Memorial Day Weekend not only honors those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, but also signals the best day in Motorsports on Sunday with the running of the Indy 500 and the Coca Cola 600 the marathon for the Monster Energy Cup Series. Last weekend we saw Kyle Larson win the Open Race and then go on to win the All-Star Race at Charlotte after Kevin Harvick’s pit crew cost him track position seemingly every stop so the best car did not win that race.
This weekend every car will carry the name of a fallen soldier further emphasizing the bond NASCAR has with the armed forces branches and military while each car also has a Patriotic paint scheme for their race cars that all sponsors generously get on board behind. Over the last three years we have seen two drivers stomp the field, Martin Truex Jr. in 2016 & Kyle Busch last year while we saw Austin Dillon win his first career race on a fuel-mileage call. In a long 600-mile race like this, especially with this new rules package under the lights, expect the unexpected. Previous years results will certainly influence who you back this weekend at Charlotte, but make no mistake each and every car in the garage has this date circled on their calendar with it being a true “home race” for all of these teams.
Over the last 5 races at Charlotte, Martin Truex Jr. has consistently had the best results with a pair of wins and 4 top 5 finishes. His average finish over the last 3 races there is 2.00 which is remarkable especially with two of those being the marathon that is the Coke 600 and that doesn’t even include the race in 2016 where he led 392 of the 400 laps. Kyle Busch led 377 of 400 laps last year and swept all three stages and won the race. Their teammate Denny Hamlin also has also finished in the top 5 in five of the last six races at Charlotte. Jimmie Johnson has the best career driver average among active drivers of 12.32 with the most wins with 8.
Coca Cola 600 Opening Odds
-Kyle Busch 3/1
-Kevin Harvick 9/2
-Martin Truex Jr. 6/1
-Brad Keselowski 7/1
-Joey Logano, Chase Elliott 8/1
-Clint Bowyer 14/1
-Kyle Larson 16/1
-Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones 20/1
-Kurt Busch, Aric Alrimola 25/1
-Alex Bowman, Jimmie Johnson 30/1
-Daniel Suarez 50/1
-Austin Dillon 80/1
Coca Cola 600 DraftKings Picks
Kyle Busch ($11,200): The numbers are there for Kyle Busch. He has been great to begin this season picking up where he left off, is going to one of his best tracks where he dominated last season and most of this race will be under the lights where he thrives. It’ll be difficult to get him at this price in a lineup you’re ultimately comfortable with, but you need him in at least one of your entries for Sunday night. Can’t risk fading the 18 car entirely.
Martin Truex Jr. ($10,600): You know the numbers on Truex at this point from above, now add to that he’s firmly in the Joe Gibbs Racing camp, a team that has owned this racetrack and we may very well see the 19 car in victory lane for the Coke 600 once again like Carl Edwards did in 2015. He’s $600 cheaper than Busch who starts 3rd and Truex rolls off 14th.
Brad Keselowski ($10,100): Keselowski came out of nowhere and won at Kansas two weeks ago in the last Cup Series points race which gave him a series-best 3rd win of the year tied with Kyle Busch. Add to that a poor qualifying effort of 21st, which no doubt they will rebound from in a long race and an intelligent crew chief in Paul Wolfe and the 2 car should be a lock for your lineups. He’s finished inside the top 10 in five of the last seven races at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Kyle Larson ($9,500): If last weekend was any indication, the 42 is about to break out of this rut in style. He’s too good of a driver to be on the outside looking in and starting 25th with how they fared last weekend, I don’t know how you can’t find a way to get him in your lineups for Sunday. The risk of a DNF is there with how inconsistent that team has been all year, but if you’re confident he’s about to turn it around, go for it.
Denny Hamlin ($9,200): Again, Hamlin is under priced. They have been the second best team on the 1.5 mile tracks this season and the 11 car looked great at Texas earlier this season. Look at his recent results at Charlotte and his career 12.08 average finish to go with 17 top 10’s over 26 races and Hamlin is primed to break through with his first career win at the track. Starting off 20th isn’t great for his chances, but it is great for this format and he has 600 miles to make that up, he’ll be fine.
Jimmie Johnson ($8,300): As far off Hendrick Motorsports has looked at times, they appear to have turned a corner and are coming back. Chase Elliott broke through at Talladega for Chevy’s first win of the season, his temmate Alex Bowman has three straight runner-up finishes, teammate William Byron is on the pole for Sunday and look at the numbers for the 48 car at this track. Even last year with how far off they looked at times the 48 car was able to get a top 5 finish, starting 15th on Sunday with his active lifestyle and how great of shape he is in, I want Jimmie in my lineups.
Daniel Suarez ($8,000): Theres a list of drivers that scored their first win in the Coca Cola 600 that includes Jeff Gordon & Austin Dillon a few years back. Suarez is starting up front and was fastest in opening practice Saturday. He’s got a fast Coca Cola mustang and I like his chances on Sunday.
Pre-Qualifying tech inspection could shake things up and the starting order like in previous weeks so make sure to stay updated throughout the weekend.
Daniel Hemric starts P10 ($5,900), David Ragan starts P31 ($6,000), Bubba Wallace starts P29 ($5,700), Parker Kligerman starts P34 ($5,100)
Race Winner Prediction:
From everything I saw from Hamlin on Saturday in the heat conditions on track and with his results at Charlotte, I think the 11 has the best car in the Joe Gibbs staple. He’s yet to win at Charlotte despite all the great finishes and I like their chances to win the 600.