Odds for NASCAR race at Charlotte: Coca-Cola 600 odds to win, expert picks

The bad news when it comes to Vegas odds for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway is that racing’s two-month hiatus amid the coronavirus pandemic makes picking a winner even more difficult than usual. Race teams are still rediscovering their grooves as the sport resumes live action this month.

The good news is the two races the Cup Series ran last week in its return took place at Darlington Raceway, a track similar to Charlotte in terms of the physics that impact how teams set up cars. So we at least have a decent idea of which drivers might thrive in another race at an intermediate track, and whose struggles might continue.

The X factor of the Coca-Cola 600, of course, is the fact that it is NASCAR’s longest race. That’s why Austin Dillon, a middle-of-the-road driver in terms of odds for the 2020 event, was able to pull off an upset three years ago, winning the race on fuel mileage and edging this year’s favorite Kyle Busch. More miles also mean more time for something to go wrong for some of the best drivers and teams in the field.

Taking into account those disclaimers, below are the Vegas odds to win Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, plus our top three picks of drivers who could end up taking the checkered flag.

NASCAR race odds to win Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte

A quick glance at the current Cup Series points standings suggests Busch, sitting in 13th after six races, is struggling in 2020. But he started the season on the wrong foot with an engine failure in the Daytona 500, and the stats prove he is one of the best drivers in the field historically at Charlotte. So his being the favorite for this year’s 600 should not come as a surprise.

Courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook, below are the complete odds to win Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, starting with Busch.

Of the drivers in the field Sunday, only six — Johnson (4 wins), Harvick (2), Truex (2), Kurt Busch (1), Kyle Busch (1) and Dillon (1) — have Coca-Cola 600 wins on their resumes. Four more — Kenseth (2), Keselowski (1), Bowyer (1) and Logano (1) have wins at Charlotte Motor Speedway but have never won the 600.

History suggests the drivers who qualify first and second for the Coca-Cola 600 will have proficient starting positions in the field, as those spots have produced more winners (17 each) than any other starting position at Charlotte Motor Speedway. For the 600, specifically the pole has produced the most race winners (11), including Kyle Busch in 2018.

Same-day qualifying for the Coca-Cola 600 this year will take place Sunday at 2 p.m. ET and broadcast live on FS1. The race itself is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. ET on Fox.

Coca-Cola 600 expert picks

1. Kyle Busch

Don’t let the points standings fool you. Last year’s Cup Series champion is the driver to beat Sunday even though he has only one Cup Series points win at Charlotte in his career.

Busch has a career driver rating of 107.4 at Charlotte, the second best in this year’s field behind seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson (more on him later) and well ahead of third-place Denny Hamlin (97.0). His 812 fastest laps run at Charlotte also are the second best behind Johnson, and only Kevin Harvick (four) has recorded more runner-up finishes at the track than Busch’s three.

Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing proved at Darlington on Wednesday that they still have the speed to dominate intermediate tracks, as evidenced by the team’s 1-2 finish with Hamlin and Busch. JGR’s momentum leads us to our second favorite for the Coca-Cola 600.

2. Martin Truex Jr.

No, Truex likely will not dominate the Coca-Cola 600 the way he did in 2016, when he led an absurd 392 of the 400 laps (98 percent) after starting from the pole. But among active drivers, only Johnson and Busch have led more career laps at Charlotte than Truex’s 972. His 91.3 driver rating at the track is the second best behind Hamlin’s 97.0 among drivers currently in the top 10 in points.

Two crashes in the first four races this season set Truex back in points, but last year’s Coca-Cola 600 winner proved with his pair of top-10 finishes last week at Darlington his team still has the speed to win.

3. Jimmie Johnson

Yes, the 101-race winless streak for Johnson in the Cup Series is a bit of a deterrent, but that drought could end at Charlotte for two reasons: his history at the track and Hendrick Motorsports’ possible resurgence in 2020.

Forget current drivers — nobody in the history of NASCAR has more Cup Series wins at Charlotte Motor Speedway than Johnson’s eight, with his latest victory coming in the 2016 fall race. Nobody in the field has a better driver rating (108.9) or average running position (8.191) than those of Johnson at Charlotte in his career.

A Hendrick driver has finished a season in the top 10 in points just four times in the three years since Johnson won the 2016 Cup Series championship. The organization’s average points standings finish in those three seasons among all four teams is 13.4. So it’s notable that HMS drivers Alex Bowman and Chase Elliott, two more strong picks for the 600, sit third and fifth in points, respectively, after strong starts to 2020. Johnson is currently 12th.

Hendrick appears to have the speed it has been chasing for several years, and Johnson tends to perform well at Charlotte. That combination could lead to a historic result in Seven-Time’s final season as a full-time driver.

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