Following an eternity of rain delays in Darlington, NASCAR heads north to Charlotte for two races. So let’s narrow our NASCAR DFS gaze on this Sunday night as the Coca-Cola 600 takes place under the lights of Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Don’t forget to check out the NASCAR DFS Strategy Show for the Coca Cola 600 with Alex ‘Awesemo’ Baker and Phil Bennetzen, today at 4PM ET on the Awesemo YouTube Channel
A Return to Normalcy
No, this isn’t a political platform, although it probably is somewhere. After two Cup races, it feels like things are returning to the status-quo in NASCAR. Despite mother nature, NASCAR has been able to pull off fanless events in three races (including Xfinity). As far as we know, no one has gotten infected with COVID-19, much less anything else. Perhaps NASCAR is the trailblazer other sports need to show how returning to play can be achieved.
Things will feel even more normal as we will actually have qualifying. However, with NASCAR trying to keep everything on a one-day basis for events, qualifying will take place just hours before the race. This-in-turn means no pre-race cash or tournament picks. That “work of art” takes 2-3 hours to write. After finishing it, you would more than likely only have minutes to digest the information. Don’t fret because Awesemo has you covered.
First, immediately following qualifying, I will color coordinate cash/tournament picks in the Race Sheets. You will clearly understand who I like as a potential dominator versus those I don’t. Furthermore, in between qualifying and the race, Alex Baker and I will go live. Yes, there will finally be a live before lock NASCAR DFS show. We will go over the field, our top plays, overall lineup construction, etc. a few hours before lineup lock.
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One thing unfortunately not changing is the lack of practice. Like last week at Darlington, we will go into the race with no real expectations of how drivers should perform. Sadly, this is the “new normal” until NASCAR officials feel that it is safe for regular crowds to be on grounds for a race. If that includes fans then we are looking at Indianapolis in July as the earliest possibility. If your NASCAR DFS process is dependent on the lap by lap practice data, it’s time to change your process a bit.
Once more, we look at past Coca-Cola 600 races and the 2020 550 Horsepower package. The only real apples to apple track comparison we have is Las Vegas. However, for the sake of argument, we will look at all four races in the package thus far.
Coca-Cola 600 in the Rearview
This is a long race. The 600 refers to miles, not laps thankfully, making this the longest race NASCAR will run. A race this long ultimately becomes a race of attrition. Thus the practice data would have been immensely important giving us clues to long-term speed. Furthermore, we would have a pretty good idea which punts were viable. With 600 miles on tap, you can bet under-funded teams will be forced to tap out as they just can’t hang. Perhaps even more so as they have to return to the track Wednesday night for another race.
If you refer to the laps led data page of the Race Sheets you can see just what lap leaders have done in this race. I even added the former fall Charlotte races as an extra point of reference. That race, of course, has become the fall road race we all love. If you look at past Coca-Cola 600 events, you see in five of seven races that three drivers led 10% or more of the race. In those two exceptions, we had a single dominator dominate the race.
Over the past three years, we’ve seen the laps led by the top lap leader fluctuate from 233 in 2017, 377 in 2018 and down to 116 last year. As the intermediate track package has evolved, so also has this race. If we’re looking for one year to pinpoint, our best bet is going back to 2019. It’s the only Coke 600 run under this package. Besides, expecting a repeat of 2018 feels way out of question. We know it’s possible in the 750 horsepower package; we saw it at Martinsville with Brad Keselowski. However, we have not seen it here and not now under these guidelines.
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The 2019 Coca-Cola 600
If you have nothing better to do with your time, you can watch last year’s entire race in just under six hours. However, if that’s not you, here’s the race wrapped up in 15 minutes.
The 2019 Coke 600 was a bit of a mess, as in 13 real-life caution flags were thrown. All 13 cautions were for wrecks. What’s crazy is that eight of 13 were single-car incidents. Twenty percent of the race was run under yellow flags while the average green flag run only lasted 18.8 laps.
While perhaps not to the extent of yellow flags we saw last year, a similar race is probably in the cards for this year’s Coca-Cola 600. That would in turn mean we wills see three drivers, perhaps even four, lead the bulk of laps. With a rise in cautions comes an increased chance for the lead to change hands. Last year’s 116 laps led were the fewest “most laps led” of any regular Charlotte race during the Gen Six car era.
What to do with the Pole Sitter?
Ultimately, the viability of the pole sitter will boil down to who runs the fastest qualifying lap on Sunday. Believe me, the elements will be on the side of the pole sitter. In this 550-HP package, time and time again, we’ve seen the pole sitter launch off from the green flag and start knocking down dominator points from the lead.
This will be a green track thanks to all of the recent rain, so the grip will be lacking and clean air will assuredly be king. We’ve seen twice in the last four Charlotte races the pole sitter lead 392 and 377 laps. We know it can be done easily. In similar conditions, Brad Keselowski started on the pole at Darlington last Sunday and led the first 44 laps.
So what’s the mitigating factor keeping me from committing? First off, we know that not all pole sitters are created equal. This past Wednesday evening, Ryan Preece was the pole sitter, yet he was passed by Ty Dillon on the first lap. We may see a team totally trim out their car for qualifying — a move we will see as shortsighted later on as that vehicle fades throughout the night. Furthermore, pit stall assignments were done on the basis of finishing position from the Toyota 500. We saw last Sunday just how much having the first stall mattered to Kevin Harvick.
Be sure to hang with Alex and me Sunday afternoon as we talk about dominator potential for these cars starting upfront.
Final NASCAR DFS Overview for Sunday
Assuming nothing wonky occurs during qualifying, here are my lineup construction expectations for both DraftKings and FanDuel .
DraftKings – Dual dominator cash builds with a punt more than likely; triple dominator builds in tournaments with double punts. DraftKings have yet to release salaries for Sundays so I can’t say with certainty yet you’ll need one. However, I am expecting tight salaries.
FanDuel – Dual dominator builds for both cash and tournaments; the need for a punt in either build will get dictated by how qualifying rolls out. FanDuel makes access to punts really easy with $2,000 options. We may actually need one if a few top-tier drivers qualify poorly.
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