Pre-Practice Notes: Coca-Cola 600

There’s no such thing as home field advantage in NASCAR, but it sure feels that way every time the Sprint Cup Series goes to Charlotte Motor Speedway. Jimmie Johnson has a reputation for dominating the field at the track formerly known as Lowe’s Motor Speedway. In 21 career starts Johnson has 6 wins, 4 poles, and 14 Top 10 finishes (not including his 3 All-Star wins). Regardless of the track’s naming rights, Jimmie Johnson is the clear favorite heading into NASCAR’s longest race of year, the Coca-Cola 600. There is little reason to doubt the 5 time Cup Series Champion after winning his first race of the season two weeks ago at Darlington and tying the record for most All-Star wins on Saturday night.

After his 3rd All-Star Race win Jimmie Johnson is the GoPro favorite to win Saturday’s Coca-Cola 600 (Photo by: T.Rowe)

The 42 cars chasing the #48 will include last year’s winner Kevin Harvick. Happy Harvick only led 2 laps of the 600 mile race, but led the one that counts. He followed up with another strong showing (6th place) in the fall race at the 1.5 mile speedway. Matt Kenseth was the winner that day. It was his second win in 25 Cup races at Charlottte. Kenseth finished 3rd in Saturday’s All-Star Race and has 7 Top 5 finishes at Charlotte.

His Roush Racing teammate, Carl Edwards has an All-Star Race win under his belt, but has never converted during the regular season. I wouldn’t be overly concerned with the Roush engine failures we saw during Saturday night’s race. It’s not uncommon for teams to experiment in the engine department when there aren’t any points on the line. Keep in mind that Kenseth’s setup passed the test. Edwards is a steal in ESPN’s Stock Car Challenge going into Segment 2. He has 8 Top 10 finishes and only 1 DNF in 16 Cup races at Charlotte.

However, because of the blow up, I am saving Biffle for another day. It’s time to be selectively aggressive with the current points leader. Jeff Burton, 3 time Charlotte winner, is a safe pick for owners looking to save their stars. Burton has an average finishing position of 15.4 in 36 career races. Four time Charlotte winner, Mark Martin is driving the #55 again this week in one of his 16 remaining races on the 2012 schedule. If you are looking for qualifying points A.J. Allmendinger is your man. Saturday’s Sprint Show Down runner-up started 2nd and finished 5th in last year’s 600 and followed it up with a solid (4th / 7th) performance in the race last fall.

Qualifying for the Coca-Cola 600 is scheduled for Thursday night. The roster deadline for Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing owners is Thursday May 24th at 5AM EST. Once again owners will need to rely heavily on historical data and use C Drivers that are in the Top 35 in Owner’s Points.

My Pre-Practice Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing Team for The Coca-Cola 600:

A: Jimmie Johnson #48 – It’s a no brainer using Jimmie this week.

A: Kyle Busch #18 – Going with gut instinct. Wild Thing has 4 DNF’s to go along with his 6 Top 5’s including 1 win in 16 starts at Charlotte.

B: Kasey Kahne #5 – Kasey is looking to build momentum off his 8th place finish at Darlington. Kahne has 8 Top 10’s in 16 starts including 3 wins at Charlotte.

B: Marcos Ambrose #9 – Ambrose has 6 career starts at Charlotte. He worked his way into the Top 10 of both Charlotte races in 2011. He finished 7th in this year’s the All-Star Race.

B: Ryan Newman #39 – Rocket Man has 9 career poles in 22 races. He is on my team strictly for qualifying purposes only. He has 5 DNF’s to go along with 8 Top 10’s. His average starting position (6.7) vs. his average finishing position (20.4) doesn’t justify the start.

B: Joey Logano #20 – No matter how bad Sliced Bread is running, he always finds a way to cut it at Charlotte. Four of his 6 career Cup starts have resulted in Top 10 finishes including 2 Top 5’s.

C: Bobby Labonte #47 – The former Cup Series Champion has 3 poles & 12 Top 5’s including 2 wins in 38 career starts. Only 4 DNF’s!

C: Aric Almirola #43 – No track history here, but he’s driving for the same team that A.J. Allmendinger recorded two Top 10’s for in 2011. David Ruetimann, 2009 Winner, is in the #73 and Danica Patrick will drive the #10.

Charlotte Motor Speedway Race Stats

I will update my rosters on Saturday after this week’s qualifying and practice results. Remember “If you ain’t first, you’re last”.

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