Wednesday, May 30, 2012

2012 Dover FedEx 400 Preview

By Micah Roberts

Kyle Busch's success at Bristol transfers well to Dover (Getty)
A third of the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Sup season is in the books as we head to Dover, Delaware for the 13th race of the season. The saddest part about seeing the month of May go away is knowing that Fox coverage of the races will soon be going away for the rest of the season. Following Sunday’s coverage at Dover, NASCAR fans will have to painfully endure six weeks of NASCAR racing on TNT before moving to ABC/ESPN coverage that closes out the season beginning with the Brickyard July 29.

There are plenty of race fans who disagree with my feelings about who does the best job covering the sport. Some say Darrell Waltrip is too silly and that Fox’s actual production of each race isn’t as good as the others. However, the insights Mike Joy, Waltrip and Larry McReynolds bring to each race are unmatched by any commentating crew in the history of NASCAR.

To get us prepared for Dover, we have to consider the surface and distance of the track to help with dissecting every angle that has gone on this year and how it’s relative to this weeks race. Dover has 24 degrees of banking on a 1-mile concrete oval. There is nothing like it on the circuit. We can use a little bit of Texas and Charlotte races this year because of similar banking, but the distance doesn’t allow for the same type of speeds.

We can use the Bristol race as probably the best barometer because of similar banking and concrete, but Bristol is a half-mile and doesn’t produce the speeds we’ll see at Dover.

Then we have to look at the drivers themselves; who are the best concrete drivers?

Carl Edwards currently leads all drivers with a 7.3 average finish at Dover and also has a couple of Bristol wins, but he’s a hard sell right now just because his team isn’t performing at the same rate they did last season.

Kyle Busch has been known as ‘King of the Concrete’ for his excellence on the surface in all series. He’s got two wins at Dover and has a 13.3 average finish in 14 starts. He’s also performing at a high level right now with five top-5 finishes in the 12 races, including third-place Sunday at Charlotte.

Jimmie Johnson has six Dover wins, including three of the past six. He’s had a 9.3 average finish over his career at Dover which places him right behind Edwards with consistency. Even though Johnson finished with a disappointing 11th-place finish at Charlotte, he’s still part of one of the most dialed in teams in NASCAR right now. The momentum of the No. 48 team makes them the favorite this week.

Matt Kenseth won this race last season giving him two for his career at Dover. He also has been one of the more consistent drivers there over the last six years. In his last 12 Dover starts, Kenseth has nine top-5 finishes. Consistency and good current form make him a contender on the same level as Johnson and Busch.

Brad Keselowski hasn’t done much over his career at Dover with a best of 13th last year, but he did win at Bristol’s concrete track which makes him a viable candidate to win this week. He’s coming off a great fifth-place run at Charlotte last week.

Martin Truex Jr’s only career win came at Dover in 2007 and his strong third-place run at Bristol suggest he’s got what it takes to take the checkers here again. He will break through with a win this season and what better place than a track that is only 129 miles from his home town of Mayetta, NJ.

“I always look forward to Dover no matter what the situation," Truex Jr said earlier this week. "Aside from on the track stuff, it’s just fun to go up there. I’ve got a lot of friends and family that come to that race and that makes it extra special for me no matter what.

“I feel like Dover is probably the next track where we have a real shot to get back to victory lane. We did the tire test there a few months ago and had a really fast car there too. I always look forward to Dover but definitely more this year with the race cars we have and the team that we’ve got right now. I know we will be fast. It will be all about setting the car up for the long runs. We’ve got a great game plan going in. I think we can win the thing.”

Enjoy the race, make some money and farewell to Fox until next year. Boogity-boogity-boogity!

Top-5 Finish Prediction:
1) #18 Kyle Busch (8/1)
2) #17 Matt Kenseth (10/1)
3) #48 Jimmie Johnson (6/1)
4) #2 Brad Keselowski (15/1)
5) #56 Martin Truex Jr. (30/1)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Dover FedEx 400 Odds & Ends

At Dover International Speedway:
· The official opening of Dover International Speedway, then called Dover Downs International Speedway, was in 1969.
· The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was held on July 6, 1969.
· The first two races at Dover were 300 miles. The race length was changed to 500 miles in 1971.
· The track surface was changed to concrete in 1995.
· The race length was changed to 400 miles beginning with the second race in 1997.
· The track name was changed to Dover International Speedway in 2002.
· There have been 84 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Dover International Speedway since the track opened in 1969.
· There was one race in 1969 and 1970. There has been two-a-year since 1971.
· Richard Petty won the track’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup race.
· There have been 35 different pole winners, led by David Pearson (six).
· David Pearson won the first pole in July 1969.
· Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon and Ryan Newman lead all active drivers, each with four poles.
· 33 different drivers have posted victories led by Bobby Allison and Richard Petty, each with seven.
· Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers, with six victories.
· Hendrick Motorsports has a series-high 13 wins.
· 51 races at Dover have been won from a top-five starting position; 18 races have been won from a starting position outside the top 10.
· 13 drivers have won from the pole. The last to do so was Jimmie Johnson, in the 2010 September race.
· The furthest back in the field a race winner started was 37th, by Kyle Petty in 1995.
· Several active drivers had their first start at Dover: David Ragan (finished 42nd in 2006), Kurt Busch (18th in 2000), Matt Kenseth (sixth in 1998) and Bobby Labonte (34th in 1991).
· In addition, Matt Kenseth (2002) and Michael Waltrip (1991) earned their first pole at Dover. Martin Truex Jr. won his first race there (2007).
· Youngest NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Dover International Speedway winner: Kyle Busch (06/01/2008 – 23 years, 0 months, 30 days).
· Oldest NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Dover International Speedway winner: Harry Gant (05/31/1992 – 52 years, 4 months, 21 days).
Dover International Speedway Data
Race #: 13 of 36 (06-03-12)
Track Size: 1 mile
Race Length: 400 miles
· Banking/Turns: 24 degrees
· Banking/Frontstretch: 9 degrees
· Banking/Backstretch: 9 degrees
· Frontstretch: 1,076 feet
· Backstretch: 1,076 feet
Driver Rating at Dover
Jimmie Johnson........................ 118.6
Matt Kenseth............................ 110.0
Carl Edwards............................ 106.5
Greg Biffle................................ 105.4
Kyle Busch.............................. 102.6
Kurt Busch................................ 97.8
Mark Martin............................... 96.1
Ryan Newman........................... 91.1
Jeff Burton................................. 90.0
Jeff Gordon................................ 89.2
Clint Bowyer.............................. 88.1
Martin Truex Jr........................... 88.1
Note: Driver Rating compiled from 2005-2011 races (14 total) at Dover.
Qualifying/Race Data
2011 pole winner: None due to weather
2011 race winner: Matt Kenseth, (125.578 mph, 05-15-11)
Track qualifying record: Jeremy Mayfield (161.522 mph, 22.288 seconds, 06-04-04)
Track race record: Mark Martin (132.719 mph, 09-21-97)
Driver Ratings for Winners
Driver Rating
Series Driver Rating Rank
Matt Kenseth
Kyle Busch
Jimmie Johnson
Kyle Busch
Martin Truex Jr.
Matt Kenseth
* Pre-Race Driver Ratings of the year the driver won at Dover (last six spring races).
NASCAR in Delaware
· There have been 84 NASCAR Sprint Cup races in Delaware, all at Dover International Speedway.
· Eight drivers in NASCAR’s three national series (all-time) have their home state recorded as Delaware, though none have posted victories.

