One of the NASCAR Cup Series' crown jewels, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, is finally here. Let Frontstretch.com's Joy Tomlinson get your daily fantasy NASCAR DraftKings rosters set for the race airing on Sunday at 6 p.m. ET on FOX and PRN radio.
There's nothing quite like Memorial Day weekend in NASCAR, with teams honoring servicemen and women of the armed forces. It's truly a special event and the longest race of the year in terms of mileage. Teams and drivers will need to be strategic in this race if they want to win, especially if stage four has a long green-flag run.
Fortunately, there's been a few races run at tracks of the same length (1.5 miles) already this season, so they can use data from these events to help them prepare for Sunday's race. There will be the PJ1 traction compound laid down as it has been the past few years at Charlotte; this could affect the cars' handling. Hopefully the grip level will rise as the Camping World Truck and Xfinity Series take on the track in practice and qualifying.
You can also use data from this season to help you form your DraftKings lineups but keep in mind that there's quite a bit more laps in this contest. Since it's 400 laps, up to 100 fantasy points are available on DraftKings for laps led and 180 points for fastest laps. In the previous six Coca-Cola 600 events, the dominator led over 100 laps in three races. Martin Truex Jr. led 233 circuits in 2017 and 392 in 2016, while Kyle Busch maintained control for 377 laps in 2018.
However, the fastest laps are often spread out amongst several drivers. So you'll want to focus on dominators for your core and potential value plays that could end further than where they qualify. Also, be sure to see the results of Saturday's qualifying session (scheduled for 11:05 a.m. ET on FOX Sports 1).
Before I continue on to my DraftKings picks, let's review what happened at Circuit of the Americas.
Let's just say it didn't go as I planned. The rain and mist caused poor visibility, leading to several crashes. Christopher Bell ended up in an accident with Ryan Blaney, Kurt Busch hydroplaned and barely missed Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon, and Daniel Suarez's troubles started during qualifying.
Chase Elliott's victory wasn't enough to salvage this lineup. It came well short of the 183.75 DraftKings points that were needed to win the $1 single entry double up, while 223.8 earned $1.50 in the $1 Happy Hour tournament.
DraftKings lowered the points for each fastest lap to 0.45 this season, as well as the points awarded for first place to 45. DraftKings has also put more emphasis on drivers who finish inside the top 10 and top 20. For example, the gap between 10th and 11th place is now two points instead of one: 10th gets 34 points, while 11th gets 32, etc.
Here's a complete rundown of DraftKings' NASCAR scoring rules.
Note: the following is a sample DraftKings lineup; you can use the information to create your own.
Daily Fantasy NASCAR DraftKings Plays/Sample Lineup for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway
Kyle Larson ($11,300)
Career at Charlotte: 11 starts, 0 wins, 1 top five, 4 top 10s
Average finish at Charlotte: 18.9
Larson's record isn't all that great at Charlotte as he's only led 20 total laps (including 12 in the fall 2017 race) and crashed out early of his last Coca-Cola 600 in 2019. Still, he ended fifth in the fall 2016 event, 10th in fall 2017, and seventh in the 2018 Coca-Cola 600. He also recorded 40 fastest laps in the second Charlotte race in 2017.
But if his track record isn't as good as his competitors, why am I playing him? Well, the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports driver has excelled at similar racetracks this year. At Kansas Speedway, Larson led 132 laps and totaled 67 fastest laps before a couple of late restarts messed up his finish. He still notched 100.2 fantasy points on DraftKings, even with a 19th-place result.
Then in March, Larson once again led over 100 laps and recorded 57 fastest laps en route to victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He also did well at the other 1.5-milers, Homestead-Miami Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway, earning a fourth and second in each race, respectively. The speed the entire Hendrick team has displayed this year has been phenomenal. I'm sure Larson could've had another win or two since the fourth race of the season, as he has four runner-up finishes since then.
Look for him to have a good run Sunday evening at CMS and hopefully lead some laps.
Kyle Busch ($10,200)
Career at Charlotte: 32 starts, 1 win, 14 top fives, 19 top 10s
Average finish at Charlotte: 14.7
Busch has been quite strong at the North Carolina racetrack, posting four top fives and five top 10s in the past seven events there. He won the 2018 Coca-Cola 600 after leading a whopping 377 circuits and tacking on 139 quickest laps. He also held the top position for 63 laps in May 2017 before finishing second. Then in 2019 Busch maintained control for 79 laps and added 52 quickest laps, though he ultimately took home third place.
