keselowski 4) Ty Gibbs 5) Ross Chastain 6) Joey Logano 7) Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 8) Alex Bowman

 

GROUP C DRIVERS

NOAH GRAGSON (7): Gragson is having the best season from the Group C drivers. It probably took me too long to figure that out, but hindsight is 20/20. Gragson finished 6th at Las Vegas, 18th at Texas, 6th at Dover, 9th at Kansas and 14th at Darlington. That is an average finishing position of 10.6. That is the best in Group C. Gragson has not had much luck in the Coca-Cola 600. He had a throttle problem while racing for Kaulig Racing in 2022 and an engine failure last year while racing for Legacy Motor Club. I trust his Stewart-Haas Racing Ford this week to make it 600 miles. Gragson should once again be the best pick for your team.

CHASE BRISCOE (5): I will be paring Noah Gragson with Chase Briscoe a lot this summer. They are the two best drivers in Group C, so I will use my allocations with them until another driver shows they can consistently finish in the top-15. Briscoe finished 4th in the Coca-Cola 600 in 2022. He is also coming off a 5th-place finish at Darlington. I expect Briscoe to qualify and race well this week at Charlotte.

(OTHER CHOICE) JUSTIN HALEY (9): Can we really trust Haley in our lineups? He finished 18th at Kansas and 9th at Darlington. PRN (Performance Racing Network) interviewed crew chief Chris Lawson after the race at Darlington. He said, “I am not surprised to see our team finish in the top-10. We have an alliance with RFK Racing and our cars have found some speed over the last month. We are going to try and build upon this newly found speed and finish more races in the top-10.” I am not sure I trust the No. 51 car yet, but you are essentially getting a third RFK Racing car in your lineup by using Haley this week.

GROUP C DRIVER RANKINGS: 1) Noah Gragson 2) Chase Briscoe 3) Carson Hocevar 4) Justin Haley 5) Todd Gilliland

* Be sure to check back Sunday morning for my starting lineup.

 

 

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Good Luck This Weekend!

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