FANTASY: The 600-Mile Marathon
Coca-Cola 600 Fantasy Preview
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Foot races have marathons. Auto racing has the Coca-Cola 600.
When Bruton Smith built Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1960, he wanted to create one of the biggest spectacles in auto racing and run a Memorial Day weekend race that would rival the Indianapolis 500. His solution: create the longest auto race in American motorsports. The race has run as NASCAR's longest event ever since.
A special note to those that play Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing: CMS runs a unique Memorial Day weekend schedule that holds qualifying on Thursday, and thus teams must be selected by Thursday morning at 5 a.m. ET. What I'm saying is that the 99.3 percent of you that aren't awake at that time should set your teams by Wednesday night. Here's how to go about making those selections:
Charlotte Motor Speedway is your stereotypical "cookie cutter." In fact, having hosted races since 1960, it was a 1.5-mile oval before those became the norm in NASCAR; it set the precedent. There is a lot of data about both the track and track type, and the drivers that are strong on the intermediates should be the go-to choices this weekend.
The length of the race will have an impact in this one. It's possible to run 550 flawless miles, only for it to be all-for-not with a late engine blowup or a flat tire. Every other race in NASCAR would have been over by then with the car already covered by victory lane confetti. More miles means more opportunity for "that's racing" bad luck to take out a dominant car.
Unlike some cookie cutters, there aren't as many dominant drivers at Charlotte. In fact, not a single driver has an average finish of better than 10. (It will surprise you below the driver with the best average finish.) The last nine races have been won by nine different drivers across four different manufacturers, so it's not as easy to pick as winner as other 1.5-mile tracks. That said, with two races plus the All-Star race, the best teams have enough experience at CMS to be reliable options.
- #5 Kasey Kahne - His win in this event last year was his fourth win at Charlotte, and he has five top-fives in the last 10 races at the track.
- #20 Matt Kenseth - It's hard to stay away from the No. 20 team with how well it's been performing. For his part, Kenseth has seven top-10s in the last 10 races at CMS.
- #48 Jimmie Johnson - Fresh off his win in the Sprint All-Star Race at this same track, Johnson looks poised for a great points day at a track where he's won a record-tying six races.
- #14 Tony Stewart - This team might be in for a season-long struggle. When you figure he only has a single top-10 in the last five years at Charlotte, it doesn't appear that this will be the week for a turnaround.
- #18 Kyle Busch - The No. 18 appeared to be the best car in the Sprint All-Star Race. That shouldn't have been a surprise, as Busch has scored seven top-fives at Charlotte in the last 10 races.
- #22 Joey Logano - His average finish of 10.1 at CMS is more than a position better than any other driver. That's pretty impressive, especially since he's generally outperformed his career numbers this year with Penske Racing.
- #43 Aric Almirola - Last year, Almirola earned his only career pole to date in the Coca-Cola 600. He fell back to a 16th-place finish after leading just three laps, but if you're looking to yin while the group yangs, he's a sexy, dark horse selection.
- #99 Carl Edwards - This is the opposite of a sexy pick. Nothing about Edwards's five top-fives and 10 top-10s in 16 winless Charlotte starts sets off the fireworks of excitement. They don't have to, though. He's put up consistent finishes much of the season and that trend should continue this weekend.
- #55 Mark Martin - His four career wins at CMS might sound nice, but keep in mind that's over the course of 56 races. His 24 top-10s at the track are noticeably less than the preferable 50 percent ratio that you'll find with most of the "Start" options on the B-list.
- #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. - An 18.8 career average finish at Charlotte has me looking to stay as far away from Junior as possible. He'll be a great B-list option in many races, and I'd hate to waste a start on him this weekend.
- #17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - For lack of better options, Stenhouse seems like a safe pick this weekend. He started ninth and finished 11th for the Wood Brothers in the 2011 Coca-Cola 600. He'd also finished with a top-10 in three of his last four Nationwide Series races he ran at the track.
- #51 Regan Smith - With all eyes on Stenhouse, Smith has actually been the best driver on the C-list in his part time role, averaging almost four fantasy points more per race this season.
- #83 David Reutimann - Someone looking to get creative might assume that since Reutimann has five top-10s in his last nine Charlotte starts that he might be a good option. He's not. The No. 83 has averaged a 30.5 finish this season with him behind the wheel, and the only top-20 was a 16th at Daytona.
Drivers are listed by car number and not necessarily in rank order.
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