FANTASY: 600 Miles of NASCAR
Coca-Cola 600 Fantasy Preview
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
This weekend's race at Charlotte Motor Speedway will be 600 miles. Six-hundred!
Here are six places that are less than 600 miles to drive to from New Hampshire Motor Speedway:
1. Pocono Raceway (354 miles)
2. Watkins Glen International (374 miles)
3. Dover International Speedway (435 miles)
4. Washington, D.C. (499 miles)
5. Toronto, Ontario, Canada (542 miles)
6. Slanesville, W.V. (589 miles)
Why Slanesville, W.V.? Well, because it was less than 600 miles away, obviously. Plus, who would have thought that you could get to West Virginia before you finished driving 400 laps around Charlotte Motor Speedway at the same speed!?
The point being: the Coca-Cola 600 is a long race. It's the longest of the season by a full 100 miles. That's 100 more miles for things to go wrong: engines to overheat, tires to go flat, driver error (and fatigue) to take out a car or two ... or half-dozen.
Contrary to the NASCAR series name, this isn't a sprint. Nope, it's a marathon. Here's a look at some of the drivers that might have what it takes to (finally) cross that finish line first on Sunday night:
Charlotte Motor Speedway is the original 1.5-mile oval. It was the cookie from which the cookie-cutters were shaped. As such, it races as an intermediate and one on which the drivers are very familiar. Not only do they run the All-Star Race in addition to two points races, but the track is located in the backyard of most of the race shops. An offseason test or two tends to be common place on this track.
The distance is the X-Factor in the Coca-Cola 600. As stated above, 100 extra miles is a lot more time for things to go wrong with the car. The best car for the first 400 miles might not necessarily hold up, and likewise, a middle of the pack car for the first half of the race might get the adjustments needed to come into its own by the final pit stop.
Not a single active driver averages a top-10 finish at Charlotte, so that pretty much opens up the field in this race. Most drivers can be considered, and that means there's an opportunityto save starts on the biggest names.
- #4 Kevin Harvick - Last year's race winner looked like he had the car on rails during the Sprint All-Star Race. He might have ultimately finished second to Jamie McMurray, but that was courtesy of a 10-lap shootout. Over the course of a longer run, he would have had the fastest car last weekend.
- #5 Kasey Kahne - He's on the list thanks to four wins at Charlotte in 20 starts. He's had his struggles this season, but Kahne is usually good for a win or two regardless of how the season is going. This could be it.
- #24 Jeff Gordon - The points leader has looked fast all season and that didn't change this past weekend in the Sprint All-Star Race. Expect Gordon to be running up front throughout the 600.
- #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. - With only 11 top-10s in 28 starts at Charlotte, Dale Jr. isn't the best option this week.
- #11 Denny Hamlin - Inconsistency has been the name of the game for Hamlin so far this season, but the win in an unpredictable Talladega race might have been what he needed to get on track. He enters the race with a streak of seven top-10s at Charlotte.
- #22 Joey Logano - He's got the highest average finish in the field at Charlotte with a 10.4. Based on the way Logano's raced this season, he should be a favorite in this one.
- #55 Brian Vickers - This is the dark horse selection of the week. Vickers hasn't set the world on fire, but he's finished 16th or better in eight of the last nine races. Plus, the rest of the selected B-List is comprised of drivers with matching digit numbers (11, 22, 99), why not include the No. 55?
- #99 Carl Edwards - The pole sitter for the Sprint All-Star Race tailed a little as the race went on, but certainly showed that he'll have a pretty quick car for the weekend. And, unlike when he won the All-Star Race a few years back, he didn't tear this one up burning out in the infield, so he's got that going for him, which is nice.
- #1 Jamie McMurray - Haters gonna hate, right? McMurray's sprint to the checkers in the All-Star Race was exciting and unexpected, but he has just two top-10s in 11 starts this season. He's not likely to repeat the trip to Charlotte's victory lane.
- #14 Tony Stewart - It's unclear what exactly is wrong with the No. 14 this season, but it's best to avoid him until he figures it out.
- #3 Austin Dillon - The No. 3 of Richard Childress Racing will be more capable of completing 600 miles in one piece than some of the C-list's lesser equipment.
- #42 Kyle Larson - With five top-10s in 11 starts this season, the nine allocations for Larson are going to get zapped pretty quickly. This week could be another such instance.
- #10 Danica Patrick - Don't all jump on the bandwagon at once. The performance at Kansas was impressive, and hopefully a sign of things to come for one of NASCAR's more popular drivers. However, it was her first top-10 since the Daytona 500 in February of 2013. Give her some time to show consistency, and hopefully she'll be a good option in the second half of the year.
Drivers are listed by car number and not necessarily rank order.
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