Find a comfy place on the couch because you will be there a while this week. The MENCS will compete in the longest race in motorsports. The Coca-Cola 600 tends to get boring after 400 miles but that will not be the case Sunday. The new aero package has provided some of the best racing we have seen in years, so the race this week should be very entertaining. The Coca-Cola 600 can be seen Sunday at 6 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.
The MENCS will be back to the 550 HP, 2” splitter and 8” spoiler aero package this week. This rules package was used at Las Vegas, Auto Club, Texas and Kansas. Kurt Busch is the only driver to finish all four races in the top 10.
Goodyear will use the same tire combination that they ran last week in the All Star race. Tire wear was an issue last week so we should see a lot of 4 tire pit stops. Each team will receive 12 sets of tires for the 600 mile race. That is not a lot so teams will need to manage their tires so they do not run out at the end of the race.
Daniel Hemric, Aric Almirola, Erik Jones and William Byron tested the tire compound which will be used Sunday at a tire test at Charlotte last October. The teams also used the same aero package that will be used this week.
* NASCAR will inspect the cars Saturday afternoon. The inspection is scheduled to start around 2:30 p.m. ET. Any car that fails will start in the back and be scored in Fantasy NASCAR from his qualifying position. I will try to post updates of cars who fail on my Twitter account: @MrFantasyNASCAR If I need to change my picks they will be posted before the race.
** Do not get too wrapped up with lap times from practice. Track conditions will be a lot different Sunday and it will change over 600 miles. It is better to simply go with the drivers who have had speed this season and finish up front consistently.
* Hendrick Motorsport: How did Hendrick Motorosports improve so fast? NASCAR took car from each team to the R&D Center in Concord, N.C. after the west coast races. NASCAR looked at each car and determined the Hendrick Motorsports cars performed just as well in the wind tunnel as Joe Gibbs Racing, Team Penske and Stewart-Haas Racing. This told HMS their problem was not with the chassis. It was in the engine. HMS has a new engine they knew produced a lot of horsepower but they were worried about its durability. HMS decided to try the new engine at Texas after the NASCAR inspection. JIMMIE Johnson finished 5th, William Byron finished 6th and Chase Elliott led 35 laps at Texas. The HMS cars have been fast ever since NASCAR gave them the news about their cars.
Chase Elliott: Elliott has been on a hot streak for over a month. He won at Talladega, finished 5th at Dover and 4th at Kansas. Elliott finished 14th in the All Star race but his car had the 4th-best green flag speed in the race. Elliott made some long runs and he said, “The balance is not terrible. I can run it wide open through 1 and 2 and we are close on 3 and 4. The more the grippy stuff wears off the looser it gets so we need to stay on top of that.”
Jimmie Johnson: Can you believe a seven-time champion is flying under the radar? Johnson has finished 5th and 6th in his last two races on 1.5-mile tracks. Now he competes at a track where he has 8 wins. Johnson should be a good sleeper pick in DFS this week. Johnson liked the balance of his car. He said, “It is a bit free on entry and exit but it should come to us once the tracks gets more rubber built into it.
Alex Bowman: Bowman has been the best driver in NASCAR over the last month. Those are words you never thought you would hear, but it is true. Bowman finished 2nd at Talladega, 2nd at Dover and 2nd at Kansas. He finished 8th in the All Star race so this team needs to find a little more speed over the weekend. Bowman thought his car needed some adjustments. He said, “It takes off pretty free but it is harsh everywhere. The center off is the biggest concern. It takes me too long to get back in the throttle.”
William Byron: Byron is starting to show some improvement and a lot of it has to do with the knowledge of Chad Knaus. Byron won a Stage in the Open to advance to the All Star race. Byron ended up finishing 9th but his car had the 5th-best green flag speed. He should run well in the Coca-Cola 600 if Knaus gives him another fast car.
Kyle Larson: Jeff Gordon took Larson to the Voodoo store and now his curse is gone. Larson finished 3rd at Dover, 8th at Kansas and won the All Star race. He is definitely a driver who is trending up. Track conditions will change Sunday throughout the race and Larson is the best driver in the sport at searching the track for grip. Larson was fighting a tight racecar. He said, “3 and 4 are absolutely horrible. I need to get out of the gas about 1/3 the way through the corners.” At the end of practice he said, “The drivability is a lot better. We are closer to where we need to be.”