2012 Dover FedEx 400 Odds to Win from the LVH Super Book

Six-time Dover winner Jimmie Johnson is 5-to-1 favorite (Getty)
FED EX 400
SUNDAY, JUNE 3, 2012


Monday, May 28, 2012

2012 FedEx 400 Dover Storylines

Kyle Busch is the 'Concrete King'; two wins at Dover over career (Getty)
Dover International Speedway’s Monster Mile awaits this weekend, ready to greet a growing monster – Hendrick Motorsports – and the rest of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Hendrick has played the role of the Incredible Hulk, growing larger than life after a 16-race wins drought. Competitors don’t like them when they get angry. When they get angry, they win three of NASCAR’s biggest races in succession – the Southern 500 (Jimmie Johnson), the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race (Johnson, again) and the Coca-Cola 600 (Kasey Kahne).

And there’s no sign of a let-up, with Johnson winning three of the last six Dover races and boasting an average Dover finish of 9.3. Another win at Dover would tie NASCAR Hall of Famers Bobby Allison and Richard Petty for most all-time at the one-mile track.

Sunday’s race, the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks, starts at 1 p.m. on Sunday on FOX.

The monster race weekend begins with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ Luca Oil 200 on Friday afternoon at 4:50 p.m. on SPEED.

The triple-header weekend continues Saturday with the NASCAR Nationwide Series 5-hour Energy 200 on ESPN at 2 p.m.


Kahne Finds His Bearings With New TeamKasey Kahne, the ever adaptable newest member of Hendrick Motorsports, nabbed his first win with his new squad in one of NASCAR’s crown jewels – the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It marked his third win in NASCAR’s longest race, and the third different manufacturer with which Kahne has won: Dodge, Ford, Chevrolet.

But more importantly, after a wretched start to 2012, Kahne now finds himself in prime position to land a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

His string of six consecutive top 10s (after starting the season with finishes outside the top 25 in four of the first six races) has moved him to 15th in points, 42 points outside the top 10. Sunday’s victory also put him the Wild Card hunt. Kahne currently sits third in the Wild Card Standings, behind Brad Keselowski and Ryan Newman.

Junior’s Stellar Season ContinuesWith yet another top-10 finish, at Charlotte – his seventh in the previous eight races – Dale Earnhardt Jr. now has nine top 10s in 2012. That’s more than any driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Earnhardt boasts another "most" statistic. He has completed all 3,888 laps this season, the only driver to do so.

Can the trend continue? Well…

Earnhardt has struggled at Dover of late, having failed to finish in the top 10 in each of the last eight Dover races. His last one, last October, he finished two laps down.

Truex Comes Home In Search Of Second WinSouthern New Jersey native Martin Truex Jr. has one win in his NASCAR Sprint Cup career, and it came five years ago at Dover in a race scheduled for June 3 but run on June 4 because of rain.

Could this be a happy anniversary?Truex has resided firmly inside the top 10 since the second race of the season and has excelled at Dover in recent races. Truex Jr. has won two of the last three Coors Light qualifying sessions run at the track (last spring's qualifying was rained out). He finished eighth in last year’s spring Dover race.

Roush Crew Led By ‘Concrete Carl’ At DoverOnly one team has placed three divers in the top 10 through 12 races: Roush Fenway Racing.

In points leader Greg Biffle, second-place Matt Kenseth and 10th-place Carl Edwards, RFR is charging toward a possible third NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

Edwards, with an apt nickname of ‘Concrete Carl,’ should contend this weekend at the high-banked one-mile concrete oval. He owns the series’ top average finish (7.3), the third-best Driver Rating (106.5) and has one Dover win (9/23/07).

Race Weekend Raises Awareness Of Autism
In what has become tradition at Dover International Speedway in the six years the track has partnered with Autism Speaks, drivers will again help create autism awareness during the June 1-3, 2012 race weekend by showing their support with a decal on their respective cars.

Drivers across all three series have stepped up to raise awareness for the cause during the Dover race weekend by featuring a decal of the Autism Speaks puzzle piece logo on their cars in the June 1 "Lucas Oil 200" NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, the June 2 "5-hour ENERGY 200" NASCAR Nationwide Series race and the June 3 "FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks" NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.

The all-inclusive event marks the first-ever autism friendly NASCAR race and gives families an opportunity to experience a NASCAR race in an environment specifically designed for the enjoyment of children with autism. Autism Speaks Day at the Races will be held in Dover’s air-conditioned grandstand, offering a great view of the Monster Mile from the backstretch and will feature brief presentations by educational speakers in the morning, special appearances by NASCAR personalities, food and drink and much more.

In addition, the area will offer a dedicated quiet zone, set inside special rooms within the air-conditioned grandstands, where parents can bring their kids to get away from the crowd if necessary. The quiet zone will be sensory friendly, with muted lighting in a calmer environment, while also featuring video screens to keep up with the action on the track.

- NASCAR Media Services

Kasey Kahne Wins Coca-Cola 600, Hendrick Win No. 201

Kasey Kahne finally captures a win (Getty)
CORD, N.C. -- Rick Hendrick took the microphone during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for one of his new dealerships on Tuesday and asked Kasey Kahne if he was going to win Sunday's Coca-Cola 600.

Kahne, in his typical bashful way, said he hoped to.

"That's not good enough," the owner of Hendrick Motorsports said in a way that demanded a stronger reply.

Responded Kahne, "I will win the Coke 600."

And he did.

He did it in dominating fashion, beating Denny Hamlin to the checkered flag by more than four seconds.
[Kahne scored his first victory under the Hendrick Motorsports banner Sunday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

This was the kind of night Kahne envisioned when he agreed to move to Hendrick Motorsports two years ago while still under contract at Richard Petty Motorsports. This was the kind of night Hendrick envisioned when he signed Kahne to replace Mark Martin in the No. 5 after the 2011 season.

Read More here...

