Fantasy NASCAR Picks for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway

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Picking the best fantasy drivers at Charlotte so you don't have to.

<p> Fantasy Picks for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway</p>

The 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit runs the longest race of the year Sunday night in the Coca-Cola 600. To help guide you through the 2013 Fantasy NASCAR season, Athlon Sports contributor Geoffrey Miller will be offering his best predictions for each race. And because Yahoo's Fantasy Auto Racing game is arguably the most popular, he’ll break down the picks according to its NASCAR driver classes — A-List, B-List, C-List.

So, without further ado, Geoffrey’s fantasy predictions for Charlotte Motor Speedway ranked according to each driver's likelihood of taking the checkered flag — or at least finishing toward the front:

A-List
1. Jimmie Johnson
This is one of those “pick Jimmie or the field” weekends. A win Sunday gives him the most all-time at Charlotte in points races. In his past eight starts, he’s spent an astounding 86.4 percent of the total laps racing inside the top-15.
 
2. Kasey Kahne
The defending race winner is probably Johnson’s biggest challenge come Sunday based on his 1.5-mile track showings this year. He’s also won five times at CMS.
 
3. Matt Kenseth
Kenseth is forever connected to Charlotte, thanks to his first career Cup win there in 2000. Since then? Another win and six more top-5s. Oh, and he’s racing a real heater right now.
 
4. Brad Keselowski
Led 139 laps and finished 11th last fall at Charlotte before Bowyer won the fuel-mileage finish. Fifth in last year’s 600. Both were his best CMS in now seven starts.
 
5. Denny Hamlin
Hamlin has the best lead lap finish per race average in the series at Charlotte (80 percent) but still doesn’t have a win there. 
 
6. Jeff Gordon
Sunday marks the 20th anniversary of Gordon’s first career win at Charlotte. He’s totaled four more Charlotte wins since, but only one (2007) since Dale Jarrett had a mustache. 
 
7. Clint Bowyer
His team lost the setup as last week’s All-Star race roared on, which doesn’t equal face-value confidence for Bowyer to get his fifth Charlotte top-10 in 15 starts.
 
8. Kevin Harvick
En route to an 8th-place finish in the 600 last season, Harvick led just the sixth lap of his 24-start career at Charlotte. He’s hovering around 10th in races at the 1.5-milers this year.
 
9. Tony Stewart
Aside from this season’s consistently ill-handling No. 14, Stewart has just one top-10 at Charlotte since he struck out on his with Stewart-Haas Racing in 2009. 25th and 13th last year with nary a lap led.
 
 
B List
1. Greg Biffle
Biffle has led 50 or more laps in his last four Charlotte starts, and led 275 total laps last season before finishing fourth in both events. He’s at least a consistent start, and maybe in the running for a first Charlotte win.
 
2. Carl Edwards
Third-best average Charlotte finish in the series even with that crushing 2008 fall race where a flukey electrical issue basically took a championship from the No. 99. Three-straight Charlotte top-10s.
 
3. Kyle Busch
If you play Jeopardy! this week and the category is “11 Charlotte Wins,” you should answer with “Who is Kyle Busch?” If the category is “11 Charlottte Wins But None in Cup,” you should answer the same.
 
4. Aric Almirola
Last year’s 600 polesitter, Almirola is racing RPM chassis No. 848 that finished sixth at Kansas. Now would be a good time to remind you that the 600 has a history of finding first-time winners.
 
5. Joey Logano
He’s started a third of the races Johnson has at Charlotte, but Logano has the series’ best Charlotte average finish (10.1) among active drivers.
 
6. Kurt Busch
Really, really strong in the All-Star race. His 600 chances hinge on the pit crew and Busch not losing it when inevitably something doesn’t go quite right in the four-hour race.
 
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
The Kannapolis, N.C., native still doesn’t have a Cup win at a track that is truly hometown for him, which seems a bit odd. Missed the fall race with his concussion last season, but finished sixth in the 600.
 