Kurt Busch: Busch has been Mr. Consistent on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. He finished 3rd at Atlanta, 5th at Las Vegas, 9th at Texas and 7th at Kansas. His car only had the 17th-fastest green flag speed in the All Star race so the No. 1 team will likely have a completely different setup this week. Busch made some long runs and he said, “Something is hitting in the left rear. I hope we can figure that issue out. Whatever is hitting is ruining the entire balance of the car. Maybe make a shock adjustment.” At the end of practice he said, “F****!!! This is an entirely different car. Completely ruined!” He was P27 at the time.
Kevin Harvick: Harvick had the best car in the All Star race. The No. 4 had the fastest green flag speed, the best average running position and Harvick had the best driver rating in the race. I am sure Rodney Childers will have a similar setup for the Coca-Cola 600 Sunday. The No. 4 team was working on their long-run speed. Harvick ran 8 laps at the bottom, 8 in the center and 8 laps at the top of the track. Harvick said, “The car is more calm at the bottom. Maybe free it up a bit Rodney and it should be good.”
Clint Bowyer: Bowyer had a fast car in the All Star race but he got stuck in traffic and that caused him to poke Ryan Newman in the nose. The race Sunday should be calmer and that should play into Bowyer’s hands. The No. 14 car finished 5th at Atlanta, 2nd at Texas and 5th at Kansas, so it does have speed on the 1.5-mile tracks. Bowyer made some long runs and said, “She feels fast. I really like the way she handles at the bottom.” The team told him, “You are P6, not bad.”
Daniel Suarez: Suarez has been hit or miss on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. His average starting position is 16.2 and his average finishing position is 11th. Suarez failed to qualify for the All Star race which was surprising. Charlotte is one of his better tracks so he should run well Sunday. Suarez car was fast at the beginning of the run but it built tight. He said, “I cannot hold it wide open in the corners like I want to. It is just way to tight.” The team made some major adjustments.
Aric Almirola: Almirola got off to a hot start in 2019 but he has really cooled off. Almirola has a 19.4 average finishing position in his last 5 races. Most of it had to do with bad luck and poor pit road performance. Almirola finished 6th in the All Star race so his car does have speed. The No. 10 car had the same setup at the No. 4 car. Almirola said, “I lost power steering and then it came back.” The team tried to diagnose the problem.
Brad Keselowski: Keselowski does not need the fastest car to win the race. He is the cerebral assassin in NASCAR. Crew Chief Paul Wolfe and Keselwoski will likely use fuel and tire strategy to gain track position. The lap times for the No. 2 car in practice do not matter much for this team. Keselowski tried a lot of different setups in practice. The team was fighting a tight racecar and they just could not seem to find the perfect the setup. Paul Wolfe said, “I am not too concerned with lap times. The track conditions will be a lot different Sunday night.” At the end of practice Keselowski said, “We need to check the transmission. It feels like it wants to pop out of gear.”
Joey Logano: Logano had the 2nd-fastest car in the All Star race. Logano had the 2nd-fastest green flag seed, led the 2nd-most laps and finished 4th. He has been good while using the 550 HP aero package this season so Logano should be fast Sunday night. Logano was fighting a car that started off tight and then got too loose at the end of the run. The team spent a lot of time talking to the No. 12 team about their car.
Ryan Blaney: Blaney has been a major disappointment since the series left the west coast. The No. 12 car has a 21.3 average finishing position in the last 6 races. Blaney only has one finish inside the top 15 in the last 6 races and that was a 4thplace finish at Bristol. Blaney finished 16th in the All Star race so the team needs to find some speed. Blaney made some long runs and said, “The bumps are the biggest issue. They just throw the car up the track.” The team told him, “You have a lot of speed.”
Paul Menard: Do not expect too much out of Menard this week. The No. 21 car only has 2 finishes inside the top 10 and both came at the short tracks (6th at Bristol and 10th at Richmond). Menard has a 18th-place average finishing position on the 1.5mile tracks this season. Menard told his team, “It has no lateral grip.” He was P18 at the time.
Kyle Busch: It is no secret that Busch hates this aero package but it is not going away any time soon. In fact NASCAR is working to make the cars race even closer together and that will just piss off Busch some more. He should quit bitching though. His cars are a lot faster than his competitors. Adam Stevens told Busch in practice, “The No. 4 is the best at the bottom but no one is even close to your times from the middle and up.”