Coca-Cola 600 Results

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Final 2012 Coca-Cola 600 Driver Ratings Following All Practices

Micah Roberts’ Top 10 Driver Ratings
Coca-Cola 600
Charlotte Motor Speedway
Sunday, May 27, 2012 -  3:19 pm (PDT)

Rating    Driver     Odds         Practice 1     Qualified   Practice 2   Practice 3

 1. Jimmie Johnson 5/1             11th              3rd             6th             4th
Six-time winner with 11.9 average finish; best 10-consecutive lap average in final practice.
 2. Brad Keselowski 18/1           31st             24th            7th             1st
Career best of 12th in ‘09, but very strong average speeds during practice 2; new car this week.
 3. Kyle Busch 7/1                       8th             17th             4th            16th
Ran the most laps in important practice 2; two-time runner-up, eighth or better in 8 of last 9 starts.
 4. Martin Truex Jr. 18/1            18th             15th             5th            11th
Career best of seventh in ‘05; best 10-consecutive lap average in practice 2; will win very soon. 
 5. Tony Stewart 8/1                   24th            21st            18th            6th
2003 fall winner with a 13.6 average; using winning Fontana chassis, a clone to Vegas winner.
 6. Mark Martin 40/1                   10th             6th             12th            3rd
Four-time winner, the last coming in 2002; had top average speeds during final practice.
 7. Denny Hamlin 10/1                 9th              8th              1st            20th
Career best of fourth-place in ‘10; great practices Saturday suggest he’ll be a contender.
 8. Carl Edwards 8/1                  22nd            28th             3rd             2nd
Looking for first career win; has three third-place finishes and 12.6 average; using Texas car.
 9. Kevin Harvick 12/1                13th            14th             9th            23rd
Captured first win here last May; using chassis that finished sixth at Charlotte last October.
10. Dale Earnhardt Jr 15/1         17th            12th            14th           22nd
No wins in 25 career starts with five top-5 finishes; using stout chassis from All-Star race.

Note: Practice 2 was most important of the three sessions due to it being most similar to cooler race day temperatures.

Odds courtesy of the LVH Super Book.

Micah Roberts, a former sports book director, has been setting NASCAR lines in Las Vegas since 1995. For more Roberts insights and post-practice analysis on the race, go to, or follow on Twitter: MicahRoberts7.

Betting Notes
Going against Jimmie Johnson in this race is a risky stance to take. He’s got super high marks in everything you want to see out of driver if wagering except for high odds offered at the sports books. By the time the green flag drops, Johnson could be below 3-to-1.

If looking to take a chance anyway, as most of us will, the only thing going in our favor will be that Johnson hasn’t won at Charlotte like he used to and the race is a long 600 miles. That extra 100 miles usually leads to some crazy things happening whether through fuel mileage, irregular pits stops or a team that just finds something that works late better than others.

To go against a giant like Johnson you’ll at least need a couple drivers that have shown in practice that they’ll at least be close to the front near the end of the race. Those drivers include Kyle Busch, Mark Martin, Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr, all of whom have great prices of them that might make the holiday weekend a little more enjoyable.

Match-up of the Week: Mark Martin -135 vs. Ryan Newman & A.J. Allmendinger
I like Martin lot in this race and the match-ups against both Newman and Allmendinger appeared to be the easiest. The four drivers mentioned above who have a chance to beat Johnson should all warrant looks in driver matchups against almost anyone.

2012 Coca-Cola 600 Practice Notes: Johnson the Clear Favorite Sunday

Jimmie Johnson is the driver to beat Sunday (Getty)
By Micah Roberts

Brad Keselowski continued his strong morning practice session with the fastest lap (183.692 mph) during Charlotte’s final practice session. The conditions for the final session were much hotter than what we’ll see in tomorrow’s Coca-Cola 600, which made some teams a little weary about tinkering with set-ups that ran well in the earlier session.

Three drivers, such as Marcos Ambrose who starts second tomorrow, didn’t even attempt a lap because they felt there was nothing to gain.

Most of the drivers who were fast in the earlier session were again during the final 60-minute practice. Carl Edwards was third earlier in the day and followed that up with the second fastest lap.

Mark Martin was third fastest after being 12th earlier. Martin also had the best average speed among all drivers who ran at least 10 laps. Martin ran 29 laps with little differential in lap speeds compared to the other drivers and it wouldn‘t be a shock to see him get his fifth Charlotte win and first since 2002.

The Michael Waltrip Racing group of Martin, Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer should all be considered drivers to run well Sunday night. Truex Jr. finished with the 10th fastest lap, but was spectacular earlier in single lap times and average speeds. Bowyer is using his Las Vegas chassis this week that finished sixth, one of his better runs of the season.

Jimmie Johnson finished with the fourth fastest lap and looks to have the car to beat. He had the fastest 10-consecutive average here after being great earlier in the day. Not only does Johnson have a great Charlotte history, look great in practice -- which haven’t said much this season, but he also momentum in his favor. The cherry on top is that Johnson is using his runner-up Texas chassis.

Tony Stewart ran the third most laps (32) of the session and shot up the field to sixth fastest after being 18th in the earlier practice. Of all the drivers from the final practice, Stewart’s performance might carry the most weight. The car alone should be respected. Stewart’s chassis this week won win at Fontana and is a clone to the winning Las Vegas car.

Showing a big improvement in the final practice was Joey Logano who ran the fifth fastest lap at 182.921 mph. This should be expected just because of how well his teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin ran in the important session. Busch ran only 12 laps and his best was 16th fastest while Hamlin was 20th with the second best 10-consecutive lap average.

The Roush-Fenway drivers all look fine despite the cloud of last weeks engine problems looming above their stable. Kenseth finished seventh and Biffle 15th. All three of the Roush cars look like a real team in their red, white and blue Fastenal colors. Despite nothing spectacular out of Biffle in either of today’s practices, his chassis should garner respect just because it's the same car won at Texas.

Based on a formula that considers Saturday’s early practice as 50% of the equation, Johnson is the driver to beat. The drivers who look to have a best chance to beat him are Keselowski, Truex Jr, Martin and Kyle Busch.

Top-5 Coca-Cola 600 Practice 3 Speeds:
1) Brad Keselowski 183.69
2) Carl Edwards 183.349
3) Mark Martin 183.231
4) Jimmie Johnson 183.231
5) Joey Logano 182.921

Coca-Cola 600 Practice 3 Speeds

Hamlin could be celebrating Sunday night based on practice 
Hamlin Fastest in Early Session, Johnson Still Favored

By Micah Roberts

Not a lot changed after the first five minutes of Saturday’s early practice session at Charlotte Motor Speedway in preparation for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600. Denny Hamlin topped the charts with the fastest lap of 186.239 mph early on when the temperatures were cool. For the remainder of the 55-minute session the leader board appeared as though it stood still.

The only driver within the top-30 speeds that bettered their first few laps was Kurt Busch -- in a back-up car -- who found speed on the 18th of his 20 laps run, which put him 29th fastest.

