Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:58 AM

Best Bets - Charlotte

Be sure to follow on Twitter @TwitVI for the latest NASCAR updates and trends. Daniel E. Dobish, two-time FSWA Racing Writer of the Year, can be followed on Twitter at danieledobish.

Each week during the Monster Energy Cup Series (MENCS) regular season through the Chase, we'll take a look at the best Fantasy plays, as well as Futures and Wagers when applicable, to get you ready for the upcoming race week.

The MENCS remains at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Coca-Cola 600, a points race, after the All-Star festivities and Monster Energy Open. It's the longest race of the season, and the third race of Sunday following Formula 1's Monaco Grand Prix and IndyCar's Indianapolis 500.

Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch (11/4) is listed as the race favorite. NASCAR's Loop Data shows him listed as third with a 108.5 Driver Rating across the past five races at the tri-oval, leading 463 laps. That mark is second among all drivers during the span, and he has posted a 14.2 Average-Finish Position (AFP) with 76.5 percent of his laps run inside the Top 15. The numbers are a bit skewed due to a 29th-place showing in the fall 2017 race. He posted a win in last spring's Coca-Cola 600, one of three finishes of sixth or better across his past four Charlotte starts on the tri-oval.

JGR's Denny Hamlin (18/1) has some moderate odds, but he is one to watch on Sunday evening. Over the past 10 starts on the tri-oval at Charlotte he is second with a 9.8 AFP, posting five top-5 showings in his past six starts. He is listed fourth in Driver Rating (107.6) across the past five starts, running 95.1 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. Teammate Martin Truex Jr. (23/4) leads everyone with a 125.0 Driver Rating over his past five Charlotte races on the tri-oval, leading a circuit-best 716 laps during the span while posting a 4.0 AFP with 97.4 percent of his laps run inside the Top 15. Two of his past five starts have resulted in victories, and he has six top-5 finishes over the past seven Charlotte tri-oval starts.

Hendrick Motorsport's driver and seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson (28/1) is in the midst of a career-long 71-race win drought dating back to June of 2017 at Dover. Perhaps a visit to Charlotte will be just what the doctor ordered. He has a 112.3 Driver Rating over his past five starts at the Charlotte tri-oval, posting 195 laps led with a 6.6 AFP and 94.6 percent of his laps run inside the Top 15. That's pretty impressive given his struggles lately, so perhaps he can outlast the field at the 600. His teammate William Byron (28/1), at 21 years old, is the youngest-ever driver in the history of Charlotte Motor Speedway to win the pole. He can't really do much worse than his Cup debut at the 600 last season when he finished 39th. Despite his favorable starting position he is a risky bet this Sunday.

Hendrick's Alex Bowman (28/1) could be one to watch. He has been lately, posting three consecutive runner-up finishes heading into this one. His previous showings on the tri-oval at Charlotte have not been terribly impressive, rolling to a dismal 28.2 AFP in six career Cup starts at the track while failing to lead any laps. However, he did post a solid ninth-place run last season in the 600. 

Ganassi Racing's Kyle Larson (15/1) is listed fifth in Driver Rating (100.2) over the past five starts on the Charlotte tri-oval, leading a total of just 12 laps with a 13.6 AFP during the five-race span. Overall in his career he has no wins, one top-5 finish and four top-10 showings with a mediocre 17.5 AFP. His teammate Kurt Busch (25/1) won the 600 back in the Miller Lite No. 2 Chevrolet back in May 2010, the last time I actually attended the 600 in person. It was his only win at the tri-oval in 36 career starts, posting seven top-5 finishes, 13 top-10 showings and a 17.4 AFP with 624 laps led. He has also posted four DNFs at the tri-oval, while his brother Kyle has managed six DNFs in his career.

Stewart-Haas Racing's Daniel Suarez (50/1) swept both practice sessions on Saturday, as he looks to take another step forward. In three career Cup starts he has fared well at the Charlotte tri-oval, posting a sixth-place finish, an 11th-place run and a 15th-place showing, leading all drivers with a 10.7 AFP. His teammate Kevin Harvick (15/4) has managed three checkered flags at the Charlotte tri-oval while ending up with eight Top 5s and 16 Top 10s with 528 laps led in 35 career starts. SHR's Aric Almirola (20/1) might be a good value at this price level, as he goes off on the outside of Row 1. Of course, in 12 career starts at Charlotte he has managed just one Top 10 with a subpar 18.5 AFP and just four laps led with one DNF.

Don't forget about the Penske Racing triumvirate, either. Joey Logano (9/1)Brad Keselowski (8/1) and Ryan Blaney (18/1) look to make noise at the track. Logano and Keselowski each have recorded a win at the 600 in the past. Logano has an impressive 13.1 AFP in his 19 career starts, third-best among all active drivers with at least four Cup starts under their belt. Kes has finished outside of the Top 20 on just three occasions at Charlotte, posting a 14.4 AFP and 219 laps led, but also a pair of DNFs. Blaney is the outlier of the group, posting an awful 25.0 AFP in seven career tries on the tri-oval at Charlotte.

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