Sarah’s Weekly Picks: Charlotte Edition


The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is headed to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Coca-Cola 600 and our Sarah Handy breaks down her picks and who you may want to pay attention to this weekend.

Top Picks:

Kevin Harvick: With the season that Harvick is having in his No. 4 Ford Fusion for Stewart-Hass Racing it’s hard to bet against him.

Harvick captured his fifth win of the 2018 season in the KC Masterpiece 400 from Kansas Speedway a couple of weeks ago. The win also marked Harvick’s second win a row.

In his last ten starts at the 1.5-mile track, Harvick has only finished worse than ninth once. That finish was a 38th place result in October of 2016 after suffering an engine problem.

Harvick’s average finish is 12.98 but I look for him to consistently run towards the front of the field. He is my top pick to win the 600, and if he can’t manage to capture his sixth MENCS victory of 2018, I still expect him to finish in the top-5 but remember Harvick does have two victories at CLT, so he has found victory lane previously with his last win coming in October of 2014 which so happened to be the year he won the Championship.

Note: Keep in mind that Harvick did win Saturday evening’s All-Star Race and once he got out front no one had much competition for him and his No. 4 Ford Fusion.

Martin Truex Jr: Furniture Row Racing’s Martin Truex Jr knows how to win at the 1.5-mile tracks and he did plenty of that last season.

Seven of his eight wins last season came on mile and a half tracks, including the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway where he went on to win his first MENCS Championship.

Truex has one win so far this season at Auto Club Speedway, but he’s been consistent, and he finished second to Harvick at Kansas Speedway. It was the sixth time the duo has finished 1-2.

Last season Truex won the fall race at Charlotte and finished third in the Coca-Cola 600 in May. The previous season he also won the May race and finished 13th in the fall. He’s pretty good at CLT and will look to back that up in the 600 on Sunday.

I believe Truex will be the driver that will give Harvick a run for his money and the two will be the ones battling for the victory.

Dark Horses:

Austin Dillon: Dillon won the Coca-Cola 600 last year for his first career win in the MENCS, but the win came on fuel mileage. That’s not to take anything away as a win is a win but I feel back-to-back wins here will be nearly impossible.

Dillon finished 16th here in the fall race and has an average finish of 11.75 so there’s a good chance he walks away with a top-10 or a top-15 finish but with competition like Harvick and Truex Jr, a win is unlikely unless it’s won on fuel mileage for the second year in a row.

Jimmie Johnson: Johnson is in a major win less slump and he himself is aware of that. Everyone is waiting for Johnson to break through and not only lead his first laps of 2018 but capture a win.

However, I believe that win will once again be put on hold come the 600. Johnson and his 48 team just haven’t shown the speed necessary to run with the likes of Harvick, Truex Jr and even Kyle Busch, and Ryan Blaney to name a couple of other top drivers.

While I have Johnson has a dark horse it’s important to remember this is a track he does run very well at and could surprise the field (finally!) or at least leave with a solid top-10 finish.

From May of 2003 to October of 2005, Johnson won an astounding five times at the track, including four wins in a row. His last victory at the 1.5-mile track came in October of 2016 and he has an average finish of 10.69 so he is still certainly a driver to keep an eye on.

Who to Watch:

Ryan Blaney: He may have an average finish of 17.11 at the track, but with a finish of 8th in the fall race he is a driver to keep an eye on.

Blaney has run very well this season when luck is on his side and he’s bound to break through for another MENCS victory soon.

Aric Almirola: Statistics wise Charlotte hasn’t been Almirola’s best track, with an average finish of 15.38 but since joining Stewart-Hass Racing for the 2018 season, Almirola is having his best season to date in the Cup Series.

Almirola has been nothing short of consistent and a win isn’t far off. Most weeks you can find him and his three SHR teammates all running inside the top-10. Look for him to have another solid run in his No. 10 Ford Fusion.

David Ragan: While a win may be farfetched for the Front Row Motorsports veteran driver I look for Ragan to yet again be the top finishing underdog.

Ragan has shown a lot of patience and consistency this season and has led the underdogs three times already this season as the top finisher. Coming off a 13th place finish at Kansas he will look to carry that momentum into the 600 and walk away with what I believe will be another top-15 finish.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr: Stenhouse has proven he can win in the Cup Series having won at both Daytona and Talladega last season. However, a win on a mile and a half track would certainly look good on his resume.

Stenhouse hasn’t had some of the finishes this season to coincide with how well he has run or the speed he has shown. I look for him to run well in the 600 and you never know what may happen, but he should walk away with a top-10 or a top-15 finish.

He has two top-5 finishes and two top-10 in twelve races this season. Last season he finished 15th in this race and went on to finish 13th in the fall race.

Who do you think will win Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 from Charlotte Motor Speedway? Let us know in the comments below.

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About Sarah Handy

Sarah is going into her third year covering NASCAR for Rubbings Racing as well as helping run their Social Media platforms. Born and raised in Rhode Island, Sarah is an avid racing fan as well as a fan of the major New England sports teams. She is currently studying Public Relations and Marketing at SNHU with plans to move to North Carolina after graduation. Sarah also enjoys visiting her home track of NHMS each year, reading, running and photography.

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