Paul Menard was second fastest (186.123) followed by Carl Edwards (186.021) and Kyle Busch (185.021). For both Edwards and Busch, they have to be ecstatic about being fast in this session after struggling most of the season trying to find speed on the fast tracks.

A few teams commented that this early practice was the most important session of the weekend to get their car ideally set. In the final practice, set to begin at 1 pm (ET), the track will be blazing hot and greasy, both conditions that won’t be applicable when the race begins a 6:18 pm (ET) Sunday evening.

Continuing his trend of being very fast in practice was Martin Truex Jr. who had the fifth fastest single lap as well as having the best 10-consecutive lap average. Just like Hamlin, Truex Jr. gained his top speed on his very first lap.

Hamlin ran 33 laps while Truex Jr ran 45. The lap leader on the day was Kyle Busch with 53, apparently showing they have no worries about extra mileage on their engine before they're about to run 600 miles. Busch also ran the most laps in Thursday’s practice, a session most teams used only for qualifying set-ups.

Perhaps those extra race runs Thursday allowed Busch’s team to be right where they needed to be for today’s early session and better their chances Sunday. Hamlin ran quite a few laps Thursday as well, as did Joey Logano. The additional time may also have helped Hamlin's team be prepared early, but not so much for Logano who finished with 22nd fastest lap.

No one is hotter right now than Jimmie Johnson who won at Darlington two weeks ago and took last week’s All-Star race, which may be bad news for the rest of the field. We’ve seen Chad Knaus and that No. 48 team look like they were going through lulls over the last decade and then break out with an unbelievable run that usually ended up with a Championship trophy.

"The company," Johnson said Thursday, "is still on a high from the 200th win and the All-Star win just kicked it up another notch."

Johnson and his team once again look dialed in as he ran the sixth fastest lap, which was good enough to keep JJ as the favorite in Las Vegas sports books to win on Sunday. A win would be the seventh of his career at Charlotte.

Brad Kesleowski hasn’t fared well on the tracks similar to Charlotte this season, but did run well enough to get a runner-up finish last week and practices indicate he may be a driver to contend on Sunday. In addition to having the second best 10-consecutive lap averages, Keselowski also had the seventh fastest individual lap at 185.631 mph.

Top-5 Charlotte Practice 2 Speeds:
1) Denny Hamlin 186.24 mph
2) Paul Menard 186.12
3) Carl Edwards 186.02
4) Kyle Busch 185.97
5) Martin Truex Jr. 185.90

Coca-Cola 600 Practice 2 Speeds 

Practice 1 Notes from Thursday

Friday, May 25, 2012

NASCAR Betting: Analyzing The Coca-Cola 600 Driver Matchups

By Frederic Crespi

For the first time in the last seven races, drivers and teams will have the benefit of two practice sessions after already having qualified on Thursday evening. Both of those practices will be run Saturday with the first at 10:00 a.m. EST and the final session at 1:00 p.m. EST.

I wouldn’t expect a large amount of laps to be run by many teams on Saturday due the length of Sunday’s race and the tax that places on the engines, but I would expect most teams to focus on the first practice session as more of a barometer than the second.  Track temperatures will be much closer to the temps that could be expected as the sun goes down and the lights come on about half way through the race.

The challenge at the Coca-Cola 600 has always been finding that balance between the late afternoon heat, the transition between day and night, and finally as the track cools down and the grip increases. These challenges can lead to some very improbable and surprising finishes so do not be surprised if we get to see yet another FIRT TIME winner at the end of the night.

With that said, let’s get to handicapping the matchups that the folks at Don Best ( have already loaded for this Sunday afternoon/evening’s race.

As usual, I will quote my prices on these matchups based upon a 30 cent line (-150 favorite = +120 underdog).  *NOTE: Prices will reflect the expected performance of the teams during Saturday’s practices. Updates will be available due to any huge discrepancies of course.

Are we likely to see this again on Sunday Night? (Getty)
 #48 Jimmie Johnson vs. #18 Kyle Busch:  This matchup number will most likely come out higher than it should be based upon last week's impressive performance by Johnson and his team in the All-Star race.  Taking a closer look could reveal that Kyle Busch should have a pretty decent shot against Mr. Five Time and Mr. Six Time at this venue. Busch dominates in average finish since 2007at Charlotte with a 9.3 vs. Johnson's 18.5, but Johnson has performed much better so far this year at the mile and a half tracks, with finishes of 2nd, 2nd and 3rd.  With the qualifying advantage (doesn't mean anything in a race this long) and Johnson's recent roll, this matchup price could come out as high as -160. I could see that, but any higher at all will make me consider Kyle Busch for sure.

#18 Kyle Busch vs. #14 Tony Stewart:  Outside of Stewart's dominating performance at Las Vegas, he and his team have been less than mediocre at both Texas and Kansas with finishes of 24th and 13th.  Stewart also only has one top 10 in the 600 since 2007, so this has to be Kyle Busch as a pretty decent favorite in this matchup.  This just seems more like a top 10 vs. a top 15 car so let's go with Kyle Busch at -150 in this one.

#14 Tony Stewart vs. #99 Carl Edwards:  This one looks to favor Edwards and his team based upon season "cookie cutter" performance (7.3 vs. 12.7 average finish) with his three top 10's. They are very close in terms of Charlotte performance having finished one spot apart in the last two 600's, so let's go with a price slightly cheaper than Kyle's number due to the perceived uncertainty/unreliability of the engine. Edwards -140 in this one.

#99 Carl Edwards vs. #16 Greg Biffle:  With an average finish of 7.5 overall and finishes of 3rd, 1st and 5th in the other three similarly configured tracks so far, Biffle will easily be the favorite in this matchup.  As mentioned in the Stewart matchup, Edwards also has solid finishes at the 1.5-milers this year and Biffle's recent record in the Coke 600's has been spotty, but "The Biff" should be no lower than -140 in this teammate battle.

#16 Greg Biffle vs. #17 Matt Kenseth:  Talk about a battle of teammates, this one pits the two most consistent drivers in the series with only two points separating them in the overall standings.  They are just as close in overall average finish and driver rating as well, but Kenseth does have the edge in terms of most recent Charlotte performance while Biffle has it so far this year with his finishes of 3rd, 1st and 5th at Vegas, Texas and Kansas.  Only the qualifying difference will make Biffle the favorite in this one, but I prefer Kenseth in a race like the 600.  Still, Biffle at -120 in this great matchup.

#17 Matt Kenseth vs. #11 Denny Hamlin:  Denny and his Joe Gibbs Racing team have been really coming on strong recently with three top 5's in the last four races including a win at Kansas.  At first thought, this looks like a Matt Kenseth runaway, but Hamlin has been a little under the radar in terms of his performance so far this season. These two are almost as evenly matched as the previous matchup which was surprising to me when I saw the numbers. Hamlin is also 2-1 vs. Kenseth at the three similar tracks but I like Kenseth and this team a little more due to his previous 600 mile finishes.  Matt Kenseth -135 over Denny Hamlin here.

