2012 NASCAR Coca-Cola 600
Charlotte Motor Speedway – Charlotte, North Carolina
1.5 mile Quad Oval – 24 degree banking turns
Sunday, May 27, 2012, 5:30 pm Eastern, TV: Fox
Defending Champion: Kevin Harvick
All odds courtesy of Bookmaker
NASCAR returns to points racing after taking a week off for the All-Star race. As has been the Memorial Day tradition, NASCAR runs their longest race of the year on the same day as the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500. It is a huge day for racing fans with 3 marquee events on the same day.
The Coca-Cola 600 has become one of the most anticipated races of the year for both fans and drivers. It is a grueling test, because it is 100 miles longer than any other race in the 36 race Sprint Cup season.
Here is a look at the starting grid for the race. Aric Almirola won his first career pole. It was actually a Richard Petty Motorsports sweep of the front row as Marcos Ambrose qualified second.
Let’s take a look at the contenders and their odds to win courtesy of Bookmaker.
Jimmie Johnson (3/1)
Johnson is 5th in points, 39 behind Greg Biffle. He has one win this season at Darlington, but has 4 other top 5’s and 3 other top 10’s in 11 races. Now he returns to a track that he has dominated at times. He has six wins at Charlotte, along with 4 other top 5’s and 4 more top 10’s at the track. That isn’t even counting his 3 non-points All-Star race wins at the track, including one last week. He won at this track in 2009, but 3 of his last 4 starts at Charlotte have been 28th or worst finishes. Still, Johnson is a heavy favorite, and he is worth a play. He qualified third, and will be a factor at the end barring accident or engine problems.
Kyle Busch (9/1)
Busch is 9th in points, 62 points behind. He has a win at Richmond, along with 3 additional top 5’s and 2 more top 10’s in 11 races. Busch qualified 17th at Charlotte this week. He has never won here, but has eight top 8 or better finishes in his last 10 starts at Charlotte. Overall, he has 6 top 5’s and 3 more top 10’s in 16 starts at Charlotte. He will break through eventually and get his first win at Charlotte. I just don’t know if it will be this weekend.
Tony Stewart (10/1)
Stewart is 7th in points, 42 behind. He has wins at Las Vegas and California, and 2 other top 5’s plus another top 10. He hasn’t finished lower than 24th in any of the 11 races this season. Stewart qualified 21st at Charlotte. He has one win at this track, but that was in 2003. He has 5 other top 5’s and 6 more top 10’s in 26 career starts at Charlotte. Stewart finished 8th in the fall race last year to break a string of 7 straight finishes between 11th and 21st place at the track. He can win any race he enters, but this isn’t his favorite track. I don’t think he will be there at the end this week.
Carl Edwards (10/1)
Edwards is 10th in points, 74 points behind. Edwards doesn’t have a win this season, but does have 7 top ten’s including 2 top five’s in 11 races. He qualified 28th for the Coke 600 this week. He has never won at Charlotte, but does have 8 top 10’s including 5 top 5’s in 14 career starts. Edwards is better at racking up top 10’s than winning, and I can see another top 10 finish for the 99 car.
Denny Hamlin (10/1)
Hamlin is fourth in points, 17 points behind. He has wins at Phoenix and Kansas this season, along with 6 top 10’s and 5 top 5’s. He is coming off a runner-up in Darlington. Hamlin qualified 8th this week. Hamlin has never won at Charlotte but has 6 top 10’s including one top 5 in 13 starts. He should be a factor at the end.
Greg Biffle (11/1)
Biffle leads the points by 2 points over Roush Fenway teammate Matt Kenseth. He has a win at Texas, and 7 top 10’s with 6 top 5’s. He hasn’t finished lower than 18th in any race this season. Biffle qualified 4th at Charlotte. He has never won here, but does have 6 top 10’s including 3 top 5’s in 18 career starts. I think a top 10 is likely as consistent as he has been.
Kevin Harvick (11/1)
Harvick is 8th in points 50 points behind. He has no wins this season, but has 5 top 10’s including 2 top 5’s. He came in 25th at Talladega but every other race has been top 20 better this year. Harvick qualified 14th for the Charlotte race. He won this race last year, his first ever at the track. He also has 5 more top 10’s and another top 5 in 22 starts at Charlotte. Harvick is very consistent and should be there at the end.