Besides all this, the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing pilot has done well this season on the 1.5-mile courses. Busch finished 10th at Homestead, third at LVMS and fifth at Atlanta before conquering Kansas. He's scored between 48 and 67.9 fantasy points on DraftKings at these tracks and will definitely be a contender this weekend.
Could Busch earn his second Coca-Cola 600 checkered flag? Even if he doesn't, he's sure to have a fast car that can get to the front and lead laps, as long as he stays out of harm's way.
Alex Bowman ($9,400)
Career at Charlotte: 9 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 2 top 10s
Average finish at Charlotte: 25.1
Bowman's Charlotte history may not seem flashy at first, but is intriguing when you take a closer look. In 2018 he gained 18 position to end ninth; the following year he went home seventh after beginning 13th. Last year, he finished 19th but led 164 laps during the 600-mile race. Bowman also etched 80 total fastest laps in both 2020 events- 52 in the Coca-Cola 600 and 28 in the midweek event.
This year, he's switched to the No. 48 Hendrick Chevrolet and has already won two races at Richmond Raceway and Dover International Speedway. I know those were with the higher-horsepower package, but Bowman did well at Homestead and Atlanta too, finishing ninth and third in each respective race. He notched 14 fastest laps in the latter event, helping to boost his DraftKings score to 58.3.
If Bowman can find the speed and right strategy to get to the front and lead laps, his fantasy score should be high.
Chris Buescher ($6,700)
Career at Charlotte: 8 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 2 top 10s
Average finish at Charlotte: 19.8
Buescher is a driver who can often end the race several positions ahead of where he starts and has done so a few times at Charlotte. He passed nine cars to end 10th in last year's Coca-Cola 600, recording seven fastest laps to boot. Additionally, he gained 14 spots in 2019 to ultimately finish in sixth place. Fall 2016 and May 2017 also saw the same type of results, though he was 16th and 20th in each race, respectively.
This No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing team has had results mainly in the teens, though Buescher led 57 laps and put down 39 quickest circuits at Homestead. He also took home a seventh at Atlanta and an eighth at Kansas, leading 13 laps on a strategy play in the latter event. Buescher is hungry to get back into victory lane; while it's not as likely this week, all he needs is a good game plan and some luck to come close to that.
Ryan Newman ($6,400)
Career at Charlotte: 38 starts, 0 wins, 5 top fives, 15 top 10s
Average finish at Charlotte: 18.4
Newman has struggled recently at CMS, posting just two finishes in the teens in the last five races. Still, he ended 10th and fourth in both events in 2016, several positions further from where he qualified. Also, he gained eight spots to end in ninth in the 2017 600-miler.
My main reason for choosing Newman is, like his RFR cohort above, he's had several finishes in the teens and a few top 10s this year. His last top 10 came at Darlington Raceway; he also ended fifth at the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt track and seventh at Homestead. Kansas and LVMS resulted in 16th and 18th, respectively, which scored less than 30 DraftKings points. Don't fret though; he started 14th at Kansas and 13th at Las Vegas, which is really high for this team.
See where Newman starts the race Sunday and see if he'll benefit your lineup.
Dark Horse Performer
Michael McDowell ($5,800)
Career at Charlotte: 21 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 0 top 10s
Average finish at Charlotte: 30.7
McDowell doesn't have as many Charlotte finishes 20th or further but he still gained a few spots in some races. He passed nine cars to end 18th in last year's big event, matching his result in 2018 (11 positions further than where he started). Lastly, in the fall 2016 race he moved up eight spots to end 14th.
The 2021 Daytona 500 winner has had similar outcomes as Newman; McDowell began third at Kansas and ended 13th, which isn't terrible but it doesn't help you on DraftKings. Likewise at Las Vegas the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports driver started fifth and finished 17th. A finish in the teens is not bad as long as he doesn't qualify in the top 10. He did end last week's event seventh, even with a damaged racecar. This team has shown a vast improvement from previous years and should have a solid top-20 run Sunday evening.
(Top photo courtesy of ASP, Inc.)