The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competes at Charlotte Motor Speedway this week for the Bank of America 500. The race can be seen Sunday at 2pm ET on NBC. This will be the first race of the Round of 12. It will be very important for the 12 drivers competing for a championship to have a good run because Talladega is next and we all know anything can happen at Dega.
I had my best week of the year at Dover. My Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing picks scored 380 points (my 2nd-highest total in 16 years). I am now up to the top 98% overall (8,352 points). My Fox Fantasy Auto Racing picks scored 203 and rank 41st overall (5,197 points). Fantasy Live continued to be my best game. My drivers scored 373 points and are now ranked in the top 99.7% (517 overall).
I had a great day in DraftKings with my tournament lineup (Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Jimmie Johnson, David Ragan and Matt Dibenedetto). I won over $100 in all 10 lineups I played last week and from the feedback I received, many of my subscribers fared well too.
Now onto to Charlotte…
The MENCS last competed at Charlotte in May. The race was dominated by Martin Truex Jr. (223 laps led) and Kyle Busch (63 laps led). The rest of the field was way behind these two drivers in speed. Austin Dillon and Jimmie Johnson played the fuel-millage game. The No. 48 car ran out of gas with two laps left and Dillon coasted to Victory Lane on fumes. Here is the Charlotte Race Rewind.
This week I used the driver rating and average finishing positions from the last four races at Charlotte, results from the Coca-Cola 600, average running position in the last four races this season (momentum) and results on 1-5-mile quad-oval tracks to determine which drivers will run well this week. Here are the results from my model:
- Martin Truex Jr.
- Kyle Busch
- Kevin Harvick
- Denny Hamlin
- Matt Kenseth
- Jimmie Johnson
- Brad Keselowski
- Chase Elliott
- Kurt Busch
- Kyle Larson
- Joey Logano
- Daniel Suarez
- Jamie McMurray
- Austin Dillon
- Clint Bowyer
The 12 drivers competing for the championship will be the drivers to focus on this week. The cream usually rises to the top in the playoffs so I expect these drivers to be up front Sunday. The drivers still in the playoffs include: Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray.
Pick to Win
Martin Truex has to be the favorite to win Sunday. No driver has dominated a track the way Truex has the last two seasons. The No. 78 car has led 625 laps in the last three races at the track. He has finished four of the last five races at Charlotte in the top five. Truex has been the master at the 1.5-mile tracks this season. He won at Las Vegas, Kansas, Kentucky and Chicago. He is my pick to go to Victory Lane Sunday.
Kyle Busch has never won at Charlotte in the MENCS. It is the only track on the circuit that Rowdy has not been to Victory Lane at. It is no secret that winning at Charlotte is high on his priority list. The No. 18 car started on the front row, led 68 laps and finished second in the Coca-Cola 600. Busch had the fastest car that night, but pit strategy beat out his fast car. I expect Busch to finish in the top three Sunday.
Jimmie Johnson does not have the fastest car but he does have history on his side. The No. 48 car always runs well in the fall race at Charlotte. He has eight wins at the track including a trip to Victory Lane in the October race last year. Johnson came two laps short on fuel from winning the Coca-Cola 600 this season. This team will have the speed to run in the top 10 and Chad Knaus will likely use pit strategy to get Johnson to the lead Sunday.
Kyle Larson should not be on this list. Charlotte is his worst 1.5-mile track but sometimes you have to look past the stats to find out who will be good. Larson finished 33rd in the Coca-Cola 600 because he had a tire go down and got into the wall. He ran most of the race in the top 10. Larson has a 4.2 average finishing position in the seven races on 1.5-mile tracks this season (not counting his bad luck at Charlotte). Larson has finished four of the seven races in second place. The stats say stay away from Larson, but I am not buying it. The No. 42 car will be upfront Sunday.
Matt Kenseth is still looking for his first win this season. Toyota has had a lot of speed at the 1.5-mile tracks this season. Kenseth has run well at these tracks but his problem is his teammates. Kenseth has been faster than all of the competition except for Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch. He had the third-best average running position in the Coca-Cola 600 (behind the No. 78 and the No. 18 cars). Kenseth finished 4th in May and 2nd in this race last year. I expect another top-five finish from him this week.
Denny Hamlin ran well in the Coca-Cola 600. He qualified 6th, led 10 laps and finished 5th. Hamlin won Stage 2 in the race as well. Charlotte has been the best 1.5-mile track for Hamlin. He has finished three of the last four races at the track in the top five. His only finish outside the top five was last year when his engine exploded (Hamlin was running 4th at the time). The Toyota’s have had the cars to beat and Hamlin will be another Toyota upfront in the Bank of America 500.
Brad Keselowski has been the most consistent driver at Charlotte and he is one of the safest plays this week. Keselowski has finished four of the last five races at Charlotte in the top 10. He was running in the top five in the Coca-Cola 600 when Chase Elliott’s engine exploded and Keselowski had nowhere to go. He slammed into the No. 24 car and ruined what would have been his fifth consecutive top five finish. I doubt he will lead many laps this week but Keselowski should be a safe pick for a top-five finish.
Chase Elliott has to be heartbroken after coming up two laps short from his first win last week. Nothing heals a broken heart like a trip to Victory Lane. The No. 24 has historically run very well at Charlotte. Elliott qualified 3rd in the last two races at the track and he led 103 in the fall race last year. I expect Hendrick Motorsports to give Elliott a fast car this week and he will run in the top 10.
Kurt Busch is one of the best drivers at Charlotte and few people know that. He has the second-best average finishing position and the fifth-best driver rating in the last six races at the track. Busch has finished five consecutive races at Charlotte in the top 10. He qualified 13th and finished 6th in the Coca-Cola 600. Busch is no longer in the playoffs but he should be fast enough to keep his top-10 streak going this week.
Clint Bowyer does not have the best stats on the 1.5-mile tracks this year. This pick is more of a gut feeling then simply going off the stats. I like Bowyer’s attitude. Although he is eliminated from the playoffs he said, “Hell I cannot win the championship so I have nothing to lose. I am going out there and driving the wheels off the car to get it to the front. Just have fun and try to win, that’s my philosophy.” I like it. Bowyer is a boom or bust driver this week.
Austin Dillon won the last race at Charlotte but that does not necessarily mean he will be in the top 10 Sunday. It has to help his confidence though and that can mean a lot to a driver. Charlotte is the best 1.5- mile track for Dillon. He has finished three of the last four races in the top 12. Most fantasy NASCAR players will take a 12th-place finish from Dillon this week.
Ryan Newman is on this list because of his stats at Charlotte. The No. 31 car does not have the speed to run in the top 10, but Newman always seems to find a way to get to the front at the end of the race. Newman has the fourth-best average finishing position in the last six races at the track. Newman finished 9th in the Colca-Cola 600 and 4th in this race last year. I do not expect his average running position to be in the top 10, but I expect Newman to be there when the checkered-flag is waived Sunday.
I will have my picks updated on my website (Fantasy Racing Tips) after final practice Saturday.
If you need any further advice with your team or want to see my updated picks after Happy Hour practice, look for me on Twitter (@MrFantasyNASCAR).