Erik Jones: Jones is starting to heat up. He finished 6th at Dover and 3rd at Kansas. He also finished 4th at Texas so this team has their 1.5-mile program together. Jones made some long runs and said, “It is free on entry and exit but I would rather be free than to be too tight. I put wheel into it and it turns so I would not make any major changes.”
Denny Hamlin: Charlotte is one of the best tracks for Hamlin but he needs to find some momentum if he wants to finish up front Sunday night. Hamlin has a 24.3 average finishing position in his last 3 races and he finished 18th in the All Star race. Hamlin said, “The car is not too bad. It is really good on entry and a tight on exit. The center rolls good but better through 1 and 2 than in 3 and 4.”
Martin Truex Jr.: Truex has been the best driver at Charlotte and it is not even close. He has finished 5 of his last 6 races at the track in the top 3. The problem is that the cars are much different this year. Truex has a 20.8 average starting position and a 10.2 average finishing position on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. Will track history or recent performance determine Truex’s fate Sunday night? Truex made some long runs and Cole Pearn told him, “Your lap times are very competitive with the field. The 18 is the only car that is killing us.”
Matt DiBenedetto: DiBenedetto has not had any success on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. His average starting position is 23rd and his average finishing position is 27.2. DiBenedetto only had the 7th fastest green flag speed in the Open race last week. The No. 95 team has a lot of wrk to do this weekend.
Daniel Hemric: Hemric is from Kanapolis, N.C. and he really wants to perform well at his home track. The No. 8 team showed up with a lot of speed for the Open race. Henric won the pole and had the fastest green flag speed in the race. Hemric made some long runs and he said, “We need to start with more air-pressure. It is just horrible at the start of the run but once the pressures come up it is not too bad. It is still loose on entry.” They made an adjustment and he said, “Wow, much better.”
Austin Dillon: Dillon has been good at starting up front at the 1.5-mile tracks but he has not been very good at staying up front. Dillon has a 8th place average starting position and a 18th place average finishing position on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. Dillon will be running the Xfinity Series race so maybe the extra seat time will help him Sunday night. Dillon really liked his car. He said, “Thank you guys. This is the best car I have ever had here. You are making what is expected to be a long day, much easier for me.”
Ty Dillon: Dillon has been really good on the short tracks and not so good on the large ovals. Dillon has not finished any races on the 1.5-mile tracks inside the top 20. His average finishing position is 25.8. Dillon did finish 2nd in the Open race so there is some hope for the No.13 team. Dillon told his team, “It starts off good but builds tight through the run.” At the end of practice Dillon said, “We are heading in the right direction. It is the best it has ever been.”
Ryan Preece: Preece has not been very good on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. He finished 35th at Atlanta, 25th at Las Vegas, 22nd at Texas and 25th at Kansas. The Coca-Cola 600 is usually tough on rookies because it is hard to prepare for the length of the race. Preece has his work cut out for him this week. Preece was having a hard time getting through the bumps on the track. He told his team, “It bounces like I am in a boat.” The team made some shock adjustments.
Chris Buescher: Buescher has been pretty good on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. He finished 9th at Atlanta and 10th at Kansas. He also ran well at Las Vegas and Texas but he did not get the results he deserved. Buescher started practice with a tight racecar. They made some changes and he said, “That helped. We are definitely closer but it is start darty in the corners.” At the end of practice Buescher said, “That is the best it has been in the two weeks at this track.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: If the race Sunday night turns into a drafting session, Stenhouse will have a good chance to win. He is one of the best drivers in the field at manipulating the air to pass cars. He used the air to his advantage at Kansas and he led 11 laps and finished 11th. Stenhouse was fighting a car that was too tight in practice. He usually likes his cars to be loose and run the top of the track. He could not do that in practice.
Ryan Newman: Newman had quite an eventful night in the All Star race. He hit almost every car on the track, slid through the grass and got poked in the nose after the race. Just another day at the track for Newman. The No. 6 car has not been good on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. Newman has a 19.8 average starting position and a 17.8 average finishing position at these tracks in 2019. Newman made some long runs and he said, “Extremely tight. Like plowing tight.” Newman got into the wall at the end of the morning practice.
Cars that looked good in practice: Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin and Ryan Blaney
Good Sleeper Picks: Austin Dillon, Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones, Daniel Hemric, Chris Buescher and David Ragan
MENCSl Practice Speeds
Best 10-Lap Avg. Speed
Best 15-Lap / 20-Lap Average Speed
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