NASCAR Picks for Charlotte
Length: 1.500 miles
Location: Concord, North Carolina
The Cup Series returns to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the fifth race of the Chase and the second race in as many weeks at a 1.5-mile oval. Charlotte has become known for its slick, loose conditions in recent years, but after last weekend's race at Kansas, the track conditions won't be the only thing contributing to the action Saturday night. Cut tires at Kansas have Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in jeopardy of not advancing to the next round of the Chase, and thanks to a tap from Greg Biffle, six-time champion Jimmie Johnson is in trouble, as well. Heck, Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick aren't even in great shape after minor issues dropped them outside the Top 10 last weekend. As a result, just about every Chase driver is going to be desperate to win this weekend in order to secure a spot in the Eliminator Round before an always-chaotic trip to Talladega for the finale of the second round of the playoffs. The desperation created by the new playoff format isn't exactly ideal for fantasy owners, but the pressure being faced by the title contenders isn't going anywhere at this point.
Kevin Harvick, #4 Budweiser/Jimmy Johns, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class A]
He has been on a tear at Charlotte in recent years, finishing eighth or better in seven of his last eight starts at the track. During the stretch, he has picked up a pair of wins and compiled a 6.0 average finish. In his last three starts at Charlotte, Harvick owns a 3.0 average finish, and he finished second at the track earlier this year.
Jimmie Johnson, #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Although Johnson hasn't been dominant in the Chase, he has been excellent in his last two starts at Charlotte. He led 130 laps and finished fourth at the track last fall, and earlier this year, he led a race-high 164 laps on his way to the win. For his career, Johnson is a seven-time winner at Charlotte.
Joey Logano, #22 Shell-Pennzoil, Team Penske [Yahoo Class B]
Through four races of the Chase, Logano has two wins and two fourth-place finishes, and he has basically no pressure on him the next two weeks after securing his spot in the next round of the playoffs with his win at Kansas. Meanwhile, his 10.5 average finish at Charlotte happens to be the best in the series, and in 11 starts at the track, he has nine Top-15 finishes.
Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite, Team Penske [Yahoo Class B]
Keselowski may have to win in the next two weeks to keep his title hopes alive, but considering he is the defending winner of this weekend's race, a victory is a real possibility Saturday night. He has finished 11th or better in four his last five starts at Charlotte, logging two top-five finishes during the stretch, and he logged a Top-10 at the track in May.
Matt Kenseth, #20 Husky/Dollar General, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Fantasy owners will have a tough time finding a safer pick than Kenseth this weekend. After all, he has reeled off 11 straight Top-15 finishes at Charlotte, logging seven Top-10s during the stretch. Kenseth also won the fall race at the track in 2011, and he has finished third in his last two starts at the track.
Kyle Busch, #18 Mars Brands/Interstate Batteries, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
He exorcised his Kansas demons, and Busch is quietly enjoying an excellent start to the Chase. His momentum could continue this weekend at Kansas where he has 12 Top-10s in his last 14 starts. More importantly, Busch has nine top-five finishes at Charlotte during the same stretch.
Kasey Kahne, #5 Farmers Insurance/Quaker State, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Charlotte is easily Kahne's best track on the schedule, and in fact, he has scored more points and led more laps than any other driver in the last five races at Charlotte. Overall, he is a four-time winner at the track, and he has finished in the Top 15 in six straight starts, logging four finishes of fourth or better along the way. Kahne was the runner-up in the fall race last season and has legit race-winning potential this weekend.
Jeff Gordon, #24 Drive to End Hunger/Axalta, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Gordon has been one of the best drivers in the series all year, but owners may want to dial back expectations just a bit this weekend. Yes, he has notched back-to-back seventh-place finishes at Charlotte, but he has finished outside the Top 15 in five of his last eight starts at the track. Meanwhile, his last Top-5 at Charlotte came in 2009. A Top-10 may be his ceiling this weekend, and while that's not bad by any means, Gordon may not be the best A-List option in Yahoo! leagues.
Denny Hamlin, #11 FedEx, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class B]
He has a lackluster run at Charlotte in May, but Hamlin has been coming on strong recently, and his overall record at Charlotte is solid. He has seven Top-10s in his last eight starts at the track, including three Top-5s in his last five starts. Hamlin should be considered in just about any format this weekend.
Carl Edwards, #99 Fastenal/Aflac/UPS/Subway, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
In terms of consistency, Edwards' record at Charlotte stacks up with any driver out there. His 11.4 average finish at the track is the second best in the series, and in 19 starts, he has 15 Top-15 finishes, including six straight. In fact, Edwards has finished 11th or better in six straight starts at Charlotte, and he finished fourth at the track earlier this year.
Kyle Larson, #42 Target, Chip Ganassi Racing [Yahoo Class C]
After nearly picking up a win last weekend at Kansas, Larson continues to be one of the hottest drivers in the series. He now has 11 finishes of 12th or better in the last 12 races, and he has posted a 3.3 average finish during the Chase. At this point, Larson has Top-5 potential whenever he gets behind the wheel. Feel free to use him in any format.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., #88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Junior blew a tire while leading last weekend at Kansas, and he could have trouble rebounding this weekend. He has finished 15th or worse in his last three starts at Charlotte, and his last Top-5 finish at the track came back in 2008. A Top-10 finish is probably the best-case scenario for Junior, and a Top-15 finish is the more likely result.