Coca Cola 600 Picks

Race: Coca-Cola 600
Date: Sunday May 26, 2013
Track: Charlotte Motor Speedway
Time: 6 pm ET
by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper,

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Okay, all you conspiracy theorists! Jimmie Johnson won fair and square. I know everyone and their brother is tired of hearing that, but for goodness sakes, like we could trust the media anyway?! FOX messed up the running order on their grid. NASCAR did not. I think that FOX forgot about the new rules which averaged the finishes for the first 4 segments to set the pit road order before the final 10 lap segment. It’s unfortunate for those of you that dislike Johnson to see him win again, but that’s just how it goes. It’s been that way for a long time. It really shouldn’t be too surprising this time around.

The All-Star was great practice for the real deal this weekend. We are going back to Charlotte to run the longest race of the season. The Coca-Cola 600 is an endurance race. It’s a race that takes a lot of physical effort from the drivers as well as a lot of patience. Patience. Hmm. That’s something that may get some of these guys this weekend. Kyle Busch came in a strong 3rd place. He may suffer a little bit through this race, though, if he can’t manage to save his car and his equipment.

This race is about tires and track position. Charlotte is a big track. If you get left behind or shuffled to the back, it’s going to be a long day. This is one of those tracks where a driver wants to be up front and stay there for the day. It’s not a track where laying in the back is really going to be very beneficial. We often see a lot of long green flag runs. These guys lose laps easily as the leader tends to put seconds on the rest of the field. That’s what these guys are going to have to watch out for.

When we consider winners, it’s going to be a tough choice to go against Jimmie Johnson. He’s got the patience and the consistency that a lot of drivers don’t have. As I stated last week, Charlotte is still the “House of Jimmie” regardless of the Lowe’s name. While Kyle Busch had a strong run, I think that he will be a little more challenged with a longer race. He has a better record on shorter runs simply because his patience level isn’t quite the same as Jimmie Johnson. Here’s a look at your potential winners this weekend.

Winner Prediction: Jimmie Johnson
Middle of the Road Pick: Carl Edwards
Dark Horse Pick: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Edwards had a strong top 10 finish in this race and these intermediate tracks tend to treat him well. This is also a track where is endurance is key, as I previously mentioned. If anyway is in shape and ready for the physical demands, it’s Carl. When it comes to the dark horse pick of Stenhouse, it’s a rough C list this week, but with Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse running, I’m going to have to pull for Stenhouse. I think he’s got some fight in him. Charlotte is also the track where he got his first ever top 10 Sprint Cup finish, so that’s something to keep in mind.

The All-Star and Showdown races didn’t affect the points, but just as a reminder, here’s the rundown of your current top 12 as we head back into Charlotte for the big race this weekend:

1. Jimmie Johnson
2. Carl Edwards
3. Matt Kenseth
4. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
5. Clint Bowyer
6. Kasey Kahne
7. Brad Keselowski
8. Kyle Busch
9. Aric Almirola
10. Kevin Harvick
11. Paul Menard
12. Jeff Gordon

Gordon has graciously moved his way back into the top 12. That’s refreshing for him and his team. I’m still impressed by Aric Almirola, as he has maintained a top 10 spot for several weeks. This weekend, I think that we will see some of those “lesser” names drop down, though. Almirola and Menard will likely lose some ground while some of the more veteran drivers will probably gain some this weekend including Biffle and Truex Jr.

Stay tuned for the longest race of the year. Sit back, relax, and enjoy some great NASCAR racing this Memorial Day weekend!