And I thank them for working hard with the governors of states to put on a show for all of us who are starved for any kind of live-action. The two Darlington races, especially on Wednesday night, were incredible to watch and I didn’t even notice there were no fans in the stands.
I’m also thankful for this holiday weekend to all the soldiers in our Armed Forces that sacrificed their lives fighting for our freedom and NASCAR goes all out to recognize some of the fallen soldiers.
NASCAR Cup Odds - Charlotte
The thing that makes the Coca-Cola 600 so special besides it being the longest race of the season is the start time at 6:18 p.m. ET because it gives us four different temperature changes going from daylight, dusk, twilight and then night. The car reacts differently to each change and it’s the crew that has to make the necessary adjustments quickly and those that do it best usually win the race.
"The Charlotte 600 race is one that shows strength and endurance of the team, from driver to pit crew,” said Greg Ives, the crew chief for Alex Bowman. “Being the third race in a week will be a test for Alex's physical conditioning and our ability to adjust the car through changing track conditions. We are looking forward to getting back to the racetrack and represent Scott W. Brunkhorst and his family.
NASCAR Betting Analysis - Charlotte
Hendrick Motorsports dominationHendrick Motorsports and Bowman are where we want to start the handicapping process because Hendrick’s 19 Cup wins at Charlotte Motor Speedway is the most of any organization. They also won the Coca-Cola 600 a record 11 times. No other team has more than six. This is kind of like a home-field advantage for Hendrick with their garage only minutes from the track.
Alex Bowman is a great starting point because I’ve seen him look dominant in two of the four races using the 550 horsepower package being used Sunday. He led a race-high 110 laps in his win at Fontana and was runner-up Sunday at Darlington after leading 41 laps.
“This weekend will be a little different since we are able to qualify,” Bowman said. “That will give us a little more knowledge about the car before taking the green flag. We had strong cars in Darlington, and I am confident that everyone back at Hendrick Motorsports is building dominant Chevrolets for the Charlotte events.”
It’s not just Bowman that I expect to be great on Sunday, it’s all four of the Hendrick drivers. They’ve been collectively fast in the new Camaros and probably should have more than one win.
Jimmie Johnson is an eight-time winner at Charlotte and he’s been eighth or better in three of the four races using this week’s race package. The race he didn’t finish well was Sunday at Darlington when he wrecked himself a half-lap away from winning the first stage. He’s the active leader in just about every Charlotte stat you can think of.
“It’s hard to pick one thing that I love about Charlotte,” Johnson said. “Driving-wise, it’s a lot like Dover, ironically. It’s similar in the straightaways and the corners. I took well to it. Chad (Knaus) took well to it, and Hendrick Motorsports historically always has had good cars there. Chad's crew chief style and my driving style really just put the icing on the cake, and we just made it work. There has always been a neat ‘Hendrick experience’ as a Hendrick Motorsports driver to go to that track and know you’re going to have more power than anyone and a better car. Mr. H (car owner Rick Hendrick) just glows when we’re able to perform the way we have in his backyard for him. It makes me smile every time I think about him jumping on the door of the car when I gave him a lift to victory lane.”
Chad Knaus is no longer the crew chief for Johnson but he’s still with Hendrick as the crew chief for William Byron which is part of the reason betting William Byron to win at 24/1 odds at most legal US Sportsbooks is a good bet to win his first Cup race. I always said, “why bet on something to happen that has never happened” such as a Byron Cup win, but Knaus makes it easier as does Byron just being fast every week. Perhaps he’s pushing a bit knowing we’re waiting for a win, but I think this is a spot he can step up and possibly win.
“The races at Charlotte are going to be critical for our team,” said Byron. “There are a lot of points up for grabs at the 600 and we need to keep building those points to overcome misfortune from earlier in the season. It’s a home race for me as well so there’s a bit of added motivation to run upfront. We ran well there last year in both the All-Star Race and the 600 so I’m excited that we’ll have back-to-back races there. I think we will definitely be in contention for the win and that’s an exciting feeling.”
The first win for any car using No. 24 came in the 1994 Coca-Cola 600 which also happened to be Jeff Gordon’s first career Cup win. Hendrick, Charlotte, the 24 car, and 24/1 odds. I like the sound of it all.
Crash to Cash?Chase Elliott has been amazing with this race package and probably should have won Wednesday night. He was going to pass Denny Hamlin who had older tires, but then Kyle Busch spun him out. I’ve seen him four times with this week’s race package and the two times he didn’t finish fourth he probably had the best car. He won the first two stages at Las Vegas and led 70 laps before a tire went down to start the final stage. And then Wednesday night at Darlington when Hamlin would have been a sitting duck before Busch wrecked him.
Payback is coming which is why I strongly suggest not betting Kyle Busch to win and suggest betting against very matchup posted with him in it. Chase Elliott doesn't mess around and will not carry the grudge long, meaning Kyle’s time to pay up is Sunday. Elliott doesn’t talk smack and says very little, but he’ll get his point across.
So I like all the Hendrick cars and have action on them all and will look to play matchups involving them all as well.
Best of the RestI was impressed with Joe Gibbs Racing getting all four of their cars in the top-10 at Darlington on Wednesday. They dominated with a race package similar last season winning nine of 18 races with it. They’ve been good this season with it, but not dominant like Stewart Haas Racing or Hendrick has been. Martin Truex Jr. has won three of the last six races at Charlotte and two of the last three, but he doesn’t look the same without crew chief Cole Pearn setting him up. Still, he’s the King of the track right now.
Team Penske has two wins but the Las Vegas win for Joey Logano happened in a gamble when they stayed out and the leaders pitted. Their Phoenix win was using the 750 horsepower package. Ryan Blaney went from leading the series in points to being the most disappointing between the two Darlington races. Brad Keselowski has looked the best despite no wins.
Kevin Harvick is the only driver with top-10s in all six races and it was apparent that SHR teammates Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola had some good equipment at Darlington. They should all be fighting for a top-10.
Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth could both be wild cards this weekend and might be worthy as an insurance bet. Austin Dillon won a crazy 600 in 2017 with pit strategy coming into play, but for the most part, the 600 is won by elites. I’m starting to put Bowman into that elite category and if he wins Sunday he’s also a serious championship contender.
Have a great Memorial day weekend!
Coca-Cola 600 - Top-5 Finish Prediction
1) #88 Alex Bowman (10/1)