Coca-Cola 600 Preview
May 24, 2016
By Micah Roberts
It's a huge Memorial Day weekend for auto racing fans as three big races happen across the world. It begins early Sunday morning with the Monaco Grand Prix, followed by the Indianapolis 500 and then closes with NASCAR's longest race of the season at Charlotte Motor Speedway with the Coca-Cola 600. What a fantastic triple feature.
Normally, I'd break down the Indy 500 as the primary race featured in this spot, but hardly anyone bets it any more so why bother. Las Vegas handles don't lie and the Indy 500 has been in a massive decline the past two decades to the point where Sunday's NASCAR race will handle four times more action than the 100th running of the Indy 500. I'll still watch it and I'll even bet a few drivers to win, but my action on the NASCAR race will be 10 times more than the IndyCar race.
Last year I got lucky with Juan Pablo Montoya and I'm going to roll with him again Sunday. Team Penske has won four the five Indy races this season and Chevy has won all five. Team Penske also has 16 Indy 500 wins, easily the most by any car owner. This is the race Penske puts all their research and development into and they have the most resources and cash to give themselves an edge over everyone else, so that's good enough for me.
The reason I prefer NASCAR more is the ratings for each driver are truer. We have a lot of data to go off of, especially on 1.5-mile tracks. So the first thing we'll do is look back at what happened in the previous four races on 1.5s with an emphasis on Atlanta and Texas results because the two tracks run most similar to Charlotte. Last week's All-Star Race was also run at Charlotte, but between the randomness of the rule changes, the results don't tell the whole story. One thing we can take out of the All-Star race was that Kyle Larson was very fast and we should expect another good run Sunday.
Kyle Busch has never won at Charlotte in any Cup points race or the All-Star Race, but he's the only driver to finish in the top-five in all four races on 1.5s. He's also won the past two races on them (Texas, Kansas). Over his Cup career at Charlotte in points races he's had 10 top-fives in 24 starts. That's good stuff!
The best value of the bunch might be Dale Earnhardt Jr., who also surprisingly has never won a points race at Charlotte (32 starts). The reason Junior should be looked at seriously at 15-to-1 odds is because of runner-ups at Atlanta and Texas this year. He's also starving for a win this season.
Jimmie Johnson leads active drivers with seven wins, the last coming in 2014. He's been outstanding on these type of tracks with the new low downforce package winning at Atlanta, finishing third at Las Vegas while leading the most laps (76) and fourth at Texas. He also won at Fontana's 2-mile layout where the set-up requirements are similar.
Joey Logano has a series leading 9.5 average finish in 14 starts and won for the first time at Charlotte last fall. He also won the All-Star race last week, but they won't be any goofy lineup inversions this time around. Still, he's shown over time he likes this track and his crew is a good candidate to make the winning changes needed over the final 100 laps.
What's so unique about this race is that it starts in the day, runs through dusk and then closes out at night. That's three different climates and temperatures where the car has to be continually adjusted on the fly. All the practices will be run in the day with qualifying run on Thursday night, so you're going to get a feel in any of those sessions that will be applicable to race conditions. Of course, fast is fast -- always, but it's still something to consider and not go all-in with the practice times like a normal race when finalizing wagering options.
As for the Formula-1 race at Monaco, a place Montoya also won when he drove in the series, we have to starts with Nico Rosberg who won the first four races and then also look at 18-year-old Max Verstappen won the Spanish Grand Prix two weeks ago. Lewis Hamilton, winner of the 2008 Monaco GP, has yet to win this season and it's a good spot and price just because of teammate Rosberg dominating. Let's go with Hamilton to get his first win.
Indy 500 Top-5 Finish Prediction
1) #2 Juan Pablo Montoya (6/1)
2) #3 Helio CastroNeves (6/1)
3) #12 Will Power (8/1)
4) #22 Simon Pagenaud (8/1)
5) #98 Alexander Rossi (100/1)
Coca-Cola 600 Top-5 Finish Prediction
1) #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. (15/1)
2) #18 Kyle Busch (6/1)
3) #48 Jimmie Johnson (6/1)
4) #20 Matt Kenseth (8/1)
5) #22 Joey Logano (8/1)
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