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NASCAR hits the banks of Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend for the Coca Cola 600. The Memorial Day tradition is the sport’s longest of the year — it runs for 600 miles, and it’s the only race with four stages breaks instead of just three. Action gets underway on Sunday at 6:00 PM EST.
If you followed the sport in the mid-to-late 2000s, you know that it used to be Jimmie Johnson’s palace. But the seven-time champion has fallen off a bit, so he’s no longer the lock he once was.
To figure out the best bets for this weekend, I’ll compare each driver’s stats at Charlotte to their recent speed. Let’s see what the numbers say for this weekend’s event.
Past Performance at Charlotte
Charlotte is a 1.5-mile course located in the middle of NASCAR’s North Carolina hub. It’s a quad-oval, which means that the track features two uncurved straightaways. Unlike a tri-oval, which usually rounds out its front stretch, a quad-oval straightens itself out on both sides of the track.
Charlotte compares best to Atlanta and Texas, although Atlanta’s ancient track surface distinguishes it from the North Carolina track. Here are ten of the top drivers for Charlotte:
|Driver Name||Avg Finish||Races||Wins||Top 5’s||Top 10’s||Driver Rating (Last 10)|
|Martin Truex, Jr.||14.07||27||3||7||11||117.03|
Johnson’s track record at Charlotte looks jaw-droppingly impressive in the win column, but his recent driver ratings aren’t as good. Now it’s Martin Truex and Kevin Harvick who lead the way at the track, and both drivers have scored three career wins here.
Truex’s recent performance at Charlotte is comparable to Johnson’s peak. He has finished top-5 in all of the last four races, earning two wins along the way. In the eight races since 2015, Truex has an average finish of 3.62, and he led laps in all but three of those races.
And if we include Texas in the data, this chart looks like:
|Driver Name||Avg Finish||Races||Wins||Top 5’s||Top 10’s||Driver Rating (Last 20)|
|Denny Hamlin||13.01855 (↓)||55||3||16||30||91.62236|
|Joey Logano||13.30233 (↓)||43||2||16||22||96.55488|
|Daniel Suarez||14.6 (↓)||10||0||2||3||79.408|
|Martin Truex, Jr.||13.78518 (↑)||56||3||11||27||111.0954|
|Kyle Busch||13.12172 (↑)||58||4||25||33||104.7779|
|Brad Keselowski||16.31119 (↓)||42||1||9||16||91.80357|
|Kevin Harvick||12.95657 (↑)||70||6||19||39||115.5591|
|Chase Elliott||13.46867 (↑)||15||0||4||8||89.35467|
|Clint Bowyer||15.67 (↑)||60||2||5||26||85.488|
Jimmie Johnson remains at the top, and he’s won 22 percent of his attempted races at Charlotte and Texas. He’s even finished as a top-10 car in 64 percent of them! No other driver has a clip that impressive.
While Harvick and Truex continue to stick out in driver rating, Harvick’s three Texas wins give him a leg up. Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott also move up when we include Texas.
Joey Logano is another option worth talking about, as he’s posted a top-notch average finish at quad-oval tracks. Although his two wins came in 2014 and 2015, his numbers are skewed by a lousy four-race stretch at Charlotte from 2016 to 2018. His second-place finish in this race last year shows me that he’s rebounded a bit, as does his fourth-place at Texas last year.
A driver can only drive as fast as their car can go, so we need to weigh the quality of their equipment. One way we can measure this is through Ryan Smith’s speed rankings, but those numbers don’t include either Darlington race. So for added context, I’ll include the average driver ratings from this year’s races at Las Vegas (1.5 mi) and Darlington (1.366 mi).
|Rank||Driver||Average Central Speed||Avg Driver Rating|
|6||Martin Truex, Jr.||7.33||99.3|
Although he hasn’t yet won in 2020, Chase Elliott is bad fast. He should’ve won last weekend’s race at Darlington, but Kyle Busch’s bumper had something to say about that. Hendrick Motorsports looks like it’s back on top, and Elliott’s speed proves it.
Also, since driver rating weighs fastest laps and laps led, it’s clear that Toyota has fallen off in speed. Sure, they have two wins on the year, but I don’t think they’re set up for future success. Their drivers have the talent to compensate, but compensation doesn’t lend itself to the domination we’ve seen from them before.
Let’s take a look at the betting odds for our six drivers over at DraftKings Sportsbook.
|Martin Truex, Jr.||+600||-106||-315|
A pair of winless Toyota drivers are the two betting favorites in this weekend’s race. I think I’ll pass — their lack of speed means that their lines are just too short for my liking.
Best Single-Driver Bets
Isaiah’s Pick is currently 1-1 on the season.
To Win: Chase Elliott (+750)
It’s got to happen sometime, right? Elliott has led laps in all but two races this season, and he had a great week going at Darlington until Kyle Busch wrecked him. I think he’ll enter this weekend angry, and he’ll try to get the win he deserves. The counterpoint to this bet is that Elliott hasn’t yet won at either Charlotte or Texas, but I think he can break through on Sunday. If that play is too risky for you, we’ve got an excellent back-up option…
To Finish Top-5: Chase Elliott (+115) — Isaiah’s Pick
This line shouldn’t be in the plus money. Elliott’s recent hot streak proves he has the car to race up front, and while his on-track stats could be better, most of those numbers come from a time when Hendrick Motorsports lacked speed. Elliott finished top-5 in his first two career Cup races at Texas (2016), and even in struggling equipment, he posted top-5s at Charlotte in 2017 and 2019.
Best Prop Bets
Manufacturer of Race Winner: Ford (+155) AND Team of Race Winner: Hendrick Motorsports (+250)
Betting against Toyota burned me last week, but I will stick to my guns here. Unlike Darlington, Charlotte requires more speed and less driver skill. Toyota’s win on Wednesday night doesn’t prove to me that they can succeed at 1.5-mile tracks, so I’d look for a Ford or a Chevrolet to seal the deal here. This line gives you exposure to Stewart-Haas (Harvick), Penske (Logano, Keselowski), and Hendrick (Elliott, Johnson), and I would be stunned if one of these teams doesn’t win on Sunday.
|Side of the Bet||Units||Total Bet||Odds||Total Payout||Total Profit|
|Ford (Manu.)||3||$3.00||+155||$7.65||$2.65 (53.00%)|
|Hendrick (Team)||2||$2.00||+250||$7.00||$2.00 (40.00%)|
While this bet isn’t super profitable, it’s one of the safest plays that you can make. Yes, you’re betting against the two sportsbook favorites, but you’re also getting action on three of 2020’s fastest teams.