8. Mark Martin
The four-time Charlotte winner is looking for his 25th-career top-10 in his 57th start at the track.
 
9. Martin Truex Jr.
Truex has only led nine laps at Charlotte in his career, but he’s been one of the four best drivers on 1.5-mile tracks this season.
 
10. Jamie McMurray
Led every lap in the Sprint Showdown to get in the All-Star race at the track where he’s won twice. This race could be a measuring stick for Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing’s recent success.
 
11. Ryan Newman
If this fantasy stuff paid points for winning poles, Ryan Newman would be your guy. He has nine of them at Charlotte. Unfortunately, he’s driving for Stewart-Haas Racing in 2013 where top-10s feel like wins.
 
12. Jeff Burton
Back to the site of his last win (fall 2008), the three-time Charlotte winner is averaging worse than 20th on 1.5-mile tracks this season.
 
13. Paul Menard
A pair of top-10s at Las Vegas and Kansas could make Menard a contender for his second career Charlotte top-10 finish.
 
14. Juan Pablo Montoya
By average finish, Charlotte is Montoya’s second-worst track. He’s led five laps in 3,997 completed around the venerable speedway.
 
15. Bobby Labonte
The two-time Charlotte winner doesn’t have a finish better than 22nd there since the 2009 600.
 
16. Marcos Ambrose
Nailed down a pair of top-10s at Charlotte in 2011, but struggled to a best finish of 32nd there last season.
 
 
C-List
1. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Made his breakthrough Sprint Cup debut driving for an ill Trevor Bayne in 2011 with an 11th-place finish.
 
2. David Ragan
In his pre-race press release this week, Ragan said, “Half-way into the Coca-Cola 600, you’re 300 miles in.” Though his car may hold him back from a great finish, his math skills won’t.
 
3. Trevor Bayne
Back in the field this week and looking for his first lead-lap Charlotte finish in the Cup Series. Finished 18th at Texas earlier this year.
 
4. Casey Mears
Mears scored his only Sprint Cup win when his then-Hendrick No. 25 played the fuel mileage game masterfully in the 2007 race. Otherwise, Mears has just four lead lap Charlotte finishes in 19 starts.
 
5. David Gilliland
Holy shrimp! The driver of the Long John Silver’s car has a best finish of just 23rd in 13 career Charlotte starts.
 
6. Regan Smith
Blew an engine last fall while subbing for Earnhardt in the No. 88. Otherwise, his eighth-place finish in 2011 was one of Smith’s five top-20 finishes at Charlotte.
 
7. Danica Patrick
Five laps down a year ago at Charlotte, Patrick will probably break out the celebratory glass of milk if she’s on the lead lap at mile 600.
 
8. David Reutimann
He’ll try to end a two-race streak of DNFs due to crashes at the track where he first went to victory lane. 2009 seems like a decade ago for Reutimann, does it not?
 
9. Dave Blaney
It’d be more fun if Blaney entered the World of Outlaws race Friday night at the dirt track outside Charlotte’s Turn 4.
 
10. Josh Wise
He might beat Joe Nemechek in the 600-miler if only because Wise is training to compete in a full Iron Man event later this year. 
 
11. Travis Kvapil
Kvapil led 23 laps in his Charlotte debut in 2005, which remains his most interesting Charlotte stat.
 
12. Dave Blaney
It’d be more fun if Blaney entered the World of Outlaws race Friday night at the dirt track outside Charlotte’s Turn 4.
 
13. David Stremme
David Stremme’s never led a lap at Charlotte. Maybe he’ll break that streak with an oddly-timed caution this year.
 
14. Landon Cassill
Five Charlotte starts, no lead lap finishes.
 
15. Timmy Hill
Brings a five-race streak of finishes better than 40th and worse than 32nd to his first career 600.
 
Entered drivers on start-and-park watch:
Mike Bliss
Michael McDowell
Scott Speed
Brian Keselowski
 
Follow Geoffrey Miller on Twitter: @GeoffreyMiller
 

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