The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will compete in the longest race in Motorsports. The Coca-Cola 600 is a marathon and a lot can happen over the final 200 miles. The cars will once again be using the 550 HP engines with the 2” splitter and 8” spoiler. It is the same aero package which produced some of the best racing in a long time. Now we get 5 hours of close racing this week. The Coca-Cola 600 can be seen Sunday at 6 p.m. ET on Fox.
The MENCS will have a unique schedule this week. The first practice is Thursday at 2:30 p.m. ET (No TV). Qualifying is Thursday evening at 7 p.m. ET (FS1). There will be two practices Saturday. The first is at 7:30 a.m. ET (FS1) and final practice is at 11 a.m. ET (FS1). Our Driver Group Game picks must be in by 8 a.m. ET Thursday. Yes, that is THURSDAY, NOT FRIDAY so make sure you get your lineups in early.
NASCAR will have a pre-race inspection Sunday. Any car that fails will start in the back in the Coca-Cola 600. These cars will be scored from their qualifying position since this is a pre-race inspection and not a post-qualifying inspection.
Kyle Busch put a whopping on the field last year in the Coca-Cola 600. Busch won the pole, won both Stages, led 377 of the 400 laps and took a bow in Victory Lane. The Joe Gibbs Racing cars all ran well. Martin Truex Jr. finished 2nd and Denny Hamlin finished 3rd. Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano also had fast cars in the race. Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske have won every non-Superspeedway race this season. It could be a battle between these two teams again Sunday.
Race Rewind at Charlotte: Coca-Cola 600 (2018)
Here are my picks for Charlotte…
Driver Group Game A Picks
Kevin Harvick (5): How frustrating must it be for Harvick right now? Week after week he shows up with the fastest car but he still has not found Victory Lane. I think that will change in the Coca-Cola 600. Harvick has the best Driver Rating, led the most laps and he has the best average running position on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. He was very fast in the All Star race and he should be fast again Sunday. I expect Harvick to win the pole, lead the most laps and finish in the top 3 Sunday.
Kyle Busch (5): Busch is the safe pick this week. I thought about using Chase Elliott but I could not pull the trigger. If you want to save an allocation with Busch, use Elliott instead. The No. 9 team is on a hot streak right now, but Busch has not been bad either. The No. 18 team is not winning races like they were earlier in the season but it is hard to ignore Busch’s statistics at Charlotte. He has finished 1st or 2nd in the last 2 Coca-Cola 600s and last year he won both Stages and led 377/400 laps. Those are numbers I cannot fade Sunday.
Group A Driver Rankings: 1) Kevin Harvick 2) Kyle Busch 3) Chase Elliott 4) Martin Truex Jr. 5) Joey Logano 6) Brad Keselowski 7) Kyle Larson
Driver Group Game B Picks
Clint Bowyer (6): I have to pick Bowyer this week. I was afraid that he would punch me in the nose if I left him off my team…LOL. The No. 14 car was fast in the All Star race but Bowyer kept finding trouble. That race is a sprint and the Coca-Cola 600 is a marathon. I expect Sunday’s race to be calmer and provide Bowyer a chance to run up front. He finished 2nd at Texas and 5th at Kansas so Bowyer has a history of running well on the 1.5-mile tracks this season.
Kurt Busch (6): Busch just keeps scoring top 10 finishes and flying under the radar. He has been one of the most consistent drivers on the intermediate tracks this season. Busch finished 3rd at Atlanta, 5th at Las Vegas, 6th at Fontana, 9th at Texas and 7th at Kansas. That is a 6th place average finishing position while using the 550 HP aero package. Not too bad. I doubt Busch will find Victory Lane Sunday but he should add another top-10 finish to his 2019 resume.
Erik Jones (5): I thought about using Denny Hamlin in this position but after his hot start to the season, Hamlin is starting to trend in the wrong direction. I will use Jones instead. The No. 20 team has been fast while using the 550 HP aero package. Jones finished 4th at Texas and 3rd at Kansas. He finished 7th in the Coca-Cola 600 last year and I expect another top-10 finish from him Sunday.
Alex Bowman (8): Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me 3 times, I’m an idiot! I am not going to be fooled by Bowman again. He has finished the last 3 races in the 2nd position. The No. 88 team found some speed and it has translated into fast cars at all track sizes. I think you at least need to have Bowman on your team this week and if he qualifies up front and runs fast laps in practice, we need to get him into our starting lineups.
Group B Driver Rankings: 1) Clint Bowyer 2) Kurt Busch 3) Erik Jones 4) Alex Bowman 5) Denny Hamlin 6) Aric Almirola 7) William Byron 8) Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 9) Jimmie Johnson 10) Austin Dillon
Driver Group Game C Picks
Chris Buescher (5): Buescher is the best pick in Group C this week. He has been the best driver from this group while using the 550 HP aero package and it has not even been close. Buescher finished in the top 10 two weeks ago at Kansas. It would not surprise anyone if he did it again Sunday. I will have Buescher on my team and something will have to go seriously wrong for the No. 37 car not to be in my starting lineup for the Coca-Cola 600.
Daniel Hemric (5): I really like what I saw from Hemric in the Open race last Saturday. Hemric won the pole and had one of the fastest cars. I need a driver who can score me bonus points for winning the pole since I plan to use Buescher for the race. Richard Childress Racing has been really good at qualifying this season so I will use Hemric. The Kannapolis, N.C. native should be extra motivated for the race this week.
Group C Driver Rankings: 1) Chris Buescher 2) Daniel Hemric 3) Ty Dillon 4) Darrell Wallace Jr. 5) Matt DiBenedetto
Driver Group Game Team
Group A: Kevin Harvick (5), Kyle Busch (5)
Group B: Clint Bowyer (6), Kurt Busch (6), Erik Jones (5), Alex Bowman (8)
Group C: Chris Buescher (5), Daniel Hemric (5)
I will post my final picks for Driver Group Game Saturday evening.
If you need any further advice with your team, look for me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR
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