The big race this weekend is finally here at the mecca of stock car racing, Charlotte.
From Indy Cars to stock cars, the top prize this weekend is winning one of motorsports crown jewels and Kurt Busch is a good bet to win them both. Tony Stewart set the bar for the double with a sixth-place finish at Indy and a third place in the Coke 600 in his rookie NASCAR season in 1999.
This is a tricky track starting in daylight of the afternoon and transitioning into the night, making it rigorous for the crew chiefs to keep up with the track changes. The cars you see leading during the daylight will most likely fade during the transition, as if you’re watching two races at the same track.
To give you an example of how the track changes, look at the list of drivers leading in practice speeds from today’s 80 minute session during the mid-afternoon compared to their qualifying starting positions late in the afternoon.
Fastest during practice:
#88-Earnhardt Jr. 193.264
#17-Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 191.782
#78-Truex Jr. 191.775
Brad Keselowski qualified second and this could be a good omen for Brad, as most winners at the World 600 come from the second starting spot.
Pole winners don’t usually win at the Coke 600, only 14% since the inaugural World 600. Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers with six wins and he’s the last driver to win from the pole back in 2004. Jimmie has the pole for Sunday looking for his first win of the season and is always dangerous, as his value should be good with no wins to his credit this season.
Track position is everything for the 600 as the aero package favors those at the front with the top ten producing the most wins at slightly over 75% but only nine out of 110 Charlotte races have been won starting outside the 20th position including Jimmie Johnson’s 37th starting position to win in 2003.
Here’s the top 10 starting line-up for the 600:
1 Jimmie Johnson
2 Brad Keselowski
3 Kasey Kahne
4 Danica Patrick
5 Clint Bowyer
6 Denny Hamlin
7 Kyle Busch
8 Joey Logano
9 Marcos Ambrose
10 Dale Earnhardt Jr
Harvick won last year’s 600 and two out of the last three 600s, while Keselowski won the fall event last year. Both are capable of getting a win on Sunday night.
Kasey Kahne ranks third since 2005, leading all active drivers with four wins since joining Hendrick Motorsports. He really knows how to handle the transition from day to night at the 600 and should be a good fantasy buy with his slow start this season.
Matt Kenseth is the only rookie to win the 600 and loves going the extra distance with two career wins and a fourth-place driver rating makes him a force to contend with.
Danica Patrick has the fourth starting spot for Sunday night and is a good buy, if you’re willing to take the chance after posting a top-10 two weeks ago at Kansas. She would have to finish better than 15th place to take the skirt title from Indy car driver Janet Guthrie in her World 600 debut in 1976.
Here’s my Ice Picks for the Coca Cola 600 (Groups are based on last years points standing, 1 – 10, 11 – 25 and 26 on up.):
Kevin Harvick- has won 2 of the last three 600′s.
Kasey Kahne- four wins at Charlotte is a go for me.
Matt Kenseth- has a solid record at Charlotte.
Brad Keselowski- will get you a good points day.
Joey Logano- has the ninth best rating at Charlotte among active drivers.
Denny Hamlin- gets a good finish and will be in the position to take a top ten.
Brian Vickers- don’t be surprise if he takes the checkers.
Justin Allgaier- gets a top 20