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NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 Preview

by Dave Grayson
Wednesday, May 25, 2011

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Last year's 600 winner Kurt Busch
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' will present their annual endurance contest this Sunday at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. The Coca Cola 600 is a true test of a driver's physical stamina and mental focus. It's also a true test of their car's and engine's endurance levels.

One of the better ways to forecast the finish of the Coca Cola 600 is to examine the numbers provided by the experts from the Las Vegas based "World Sports Exchange", (WSE). Next combine their numbers with individual driver stats, provided by NASCAR's Integrated Marketing Department, and you will get a fairly accurate picture of who's hot and who's not at Charlotte.

KYLE BUSCH AND CARL EDWARDS AT 5 TO 1 ODDS.

First off, you can never rule out the possibility of Kyle Busch winning a NASCAR race. Whether you're the next president of his fan club or a fan that cringes at the very mention of his name, the fact of the matter is: he's that good and has the raw numbers to support his success.

Interestingly enough, Busch doesn't seem to have strong numbers at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. He's still looking for his first ever Sprint Cup win there and he has a middle of the road average finish ratio, (AFR), of 16.6. His seasonal numbers tell a different story. He's ranked third in the championship standings with two wins, six top fives, seven top tens along with an AFR of 11.1. Again, this driver is always a safe bet.

Then there's the matter of Carl Edwards. There's already a lot of observers picking him to win Sunday's race at Charlotte. He's still seeking his first ever points paying win there but has clearly proved he can get the job done at this track. That was certainly evident during last Saturday night's win in the annual Sprint All Star Race.

Also, don't overlook the fact that his Roush Fenway Racing Ford is being powered by the Roush Yates Ford FR9 engine which is also having a wonderful season.

He has a 13.1 AFR at Charlotte, but his seasonal numbers tell a completely different story. Those numbers include a win, six top fives and a 7.3 AFR. That's why Edwards is sitting on top of the championship standings with a healthy 24 point advantage. If anyone can stop the championship domination of the Jimmie Johnson team then this is the guy. If you're looking for a rock solid wager consideration, then this is also the guy.

JIMMIE JOHNSON AT 7 TO 1 ODDS.

Now here's a driver who has some very impressive stats at Charlotte. His career stats there includes six wins, ten top fives and a 9.8 AFR. Three of those six wins include winning the Coca Cola 600 three consecutive times from 2003 to 2005. This is why the Charlotte Motor Speedway is sometimes referred to as "the house that Jimmie Johnson built."

His 2011 season stats are also very strong. Johnson is currently second in the standings with a win, four top fives and a 9.4 AFR. By the way, three of the most prominent houses in Las Vegas, including the WSE, are still saying that "Jimmie Five Time" will again win the Sprint Cup championship and become "Jimmie Six Pack."

MATT KENSETH AT 9 TO 1.

Frequently, during a NASCAR Sprint Cup television broadcast, you will hear the question: "where did he come from?" That certainly applies to driver Matt Kenseth. He has a tendency to quietly show up late in a race and become a player in the event's outcome.

It certainly shows in the seasonal stats that includes two wins, four top fives and a 14.1 AFR. He's also a previous race winner at Charlotte. Also remember that Kenseth is from the Roush Fenway Racing stable and that means he's powered by the Ford FR9 engine. At 9 to 1, Kenseth is an excellent consideration.

DENNY HAMLIN AND TONY STEWART AT 11 TO 1 ODDS.

Despite a surprising sluggish start to the 2011 season, Hamlin to his credit has worked his way back to 13th in the championship standings. Also surprising is the fact that this team, whom many predicted would be a championship contender, is still searching for victory lane. His season numbers only shows one top five finish and a 16.8 AFR. His Charlotte numbers aren't much better. They have been, and will be, plenty of times when Hamlin is a worthy wager consideration. Don't expect this Sunday to be one of them.

Tony Stewart, on the other hand, could be an interesting long shot consideration. Yes, the driver/owner from Stewart-Haas Racing has been a little frustrated recently over team performance levels. But he was smiling following a strong run in the All Star Race last Saturday night in Charlotte. He's also a previous race winner at Charlotte.

It's been often pointed out that "Smoke" has a tendency to get hot during the summer months. If that NASCAR tradition still means anything, then Stewart could possibly light things up during the Coca Cola 600 this Sunday. The weather forecast for the Charlotte area calls for sunny skies and daytime highs around 90 degrees.

KEVIN HARVICK AT 12 TO 1 ODDS.

"Happy" Harvick is off to a strong start this year. He's currently fifth in the standings based on two wins, four top fives and a 12.3 AFR. That alone makes him worthy as a long shot consideration. However, his Charlotte numbers are not that strong. He's still looking for his first points paying win there and has an AFR of 20.0. You also have to consider that some up and down pit road issues in the past frequently hampers his track position.

JEFF GORDON AT 14 TO 1 ODDS.