#11 Denny Hamlin vs. #29 Kevin Harvick:  Mr. "Where did he come from?" Harvick surprised everyone in last year's 600 with that most improbable victory as he motored passed Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in the tri-oval on the final lap. This matchup also surprised me before looking into it as Harvick has been surprisingly stronger overall than Hamlin at the 1.5-mile tracks so far with his finishes of 11th, 9th and 6th and an overall driver rating of 105.8 to Hamlin's 92.8.  These two are also neck and neck at Charlotte recently so this matchup is as pick 'em as it gets.  Both drivers at -115 in this one.

#29 Kevin Harvick vs. #24 Jeff Gordon:  I know I sure don't know what it is, so I can only imagine what Jeff Gordon and his Hendrick Motorsports team must be thinking.  There is just something missing with this team up to this point, as they head to Charlotte with an average finish of 22.8 and more finishes outside of 30th than inside of 12th.  They did manage a solid 4th place at Texas earlier this season, but also go to a track where they have three straight finishes of 20th or worse.  They will turn this around and perhaps they can start this Sunday, but with this type of inconsistent performance, Kevin Harvick can be no less than -150 in this matchup.

#24 Jeff Gordon vs. #5 Kasey Kahne:  Maybe if any driver feels Jeff Gordon's pain it's his teammate Kasey Kahne who started off the season with horrible luck and subsequent poor finishes.  At least the team, and all of Kahne's fans, saw that their cars were fast week in and week out which is the first step in noticing if a team is on the verge of success.  That is exactly what has happened recently with five consecutive top 10 finishes for this No. 5 Hendrick team.  Track stats, as well as season stats, are very close, but the momentum is all in Kahne's favor at this point so he has to be no lower than -135 in this matchup.

#5 Kasey Kahne vs. #88 Dale Earnhardt, Jr.:  Fans and the media alike need to stop focusing on this winless streak and focus on how consistently good this No. 88 team has been so far this year.  Both Biffle and Kenseth have a finish higher than Dale Jr.'s worst season finish of 17th which happened most recently at Darlington.  Before winning races, you need to be in contention to do so, and this team has been doing just that so far this year.  This type of consistency is perfect for a race such as the 600, proved by how close this 88 team came to winning in last year's event.  This is a close matchup based on performance and current form, but Dale Jr. should be no less than -145 over his teammate.

#88 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. vs. #2 Brad Keselowski:  Well, on the surface this looks like a complete one-sided mismatch based upon this year's results on the other 1.5-mile tracks.  BK sports two 30th plus finishes and an average of 26.3 and if it were not for his two victories at Bristol and Talladega, his 15.4 overall average would be knee deep in the 20's.  The surface holds true here as this is a top 10 to top 5 car vs. a top 15 car so if Dale Jr. comes any less than -180 in this matchup I will be shocked. UPDATE: Keselowski had two solid practices, so this price should come down to Dale Jr. at -150.

#2 Brad Keselowski vs. #56 Martin Truex, Jr.:  And another matchup I simply do not understand, as Truex, Jr. and his Michael Waltrip Racing team have been nearly as consistent overall as his ex DEI Racing teammate in the No. 88 car.  This 56 NAPA team simply dominated the most recent 1.5-mile track at Kansas only to come home with a disapointing 2nd behind Denny Hamlin and also sports an average of 8.3 overall on the other similar tracks so far.  Dale Jr. should be -130 over Truex, Jr. so let's go with the NAPA team at -155 over Keselowski.  UPDATE: Small adjustment to Truex at -145 here.

#56 Martin Truex, Jr. vs. #15 Clint Bowyer: We have a decent battle between teammates in this one, but it looks a little one-sided as well unfortunately.  The Five-Hour Energy team came on strong in this year's first 1.5-mile race at Vegas but have regressed since then while his teammate has really stepped it up, and now holds the edge in overall average, overall similar track average and driver rating.  I would prefer Clint Bowyer over Keselowski, so let's knock down the NAPA team just slightly to -150 over the Five-Hour Energy crew.  UPDATE: Small adjustment to Truex at -140 here.

#15 Clint Bowyer vs. #39 Ryan Newman:  Much like Bowyer, Newman's finishes at the most recent 1.5-mile venues have regressed with a 20th and 21st following his 4th place at Vegas.  This matchup is much more equal in terms of potential performance at Charlotte as there are not any distinguishing stats moving any driver over the other.  The "Army" on the hood factor on Memorial Day Weekend makes me lean to Newman at -120 in this matchup.

#39 Ryan Newman vs. #55 Mark Martin:  This is basically the exact same matchup as the most previous one as Mark Martin is a teammate of Clint Bowyer.  Even though Martin is not running a full 36 race season, he is being given solid equipment and has very similar overall results to Bowyer so far this season, so Martin has to have the edge due to his "swagness" to the tune of -135 against Newman.

#55 Mark Martin vs. #22 A.J. Allmendinger:  Now this is a very interesting matchup to say the least as A.J. and his Pennzoil team are coming off a most impressive performance in last week's All-Star race.  Allmendinger is also rolling up with two most recent finishes of 7th and 5th at Charlotte driving for Richard Petty Motorsports last season.  However, this Roger Penske team has not had it figured out so far with finishes of 37th, 15th, and 32nd in the first three 1.5-mile tracks and the price in this matchup has to reflect this.  I would have thought A.J. as a favorite at first, but Martin should come in at -130 in this one.

#22 A.J. Allmendinger vs. #20 Joey Logano:  In a contract year and with the recent rumors of Kurt Busch possibly taking over his ride in 2013, it is surely time for Joey Logano and his Home Depot/Dollar General team to make a statement this Sunday.  And what better of a venue for it?  For some reason, Charlotte Motor Speedway has been Joey's best statistical track so far in his young career, holding an 8.2 average finish in his first six races here.  He also holds an overall statistical edge so far this season and should be in the -130 to -140 area that Martin should be.  Logano is a solid long shot selection for Sunday as well with all these rumors recently surrounding this team.

Joey and his team have been great at Charlotte. (Getty)

#20 Joey Logano vs. #31 Jeff Burton:  As much as I like Jeff Burton at Charlotte, most of his success was with Jack Roush behind the No. 99 Exide car. I thought this team would have performed much better so far this year, as they are very close to Bobby Labonte's team in terms of average finish as amazing as that sounds.  Bettors cannot have faith in Burton this weekend even though these two are pretty close so far on similar tracks.  I would favor Joey Logano -140 in this matchup.  UPDATE: Small adjustment to Logano at -150 here.