Kasey Kahne (11/1)
Kahne is 16th in the points, 128 behind. After a rocky start to his tenure at Hendrick Motorsports, Kahne has racked up 5 straight top 10’s, including 2 top 5’s. He started off the season with 6 straight 14th or worst finishes. Kahne qualified 7th this week. Kahne is a 3 time winner at Charlotte, and also has 8 top 10’s including 6 top 5’s in 16 starts at the track. Kahne is my pick to break through and get his first win of the season.
Matt Kenseth (14/1)
Kenseth is second in points, just 2 points behind his teammate Biffle. He won the Daytona 500, and has 7 top 10’s and 6 top 5’s in 11 races. He hasn’t finished lower than 22 in any race. He has top 6 or better finishes in 5 of his last 6 starts this season. Only an 11th place finish at Richmond broke the string. Kenseth qualified 20th this week. He won the fall race at Charlotte last year, his second at the track. Kenseth also has 13 top 10’s including 7 top 5’s in 25 career starts at Charlotte. A top 10 is likely for Kenseth, perhaps even a top 5.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (18/1)
Earnhardt is third in points, 14 points behind the leader. He is still searching for his first win since 2008, but he has 8 top tens, including 4 top 5’s in 11 races so far this season. He has runner ups at Daytona and Richmond. He qualified 12th for this week’s race. Earnhardt has 10 top 10’s including 5 top 5’s in 25 starts at Charlotte. He has never won on this track. Dale Junior finished 7th in this race last year, breaking a streak of 4 straight 22nd or worst finishes. I don’t see the winless streak ending this week for NASCAR’s most popular driver, though another top ten is a good possibility.
Brad Keselowski (18/1)
Keselowski is 12th in points, 83 points behind. Keselowski is in the last qualifying spot for the Chase for the Sprint Cup, despite having wins at Bristol and Talladega. Keselowski also has another top 5 and two more top 10’s. Three 32nd or worst finishes have him so low in the standings. He needs to work on being more consistent, if he wants to contend for the Sprint Cup. Keselowski qualified 24th this week. He has never finished higher than 12th in 5 career starts at Charlotte. However, he did come in second last week in the All-Star race on this track. I don’t see Keselowski contending this week, but you never know what you get from week to week from the talented yet tempermental youngster.
Jeff Gordon (20/1)
Gordon is 24th in points, an incredible 170 points behind. Are we sure this is Jeff Gordon we are talking about and not Robbie? I am being sarcastic of course, but to say this has been a disaster for the 24 team this season would be an understatement. He has a top 10 at Phoenix and a top 5 at Texas and that is it. Aside from a couple other top 15’s, every other finish has been 21st or worse. He still has time to turn the season around, but needs to start pretty damn soon. He has had success at Charlotte with 5 wins, so this might be just what the doctor ordered. Gordon qualified 23rd for this race. His last win at Charlotte came in 2007, but Gordon also has 20 top 10’s and 16 top 5’s in 38 career starts in Charlotte. He has finished 20th or worst in his last 3 starts at the track.
Clint Bowyer (22/1)
Bowyer is 11th in points, 76 behind Biffle. He has 5 top 10’s including a top 5 in 11 races this season. Bowyer qualified 5th for this race. He has never won at Charlotte, but does have 3 top tens including a top 5 in 12 career starts here. Bowyer could grab a top 10 but I don’t see him winning.
Martin Truex, Jr. (25/1)
Truex is 6th in points, 39 behind. He doesn’t have a win in 2012, but does have 7 top 10’s including 4 top 5’s in 11 starts. He has top 10’s in 6 of the last 8 races. Truex qualified 15th at Charlotte. He has 2 top 10’s in 13 career starts at Charlotte. He has finished 14th or worse in 11 of his last 12 races at Charlotte.
Here is a complete list of the odds for the other drivers in the Coca-Cola 600. It should be an exciting race this Memorial Day weekend.