May 27, 2021
2021 Coca-Cola 600 Predictions
NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 Analysis
We have a lot to review before finalizing our bets for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the 15th race of the Cup season, beginning with thanking all our fallen U.S. soldiers through America’s short history. No sport does it better than NASCAR as each year they put the names of a fallen soldier on the visor of each car as a reminder of what this day is about.
The first task in our money-making goal is understanding what happened in the previous four races on 1.5-mile tracks, which are also the only four races using the race package featuring engines producing 550 horsepower.
We have four different winners from three teams, but one of the winners was equally good in all four races
Coca-Cola 600 Betting Resources
Coca-Cola 600 Contenders
The Coca-Cola 600 will take place on Sunday, May 30 from Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina. (AP)
Kyle Larson Lap Leader
Kyle Larson led laps in all four races, won at Las Vegas, and led the most laps in three of them.
That’s 499 laps led between four races and different types of 1.5-mile layouts. Charlotte’s asphalt isn’t as abrasive as Atlanta’s, but they both have a quad-oval shape and have high banks at 24 degrees in the turns.
“Definitely looking forward to the 600 and getting back on a mile-and-a-half track where we have been one of the strongest cars all year long,” Larson said. “Charlotte is a different mile-and-a-half compared to the other ones we’ve run so far. It’s really bumpy and the transition from day to night is challenging. For whatever reason, I’ve always struggled with that transition, so I’m really looking forward to taking on that challenge in a Hendrick Motorsports car. It’s a long race. We need to keep our nose clean, stay in the hunt and not doing anything too flashy until the end.”
Larson has no wins and just one top-five in 11 Charlotte starts and despite what Larson said about the differences, I still think the Atlanta notes will help them this week as well as others who did well that March 21 day such as winner Ryan Blaney, runner-up Larson, and third-place Alex Bowman.
I went through each driver and determined that all the Hendrick Motorsports cars are good enough to win, and I absolutely love Bowman and William Byron value in the 18-to-1 range when both have been almost as good as the favored Larson (+550).
Betting on Bowman or Byron
Byron won on the 1.5-mile paperclip layout of Homestead to start a string of 11 straight top-10s. The streak ended Sunday at COTA when he finished 11th. You have to be there at the end of the longest race of the season and Byron has done an amazing job of keeping his car clean and choosing his battles. His crew has also been incredible with fast pit stops, and they’ll be critical to adjusting the car with each pit stop as the weather changes from daylight, to dusk, to twilight, and then nightfall. Each temperature change also needs a change to the car.
“This is a big race for us, both Hendrick Motorsports and for myself, growing up in Charlotte,” Byron said. “It’s technically a hometown race for all of us and this was always my favorite racetrack growing up. With how we’re running right now, I feel like we have positive momentum on our side and I feel like we have a chance to win. We just need to keep building off of the things we’ve been working on this year and we’ll be in contention. It’s going to be a great race for us.”
Bowman was cruising to a Coca-Cola 600 win last season winning the first two stages and leading 164 laps and other teams adapted better to the needed changes as the weather and conditions cooled the track. Four days later at Charlotte, he led 51 laps and won the second stage until having some late issues. His best finish on the 1.5s this season was third at Atlanta. His two wins in 2021 have come with the other race package (750 HP).
“The Charlotte oval is one of my favorite tracks,” Bowman said. “It is where I got my first career NASCAR win back in 2017 in the Xfinity Series and it is just a special place. We were really strong in the 600 last year and led the most laps, but just didn’t get the finish to show for it. Our mile-and-a-half program is really strong and I feel like Hendrick Motorsports continues to build fast cars for these tracks.”
The No. 48 winning at Charlotte used to be a regular thing. Rick Hendrick winning at Charlotte has been a regular thing since he came into the series in 1984 as a car owner. His next win anywhere will give him 269 NASCAR Cup wins which will pass Richard Petty Motorsports. If a Hendrick driver were to win Sunday it would up their 12th Coca-Cola 600 win, another record.
How About Hamlin?
It’s a wild power struggle at the top of the series right now, but the four Hendrick cars all have won now, have won the past two weeks, and have helped make Chevrolet the +175 favorite in the three-way manufacturers' prop at the SuperBook. I’m also starting to believe that all four of them could be the Final 4 at Phoenix racing for the championship. They’re all that good while last season's series leaders in wins with Kevin Harvick (9) and Denny Hamlin (7) still have no wins after 14 races.