Just like his team mate, Jimmie Johnson, here's a driver from Hendrick Motorsports who has some excellent Charlotte numbers that includes five wins, 16 top fives and a career AFR of 15.6. Gordon also qualifies well at Charlotte and has won the pole position there eight times. His current Sprint Cup seasonal stats shows a win, three top fives and a 17.8 AFR. They also show a drop in the championship standings to 14th that is largely based on some unexpected harsh racing luck. Despite that, this driver and team is more than worthy of your long shot consideration to turn up in the Charlotte victory lane.

GREG BIFFLE AT 15 TO 1 ODDS.

This is another one of the Roush Fenway teams powered by the impressive Ford FR9 engine and that alone says pay attention to this driver this Sunday. As far as his season goes, Biffle has worked his way to 12th in the standings. He's still looking for his first win of the season, as well as his first win at Charlotte, but he does have some good performance tracks coming up on the schedule. Unfortunately Charlotte isn't exactly one of them.

CLINT BOWYER, KASEY KAHNE AND DALE EARNHARDT JR AT 20 TO 1 ODDS.

Looking at Bowyer's seasonal numbers, he's currently eighth in the championship standings. He's still looking for his first win of the year but has collected two top five finishes that has created a 14.3 AFR. If you have no reservations regarding long shots, Bowyer is showing a great deal of potential these days.

Kasey Kahne is also looking for his first win of the year and also has two top finishes with an AFR of 18.5. The one thing that makes Kahne looks so good, for next Sunday's race, is his Charlotte stats that includes three wins, five to fives and a 13.5 AFR.

The pride of the Junior Nation is understandably excited these days. While Dale Earnhardt Jr is still looking to unload that lengthy win less streak, he's looking more and more like a potential winner these days. He's also currently fourth in the championship standings with a healthy 11.4 AFR.

Having said that, I don't know if we can expect his next win to come at Charlotte this Sunday. While he is a winner of the All Star race, back in 2000, he's still seeking that first points win at this track and has a 19.9 AFR there.

KURT BUSCH AND RYAN NEWMAN AT 25 TO 1.

The elder Busch brother is the defending race champion. He's also a former winner of the All Star Race at Charlotte. He's still seeking his first win of the season and only has one top five finish with a 13.9 AFR. He remains ninth in the championship standings.

However, there's one major problem here that places this driver so low in the WSE rankings this week. It's driver frustration and there seems to be plenty of it these days. Past horsepower and handling issues, along with some pit road miscues, has turned Busch into an angry young man and that has led to some tirades, over the in car radio system, that has often been brutal. Until these team issues are resolved, I don't know if betting any money on them is a good idea.

While he's yet to find victory lane this year, Ryan Newman is actually having a pretty good season so far. He's seventh in the championship run, has four top five finishes and a steady AFR of 13.9. Starting position is very important for the Coca Cola 600 and Ryan Newman has a healthy qualifying history at Charlotte having won the pole there nine times. He could turn out to be another long shot consideration.

MARK MARTIN AND JOEY LOGANO AT 28 TO 1.

If you're going to invest in a long shot, then Mark Martin may be well worth your attention. He's currently 11th in the standings with a 14.7 season AFR. However it's his Charlotte stats that makes him a stand out. Those numbers include four wins, 18 top fives and a15.7 AFR.

We keep waiting for Joey Logano to launch that break out season everyone felt was coming but on track trouble somehow keeps finding him. He's 28th in the standings, still searching for his first top five of the year and has an AFR of 22.5. He does, however, have some solid Charlotte numbers including his only Sprint Cup win, three top fives and an AFR of 8.5. But I wouldn't bet any money on them.

JAMIE MC MURRAY, DAVID REUTIMANN AND JEFF BURTON AT 30 TO 1.

This trio of drivers had high expectations at the beginning of the 2011 racing season but, for a myriad of reasons, they just haven't materialized. Mc Murray, 22nd in points, is still looking for his first top five finish of the year and that's just simply amazing. However, he does have two wins at Charlotte.

Meanwhile Reutimann, mired down in 26th, is still looking for his first top ten of the year and that's equally amazing. The lone bright spot here is a very strong run in the All Star Race last Saturday night at a track where the driver scored his first, and only, Sprint Cup win.

Jeff Burton has been working hard to overcome performance issues this year that has left him in 23d in the championship. Adding insult to injury is the fact he still looking for his first top ten finish of the year and that's left him with a 20.8 AFR. The bright spot here is the fact that Burton is a three time winner at Charlotte and this might be the track where he can finally turn things around.

At the very bottom of this week's WSE listings you will find Martin Truex Jr at 35 to 1, Juan Pablo Montoya at 38 to 1 and Brian Vickers at 40 to 1. If you don't find your favorite driver on this week's listing then assume the WSE has placed them in their "all others" category at 15 to 1 odds.

Now for the disclaimer: NASCAR wants to remind you that these posted numbers should be viewed for information and entertainment purposes only. They neither encourage or condone the placing of wagers on their races.

The Coca Cola 600 is 400 laps/600 miles around the Charlotte Motor Speedway's 1.5 mile quad oval. You can watch it live on Fox Sports beginning with the pre race show at 530 pm eastern time.

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