#31 Jeff Burton vs. #1 Jamie McMurray:  Here is yet another sneaky driver this Sunday at Charlotte with Jamie McMurray.  I personally will never forget Jamie grabbing the injured Sterling Marlin's No. 40 Coor's Lite Dodge to his first victory in only his 2nd career start in the series at the fall Charlotte race to the tune of 50-1.  Both these drivers are very similar in terms of performance so far this year, but Jamie Mac has a solid edge of 12 vs. 21.7 average finish in the three previous 1.5-mile races and should get the money on Sunday night.  Same price as Joey Logano here, so McMurray and his Bass Pro Shops team as -140.

#1 Jamie McMurray vs. #42 Juan Montoya:  This is a pretty decent matchup between teammates as both have had similarly overall mediocre results with only McMurray holding a solid performance edge at the previous 1.5-mile tracks.  McMurray's driver rating is more than 20 points better as well, so he has to be no lower than -135 in this one.

#42 Juan Montoya vs. #9 Marcos Ambrose:  As impressive as Ambrose and Richard Petty Motorsports were during the first practice and eventually qualifying 2nd (behind his teammate), this team's performance has been more geared to top 15's than top 10's or better so far this year at similar tracks.  However, coming on the heels of a 6th and a 5th place finish at Charlotte last year along with their front row start, Ambrose is the easy favorite in this matchup and most likely a little higher than he should be.  Players will look to back this driver on Sunday, so Ambrose should open no less than -155.  UPDATE: Ambrose should climb to -170 in this matchup.

#9 Marcos Ambrose vs. #27 Paul Menard:  You have to prefer the RCR car of Menard over the Montoya piece overall, and Menard has easily outperformed teammate Jeff Burton so far this year as a barometer.  These two drivers are also very close statistically with only Ambrose holding the edge with last year's Charlotte results.  Menard is 2-1 vs. Ambrose on similar tracks so far and with both up front to start, let's go with the Australian at -125 here.  UPDATE: Ambrose should climb to -140 in this matchup.

UPDATE: This race looks to be a battle between Jimmie Johnson, all three Roush-Fenway Racing drivers (16,17,99) and the Michael Waltrip Racing drivers (15,55,56).  Mark Martin looks to have the most value for a potential race winner as well with odds in the 18-1 or higher range.

Have a wonderful and very safe Memorial Day weekend everyone!  Could there be any more racing for all of us to enjoy? My alarm is already set for 4:30 a.m. PAC for Monaco on Sunday morning.

Frederic Crespi has been in the Las Vegas sports book industry since 1994. His favorite sport to bet on is NASCAR and the prices listed above are his opinion on what the rotation matchup odds should be.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

2012 Coca-Cola 600 Practice Notes: Ambrose Fastest in First Session

By Micah Roberts

Marcos Ambrose ran fastest lap in practice; still 50/1 odds in Vegas (Getty)
Marcos Ambrose laid down the fastest lap Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s first practice session in preparation for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600. Ambrose’s fast lap at 189.215 mph came on his first of five laps run while in qualifying trim.

Not too many drivers tried race set ups in the 90 minute session held prior to tonight’s qualifying session. Only one driver, Joey Logano, tried running more than 10 consecutive laps. Kyle Busch led the way with 28 laps run. The majority of drivers ran only five to nine laps, but will still have two full practices on Saturday morning.

Nothing major to report from this session that will do any good for race day. However, a few notables: The Gibbs drivers ran a lot of laps in practice. Danica Patrick got 25 laps in at an average less than Kyle Busch by 4 mph, who ran three more laps. Patrick still ended up with the 28th fastest lap, faster than Brad Keselowski.

I still like Jimmie Johnson to win the race. I like that he's bringing the runner-up chassis from Texas. The one problem is that Greg Biffle has brought the winning Texas chassis. The engine problems that both Biffle and Edwards had last week in the All-Star race should be a concern in a 600 mile race.

Because the race is so long, it's easy to understand why teams might not want to put additional wear and tear of running too many laps in practice.

Top-5 Coca-Cola 600 Practice 1 Speeds:
) Marcos Ambrose 189.215
2) Landon Cassill 189.182
3) AJ Allmendinger 188.409
4) Greg Biffle 188.344
5) Clint Bowyer 188.016

Practice 1 Speeds 

Starting Lineup: Almirola on Pole

Practice 2-3 Notes: Hamlin Fastest in Important Second Session  

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Coca-Cola 600 Preview: NASCAR's Race More Compelling Than Indy 500

Danica Patrick will be racing in the Coca-Cola 600 Sunday, not the Indy 500
By Micah Roberts

The ultimate weekend for auto racing enthusiasts is upon us as the three major series have three of their biggest races of the year this Sunday. If you get up early enough, you can start your day by watching the Grand Prix of Monaco live from Monte Carlo. A few hours later, it’s the 96th running of the Indianapolis 500 and then the triple feature concludes with NASCAR’s longest race, the Coca-Cola 600 from Charlotte.

Memorial Day weekend always signifies a time when we reflect upon our soldiers and offer our appreciation for keeping America free. It’s also a time that we can bond with family and tell the tale of war stories from family members that have passed away, but yet keeping the memories alive for the next generation to proudly pass onto their children.

Somewhere intertwined though all those memories, most of us can remember the Indy 500 being on television whether it was on ABC’s Wide World of Sports same day taped coverage or run live as it has since 1986. It didn’t matter that most of us may not have known much about auto racing, but we all certainly knew who Parnelli Jones and Mario Andretti were.

That’s kind of where the Indy 500 is now as the Indy Racing series comes at a cross roads of who they are. The series has the greatest, most renowned race in world, but few people follow the series’ other races opting to spend most of their allotted auto racing viewing time on the weekly NASCAR racing.

Here in Las Vegas only two sports books, the LVH Super Book and MGM Resorts, carry the odds on a weekly basis which kind of tells you about the supply and demand of the series. If bettors were regularly going up to the sports book directors and asking for odds on Indy Racing, odds would be put up, but bettors aren’t.

However, for the Indy 500, every sports book is offering odds and most have had them up for over a month now. The 5-to-2 favorite to win this week is Penske Racing driver Ryan Briscoe who will be starting from the pole on Sunday. Next up is a couple more Penske drivers with Indy points leader Will Power at 5-to-1 odds along with three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves.

The top teams have a huge edge here at Indy just because they have the most funding to be the best prepared throughout testing. Along with Penske Racing, we have Chip Gansasi Racing and Andretti Autosport that figure to be the best this week. Because of using a Honda engine, the Ganassi teams can be shaded down a notch this season leaving us with basically two teams to choose the winner from.

Because we can eliminate at least three-fourths of the field with no legitimate shot at winning, that leaves only a small handful of drivers capable which is why we rarely see a payout as large as we saw last season with the late Dan Wheldon paying out at 12-to-1 odds. It was the largest Indy 500 payout since Kenny Brack won in 1999 at 25-to-1 odds.