The odd thing about Hamlin is that he’s never won at Charlotte in 29 Cup starts. What’s up with that?
“It’s probably the No. 1 race on my list of races to win,” said Hamlin who is 6-to-1 to win. “I’ve been a Coke driver for 16 years, so it would be big to win the Coca-Cola 600. It’s just an elite event that you want on your resume. I’ve finished everywhere in the top five but, for various reasons, have never been able to get the win.”
He’s been runner-up three times, including the race at Charlotte last season that was four days after the Coca-Cola 600 due to Covid makeshift schedule -- I miss weekday NASCAR nights. Hamlin also has 10 top-fives at Charlotte and has finished in the top-five in two of the four races on 1.5s this season. His nine top-fives this season are still two more than any other driver.
What to like about him despite the short odds? His crew. I think they’re the best in the series -- seem to gain two spots every pit stop. For those last 100 laps during nightfall, they can be the catalyst to giving the team their first Charlotte win and also first win of 2021.
Hamlin’s JGR teammate Kyle Busch took a long time to win a Cup race at Charlotte before winning the 2018 Coca-Cola 600. The reason to bet him this week at short +650 odds is because of what his 550 HP race package has done so far on 1.5s with a third at Las Vegas, fifth at Atlanta, and winning at Kansas four weeks ago. He won the last race on a 1.5-mile track using this week’s package. He beat Larson, all the Hendrick drivers, all the Gibbs drivers, and all of Team Penske.
Martin Truex Jr. leads the series with three wins, but all three came with the 750 HP package. He has only one top-fives in the 550 HP package this season. What, just one in four? He’s the King of the cookie-cutter. He’s won at Charlotte three times, twice in the Coca-Cola 600, including the most dominant Coca-Cola 600 win ever in 2016 when he led 392 of 400 laps.
Brad Keselowski won the Coca-Cola 600 last season and should be looked at this week because of a runner-up at Las Vegas and third-place at Kansas after he led 72 laps that day.
His Penske teammate Ryan Blaney grabbed the win at Atlanta after Larson led almost the entire race. Blaney was also fifth at Las Vegas. Keselowski and Blaney appear headed in the right direction with this package, but Logano has missed with it so far with ninth-place at Las Vegas being his best with it in the four races using it.
Harvick Due to Win?
I’m guessing that Harvick (10/1) will be fast this weekend and that his crew chief Rodney Childers makes the most out of late pit stops. He’s a three-time Charlotte winner and comes in this week with no wins in 2021 after winning a season-high nine races in 2020. Somehow, SHR Fords lost speed in 2021 after killing it last season. But I saw a spark at Kansas (runner-up) four weeks ago that showed me Harvick will be live and active for betting moving forward.
There’s a bonus piece of the puzzle for teams this week because there will be a 50-minute Friday night practice session and Saturday morning qualifying. Harvick likes the extra time on the track to prepare before Sunday’s race.
“With where we are with our cars right now, I think practice is definitely going to be something that will allow us to at least try a couple of things and have some direction before we start to race, because we’ve started every race, for the most part, not close to where we need to be,” Harvick said. “We spend the whole race trying to get ourselves in a position to be better and never get it to a point where it’s good. Being able to try a couple of things and have some sort of idea of where you need to be from a balance standpoint before the race starts is going to be a benefit for us.”
Long Shot to Consider
My favorite longshot this week?
Tyler Reddick at 40-to-1 odds. He might offer the best value among all drivers at 40-to-1 odds or higher. He was runner-up at Homestead and seventh at Kansas. He also has a 2019 Xfinity Series win at Charlotte.
I don’t think I’ve missed much from the goals I set for this betting exercise. I think I have all the possible candidates identified and they’re all listed in the top-five on each 1.5-mile track. With the exception of Matt DiBenedetto’s fourth-place at Kansas, all the names are front and center and they race for the elite teams in NASCAR.
Have a great Memorial Day Weekend and enjoy both races. I’ve attached the six drivers I bet on for Sunday’s 105th running of the Indianapolis 500. I’ve bet them all the same amount, good luck.