We make our first of two scheduled trips to North Carolina for the Coca-Cola 600, which marks the halfway point until the playoffs. It’s the longest race of the NASCAR schedule and always has my attention with it finishing under the lights. We’re in a bit of a slump after starting the season with a bang, and with a week off and the batteries charged, it’s time to return to victory lane.
Here are five drivers to consider throwing on this week’s card. (Will update with odds once they’re released.)
Kevin Harvick, +450 - Kevin Harvick is due for his first win of the season and has followed up a finish outside of the top-10 with a top-five finish each of his last three times, so he’ll be ready this week. Harvick is a two-time winner of the Coca-Cola 600 and has finished third or better in five of his last 10 appearances at the Charlotte Motor Speedway overall. Harvick has gone this long without a victory to start a season just once in the last six years. He’s due.
Kyle Busch, +300 - Kyle Busch will be eager for a bounce back showing after what happened in Kansas, and he returns to a track where he has a ton of history. Busch is not only the defending champ at the Coca-Cola 600, but he finished runner-up in 2017. Busch has finished sixth or better in eight of his last 15 appearances at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Busch also has eight wins at this track in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and eight wins in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series. Busch has a great chance to get his fourth win of the year.
Martin Truex Jr., +600 - Martin Truex Jr. has won two of the last four races and recent history suggests he’ll be in the thick of things yet again. Truex won this race in 2016 and is averaging a finish of 2.75 in his last four trips at the Coca-Cola 600. Truex has finished fifth or better in six of his last eight appearances at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Hard to put a card together in North Carolina without including Truex.
Denny Hamlin, +2000 - It’s been a struggle for Denny Hamlin these last couple of races but maybe the week off gets him back on track. It also helps that Hamlin has success in Concord despite zero victories, as he’s averaging a fifth place finish in his last four trips at the Coca-Cola 600 and has finished no worse than eighth in seven of his last eight trips overall. Hamlin has finished fifth or better in five of his last seven appearances at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Hamlin could get his third win of the season.
Jimmie Johnson, +3000 - Here we go again. Jimmie Johnson hasn’t won a race in two years, but he’s coming off a sixth place finish in Kansas and has actually finished top-10 in four of his last nine races. The wins aren’t here, but there’s progress being made. Johnson has won the Coca-Cola 600 four times, which is second in race history only behind Darrell Waltrip. Johnson has also finished eighth or better in five of his last six appearances at the Charlotte Motor Speedway overall. In the two races here last year, Johnson averaged a finish of 6.2. The drought could finally end. Maybe?