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NASCAR Sprint Cup Coca-Cola 600 Betting Preview
It's Memorial Day weekend in America and that means NASCAR's longest race arrives as it's the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday in Charlotte. The track has 24 degrees of banking in all of its turns as well as 5 degrees of banking on both the frontstretch and backstretch. The length of the frontstretch is 1,980 feet, and the backstretch measures 1,500 feet.
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If last weekend's Sprint All-Star Race at the speedway is a microcosm of what the 600 will be, Sunday's race could be even longer — in perception. Despite the perennial hype associated with the All-Star Race, it was a rush to tedium Saturday night. Only four drivers — Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch and Kasey Kahne — led laps, and Hamlin, the eventual winner, was essentially untouchable in the final 10-lap shootout. No one was able to get within his ZIP code, thanks in large part to the aero-push issue that continues to strangle NASCAR competition, particularly at 1.5-mile tracks such as Charlotte.
Hamlin’s all-star triumph marked the first victory in the event for Joe Gibbs Racing since the organization began competing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 1992. More importantly for JGR is that Hamlin’s victory came at a 1.5-mile track, the first at the distance since Hamlin won the season finale at Homestead in 2013. In 19 points races at Charlotte, Hamlin claims four top fives and 11 top 10s, but he has never won. The 34-year-old Virginian claims the fourth-best average running position (12.6) and fifth-best driver rating (92.8) at the quad-oval.
Matt Kenseth was able to run the fastest lap of Round 3 and win the pole for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 with a speed of 194.252 mph, slightly faster than Joey Logano, who clocked in at 192.836 mph. Carl Edwards will start on the inside of Row 2 for NASCAR's longest race. Edwards is seeking his first win at Charlotte and will have a great shot to do so; the winner has started from inside the top 10 in six of the last 10 races at Charlotte. Greg Biffle will roll off fourth while Hamlin, who is seeking to become the eighth driver in NASCAR history to win both May Charlotte races, will start fifth.
Kevin Harvick (3/1): Harvick won the last points-paying race here in October and has four straight top-six finishes at Charlotte, plus back-to-back runner-up finishes in the Sprint All-Star Race. Add in his intermediate results so far this season: a win and three runner-up finishes (only one driver's been better) and its hard to pick against him. Harvick also has lived up to his closer reputation at Charlotte, as he is the best closer at the track (gaining 33 spots in final 10 percent of the race) in the loop data era.
Jimmie Johnson (6/1): The defending race winner has been a boss at intermediate tracks (three wins) this season and at Charlotte (seven wins, most in track history) in his career. On top of that, he is a loop data era monster at Charlotte with the best average running position (7.6), best green flag speed (177.298 mph) and the second-most laps led (897).
Kurt Busch (7/1): The 41 car has demonsrated speed throughout the season, and remains a threat regardless of the track. Busch has had his share of struggles at Charlotte since winning this race in 2010. In his nine starts since at the 1.5-mile track, Busch had just two top 10s and four finishes outside the top 20. Still, in the loop data era, Busch has led the fourth-most laps at Charlotte (453).
Brad Keselowski (7/1): Keselowski snapped his three-race top 10 drought at Kansas, giving him top 10s at all four intermediate track races so far this season. He looked to be in position to win the Sprint All-Star Race before a speeding penalty leaving pit road deflated those hopes. The 2012 champion has three top 10s at Charlotte, but his average starting position (19.0) is his third-worst among active tracks on the circuit. On the positive side, his speed in traffic is the fourth best (175.500 mph) in the loop data era.
Joey Logano (7/1): Logano doesn't have any wins on intermediate tracks this season, but the Team Penske driver is right at home at that track size with three top fives and four top 10s in four races. The Connecticut native has felt right at home at Charlotte Motor Speedway as well as he has his best average finish there (10.0), despite having only led three laps there. Logano turns 25 on the day of the Coca-Cola 600; wouldn't a victory make for a fantastic birthday present to himself?
Number of previous races: 112.
First Sprint Cup race: June 19, 1960, won by Joe Lee Johnson.
Last Sprint Cup race: October 11, 2014, won by Kevin Harvick.
Won from pole: 15, last time by Jimmie Johnson in 2014.
Won from top-5 starting position: 63 times in 112 races (56%).
Won from top-10 starting position: 85 times (76%).
Won from 21st or worse starting position: 9 times (8%).
Worst starting spot for race winner: 37th, by Jimmie Johnson in 2003.
Most laps led: 335, by Jim Paschal in 1967.
Fewest laps led by a race winner: 2, by Kevin Harvick in 2011.
Fastest race: 160.316 mph by Jeff Gordon in 1999.
Fastest qualifying speed: 197.390 mph by Kyle Busch in 2014.
Most lead changes: 54 in 1979.
Closest finish: Jimmie Johnson's .027 second margin over Bobby Labonte in 2005.
Most caution flags: 22 in 2005.
From 2010-2014 a typical Charlotte race had 27.9 lead changes, 8.0 cautions for 38.1 laps, and an average green-flag run of 36.6 laps.
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