This year should be no different from years past, I’ll take a Penske car to win.

The NASCAR race on Sunday will provide a little more variety with drivers that have a possible chance of winning. Of the 43 drivers participating Sunday, a good case could be made for about 24 of them to win which makes things a little more interesting when making a wager.

The Coca-Cola 600 is a long race that also factors in changing elements, in addition to the extra pit stops that have to be made due to the distance compared to other races. Crew chiefs will be working overtime as they try to match their car set-up with the changing temperatures as this race goes from daylight, twilight, dusk, and then closes out at night time.

Everyone got a little taste of what we might see this week from the All-Star race last Saturday won by Jimmie Johnson in a car that was superior to all others. The ideal move would be to bring that same car again this week.

It's surprising that Dale Earnhardt Jr has never won a points paying race in Charlotte over his career. His last top-5 at the track came in 2008, but after watching him run in the Sprint Shootout and All-Star races last week he looks like he might be able to contend for the win.

“I think the (NASCAR Sprint) All-Star Race showed what we are capable of doing for the 600," said Earnhardt Jr. "We are bringing the same car, and we have a couple of ideas on how to make the car even faster – especially for qualifying – that I hope will work out.”

The Ford drivers got a major scare last week when the engines of Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle blew up during the All-Star race. That’s not the type of production these two drivers chasing a championship want to see at a track this week that requires maximum RPM’s for 600 miles.

Carl Edwards said his blown engine was a result of the team being aggressive with down force by taping up too much of the front which had his car at 290 degrees to start the race.

“I had red lights on the dash the whole time,” Edwards said. “We had it taped up too much trying to get too much downforce and we just broke it. We went all-out and it didn’t work. No worries with the engine. That’s the hardest we’ve run one of these engines in a long time. I’ve never seen that water temp and that oil temp in a racecar for that long and have it live, so I’m pretty proud of Doug (Yates) and the guys that it made it as long as it did.”

Teammate Matt Kenseth was able to finish third in the All-Star race with no engine problems and did win the fall Charlotte race last season making him a great candidate to win his first Coca-Cola 600 since his rookie year in 2000.

However, I’m not completely buying into Edwards claim that everything is fine and it was just a matter of being aggressive in a non-points race. The fact that two Roush cars went down with engine failure makes Johnson even more of a favorite this week and has me skeptical on the Roush drivers even though Biffle should be considered one of the favorites.

Johnson’s on a roll having won at Darlington two weeks ago and then getting the $1 million payout last week. He’s a six-time winner at Charlotte and will once again be the driver to beat.

Top-5 Coca-Cola 600 Finish Prediction:
1) #48 Jimmie Johnson (6/1)
2) #5 Kasey Kahne (12/1)
3) #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr (16/1)
4) #17 Matt Kenseth (8/1)
5) #18 Kyle Busch (10/1)

Top-5 Indy 500 Finish Prediction:
1) #12 Will Power (5/1)
2) #11 Tony Kanaan (12/1)
3) #2 Ryan Briscoe (5/2)
4) #3 Helio Castroneves (5/1)
5) #28 Ryan Hunter-Reay (12/1)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Driver Notes & Quotes for Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte

2010 Coca-Cola 600 winner Kurt Busch (Getty)
KURT BUSCH ON THE COCA-COLA 600: “This weekend’s race is a big one and, being that it’s here in our backyard, it’s almost like a hometown race for everybody. All of the guys who work at the shop and don’t get to go to the track on a weekly basis usually get to come out and see all of their hard work on display. You want to really put the banner up for your team. That track has been tough on me over the years but, as of late, I feel like I’ve settled in at Charlotte and I guess you could say the track is talking to me a little bit.”

BUSCH CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis No. 665 - This weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 will be the third race of the 2012 season for this chassis. This is the same car the No. 51 Phoenix Racing team competed with at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City in late April. Busch qualified 14th and competed in the top-five for the majority of the race before an engine problem in the closing laps relegated the team to a 17th-place finish. The chassis was also used at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March, when Busch earned a season-best starting position of 12th and competed in the top-10 during the early portion of the race. Pit-road issues and an eventual accident resulted in a 35th-place finish. The car was built in 2011 and was used only once last season – the June race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, where driver Landon Cassill scored a 12th-place finish after starting 12th.

DALE EARNHARDT JR. ON THE COCA-COLA 600: “I think the (NASCAR Sprint) All-Star Race showed what we are capable of doing for the 600. We are bringing the same car, and we have a couple of ideas on how to make the car even faster – especially for qualifying – that I hope will work out.”

EARNHARDT JR. CHASSIS CHOICE: This weekend at Charlotte, crew chief Steve Letarte and the No. 88 crew will unload Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-668. Earnhardt won the Sprint Showdown last weekend in this chassis and went on to a fifth-place finish in the Sprint All-Star race.

JIMMIE JOHNSON CHASSIS SELECTION: Chassis No. 714 serves as the primary for Johnson for the 600-miler. This is the same chassis Johnson used to a runner-up finish April 14 at Texas. Chassis No. 720 serves as the backup.

KASEY KAHNE CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew chief Kenny Francis has selected Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 5-724. This is a new car that has not been tested or raced.

KEVIN HARVICK ON THE LENGTH OF RACE: “I think (the Coca-Cola 600) is a historic race in our sport. It’s the ultimate test of team, driver, engines and every part on the car. The sport is not all about just running a 250-mile race, it’s about making your car last. It’s more than just having a fast car and lining them up and running a short race. It’s really about the attrition of the whole night and surviving it. As things change through the night you have to keep up with the race track and if your car won’t run then you’re done. NASCAR needs a race like this because those are the types of things the sport was built on.”

HARVICK CHASSIS CHOICE: Harvick will pilot Chassis No. 373 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This chassis was used in competition last season by the No. 29 team at Michigan International Speedway in August, Charlotte Motor Speedway in October and Homestead-Miami Speedway in November where Harvick finished 22nd, sixth and eighth, respectively.

PAUL MENARD CHASSIS CHOICE: Paul Menard will pilot Chassis No. 328 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600. This No. 27 Chevrolet was last seen on track at Phoenix International Raceway in March where Menard finished 31st after he was spun from behind. This chassis was also used in competition in 2011 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Darlington Raceway and the November event at Phoenix.

JEFF BURTON CHASSIS CHOICE: Burton will race chassis No. 367 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This No. 31 Chevrolet, originally built in 2011, has been utilized once during the 2012 NSCS season at Kansas Speedway in April where Burton started 12th and finished 22nd. This chassis has seen significant track time including visits to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in July 2011 (started-13th, finished-35th), Atlanta Motor Speedway in September 2011 (started-27th, finished-13th) and Kansas Speedway in October 2011 (started-31st, finished-21st). Burton also tallied a top-10 finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway last November, finishing 10th after starting 31st with this car. 

