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The All-Star Race delivered a very interesting product last weekend, and my overall opinion of the end result would be highly favorable. Sure, Kyle Busch wasn’t a fan, but then again, he didn’t win either. Most of the less-crabby drivers seemed to have fun with the experiment, and it was great seeing the fans on their feet throughout the race. While I don’t think restrictor plates are the best answer (let alone the only answer), I remain hopeful we’ll see NASCAR continue to strive for better competition. Alas, the different format didn’t teach us much for this weekend, but 600 miles is its own animal compared to everything else anyway.


Charlotte Motor Speedway is a 1.5 mile intermediate quad-oval located in Concord, NC. The configuration features 24 degrees of banking in the turns, and the driving most closely resembles its sister Speedway Motorsports, Inc. tracks in Atlanta and Texas. The preferred line will be constantly evolving this Sunday as the sun sets, the track cools, and track conditions vastly change throughout the evening. Most cars will tend to tighten up over the course of a long green flag run, which will likely lead to backing up corner entry, running a higher line, or both. Due to the extra 100 miles, fuel strategy will also play an important role, as it often has in years past.


This section is less about prognostication, and more about highlighting drivers catching my eye at a given moment. We all play in different formats and have different strategies, but hopefully this adds some value to your results. Good luck!

THE DOWNFORCE (start ’em)

Winners profiled: 50%
Top-5 finishers: 52%
Top-10 finishers: 73%
Avg Finish Position/profile: 9.6
Avg Points/profile: 36.5

Martin Truex Jr. (Pit Stall Rating 292.86, 1st) – Martin has dominated Charlotte over the last 3 seasons. He is top of the charts in average finish (4.2), loop rating (123.0), and has run 97.7% of his laps in the top-15 positions. Truex won this race in 2016 and has led more than 3 times as many laps as the next closest guy over the last 5 events. Expect to see the #78 up front.

Kevin Harvick (Pit Stall Rating 105.09, 3rd) – It’s getting to a point where I don’t know what to write with this team anymore, and honestly I’m getting bored with it. Since 2011, Kevin has finished in the top-10 here in 12 of 14 attempts. 50% have been top-3s, and 3 of those ended with a trophy. Even in the All-Star race where all bets were off, he still clearly had the best car and went to victory lane. Not much else to say without being redundant.

Denny Hamlin (Pit Stall Rating 113.30, 2nd) – If Denny could stop speeding on pit road, he’d probably win more races. Despite his mistakes, he’s been a model of consistency at Charlotte lately. Apart from a blown engine in 2016, he has 4 top-fives in his last 5 attempts. I expect the #11 to qualify near the top-5, but the question is whether they can stay up front and avoid the unforced errors for 600 miles.

Kurt Busch (Pit Stall Rating 101.91, 4th) – This has been a good track for Kurt lately, finishing 5 of the last 6 Charlotte races in the top-10. He’s only led 1 lap in those efforts, so don’t expect him to blow you away, but he ranks 5th with an average running position of 9th, and his average finish of 9.4 ranks 4th overall.

Jimmie Johnson (Pit Stall Rating 82.69, 6th) – Jimmie ranks 2nd in average running position (6.6) and has run 93.2% of the last 1867 laps in the top-15. Like writing about Harvick, I’m also getting tired of doubting this #48 team. Jimmie has never not-won in the first 12 races as a full-time driver, so this is brand new territory (intentional double-negative, sorry). I really want to believe Kansas lit a fire under this team, so I’m going to roll the dice here.

THE DRAFT (dark horse)

Daniel Suarez (Pit Stall Rating 99.80, 5th) – If you’ve read these articles before, you’ve probably gathered I don’t bet my feelings very often, but this is a rare exception. I’m just kidding, let’s look at some data for kicks. Suarez has raced three times in the MENCS at Charlotte, finishing 11th –> 6th —> 2nd. Granted, 2nd was last Saturday in the All-Star race, but remember he had to win an Open stage just to qualify, THEN ran 2nd to back that up. Digging deeper, Daniel had 5 starts in the Xfinity series too, with 4 top-tens and 2 top-fives (worst finish = 12th). Alright, now for the gut feeling part: I just feel he likes this track for whatever reason, and sometimes that’s all it takes for someone to have the confidence and patience to do well.

THE DRAG (use caution)

Clint Bowyer (Pit Stall Rating 37.28, 19th) – By all accounts, Clint is having a tremendous season. He’s currently 6th in points, and his win at Martinsville guarantees him a spot in the playoffs. However, Clint hasn’t had a top-10 finish at Charlotte since 2013, including his two starts with SHR last season. While I expect him to perform much better than the historical numbers would indicate, there are plenty of better options to choose from this weekend. Of course, if you’re looking to justify using him, I will offer this: he was very strong at both Atlanta and Texas earlier this season, which is plenty enough rationalization for a try here.


4.2, #78 Martin Truex Jr.
8.5, #19 Daniel Suarez
9.4, #11 Denny Hamlin
9.4, #41 Kurt Busch
10.6, #4 Kevin Harvick

AVERAGE LOOP RATING @ CHARLOTTE (last 5 track events)

123.0, #78 Martin Truex Jr.
111.4, #4 Kevin Harvick
110.8, #48 Jimmie Johnson
106.5, #11 Denny Hamlin
97.8, #6 Matt Kenseth

2018 MOMENTUM (last 5 overall races this season)

45.4, #4 Kevin Harvick
42.6, #22 Joey Logano
37.4, #18 Kyle Busch
33.8, #41 Kurt Busch
33.0, #10 Aric Almirola

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