JAMIE McMURRAY CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis #1208 - Crew Chief Kevin “Bono” Manion and the No. 1 Bass Pro Shops®/Arctic Cat team will bring Chassis #1208 to Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend. This chassis has raced this season at Las Vegas and Kansas, finishing eighth and 14th, respectively.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis #1205 - Crew Chief Chris “Shine” Heroy and the No. 42 Target team will bring Chassis #1205 to Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend. This chassis raced to a 12th-place finish at Kansas this season.

RYAN NEWMAN CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis No. 39-727 is new to the No. 39 stable and will turn its first-ever laps on-track Thursday for practice for the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. The chassis has been wind-tunnel tested.

TONY STEWART CHASSIS CHOICE: This car debuted in spectacular fashion in March at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., as Stewart took Chassis No. 14-706 from its ninth-place starting spot to lead twice for 42 laps en route to the win in the rain-shortened race. Prior to Fontana, the car spent numerous hours in the wind tunnel. It is a clone to Chassis No. 14-640, which won Round No. 3 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Its second start in April at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan., was a bit quieter than its debut race, as it started 23rd and gained 10 spots to finish 13th.

DANICA PATRICK ON PAYING ATTENTION TO INDY: “I watched qualifying last weekend when I had the chance during down time at Iowa. I’m happy for James Hinchcliffe and the GoDaddy team for qualifying second. It’s obviously great to see the GoDaddy car up front. I always want my sponsor to win. That’s the most important thing for me is that they are finding benefit in the things that they do and business is growing. I’m happy to see the green up front and I’m sure GoDaddy is, too.”

MATT KENSETH COCA-COLA THOUGHTS: “Track conditions can change a lot during the 600 since it can start out hot and sunny which makes the track slick, and that can entirely change by the end of the race. It’s always challenging but I really like running that entire 600 miles and continuingly working on strategy and your car’s set-up. Even though it’s our longest race of the season, I’ve always really enjoyed the 600 miles and just the challenge it presents to teams. It’s always nice to race at Charlotte as well since it’s our home base. All three of our Cup cars have Fastenal on board, so hopefully we can once again get a string of top-five finishes for them, similar to last year’s Nationwide race at Charlotte.”

KENSETH CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-741 (Last run at Kansas)

GREG BIFFLE ON CHARLOTTE: “The Coca-Cola 600 is the longest race of the season and we are back to points racing this weekend so it’s important to finish well. We’ve been running well at Charlotte so I think we’ll definitely have a good run in our No. 16 Fastenal Ford this weekend. Our car was a little off at the All-Star, and obviously we didn’t get much time to work on it, but we’ll get more opportunities this weekend. The 600 is a long, drawn out, strategy-driven race and we’ll have to make it all the way to the end.”

BIFFLE CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-809 Last ran Texas – finished first; Backup: RK-786 Last ran Homestead – finished 35th

CARL EDWARDS ON CHARLOTTE: “I’m looking forward to the Coca-Cola 600. We had a fast Ford Fusion at the All-Star race and a night race at Charlotte Motor Speedway is always fun. It’s a long race and it’s full of energy from the fans. The track changes a lot, but Bob (Osborne) is good at making the changes needed to keep up with the track. The Roush Fenway cars are fast and it’s a big night for Fastenal. All three of our Sprint Cup cars are running a special Fastenal paint scheme to salute our military for Memorial Day. Fastenal will be there in force and hopefully we can get our first victory there.”

EDWARDS CHASSIS CHOICE: The Fastenal Blue Team will be bringing chassis RK-811 to CMS. This car was new at Texas in April where Edwards finished eighth.

MARCOS AMBROSE ON CHARLOTTE: “I love racing at Charlotte. It’s a track that has been good to me lately, and I definitely have some momentum going into this weekend, after having such a good DEWALT Ford in the All-Star Race. Our intermediate track program is really solid, and I have been excelling at tracks like Charlotte, Texas and Vegas the past year, so that’s definitely an encouragement going into this weekend.

“The Coca-Cola 600 is such a prestigious event, and it ranks right up there with a Daytona 500 or Indy win. It’s a race win every driver would like to add to their resume and it’s definitely one I’d like to check off my list. It’s such a unique race being the longest event of the season and starting during the day and finishing under the lights. There is always a lot of extra excitement surrounding Charlotte race weeks because it’s the home of NASCAR. It’s one of the few times I get to bring out all of our family and friends to watch me race, and I’d like nothing more than to get a win on Sunday in front of NASCAR’s hometown crowd.”

AMBROSE CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 9 RPM team has prepared chassis No. 735 for this weekend’s NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. This DEWALT Ford was run previously this season at Las Vegas and Texas.

ARIC ALMIROLA CHASSIS CHOICE: The team has prepared chassis No. 783 for the Charlotte race. This car ran earlier this season at Texas and Las Vegas.

KYLE BUSCH ON WHAT WINNING AT CHARLOTTE WOULD MEAN: “Winning at Charlotte Motor Speedway, since it’s my favorite track, would be really special since I’ve been able to win there in other series and have been close a lot in the Cup car. It seems like the month of May at Charlotte just hasn’t liked me too much. We got to win (last week’s) Truck Series race and the Nationwide race last spring, so I’m hoping we can add to that this weekend and finally get a Sprint Cup win. There are plenty of other tracks we need to win at, too, but there’s no doubt a Charlotte win would be big with the Red, White, and Blue colors on our M&M’s Camry.”

CLINT BOWYER CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary Chassis No. 716 started fifth and finished sixth at Las Vegas and started eighth and finished 36th at Kansas. Bowyer was racing in the fifth position at Kansas when he lost a cylinder and was forced to the garage for repairs. Chassis No. 721 is the backup and previously served backup duty at Las Vegas, California, Texas, Kansas, Darlington and last weekend's All-Star Race at Charlotte but never raced.

MARK MARTIN CHASSIS CHOICE: Martin will drive MWR chassis 732 and the backup is Chassis 708, neither has raced in 2012. Mark Martin will have special pit crew members Sunday. Aaron's NHRA top fuel drag racer Antron Brown and 2011 Funny Car champion Matt Hagan will man the signboard during pit stops.

AJ ALLMENDINGER CHASSIS CHOICE: AJ and crew will be racing their “PRS-825” Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger in this weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 action at Charlotte. This is a brand new car in the No. 22 Penske Racing Team stable of Dodge Chargers. The “PRS-814” chassis will serve as the backup. It is a new Dodge Charger and has yet to make it onto a race track.

BRAD KESELOWSKI CHASSIS CHOICE: The #2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger team will race chassis PRS-826 during Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (CMS). This is a brand new chassis to the #2 fleet.