Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Johnson, Harvick and Kyle Busch co-favorites to win 2016 Coca-Cola 600

Can Kyle Busch or Dale Earnhardt Jr. win first ever Charlotte race?
LAS VEGAS -- The 13th race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season takes us to Charlotte Motor Speedway for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600, the longest race on the schedule. This will be the fifth race run on a 1.5-mile track, but the big difference from the other four is the changing conditions of the track where the race starts in daylight, goes to dusk and closes out in the cooler night air for the final laps.

“Having a car balance that you can adjust because so much changes from the day when it’s hot and sunny, and then you get into the night when it cools down a little bit without any sun on the track," said three-time Coca-Cola 600 winner Kasey Kahne. "The track changes for grip. So if you can tighten your car up at the right times and do it the right way to where you don’t lose the attitude that you are looking for throughout the race, that’s key."

All the practice sessions this week on Thursday and Saturday will be run in the daylight, which makes being ideally set-up for the final 100 laps at night harder to prepare for, but they also have all the data from last weeks All-Star race run under Charlotte lights to utilize.

“Last weekend’s All-Star event was in essence a ‘test’ for this weekend," said crew chief Chad Knaus, who has set-up four winning Coca-Cola 600 cars for Jimmie Johnson. "We learned some important things about tire fall off even though we didn’t get a ton of practice. The 600-miler is a tough, tough race and it takes a lot of patience and some endurance on everyone’s part to be there at the end.”

Johnson comes in as one of three 6-to-1 co-favorites to win on the basis of his series leading seven wins at Charlotte.

Here's a look at all the odds posted at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook with a brief look how each driver has fared over the years at Charlotte.

NASCAR at Charlotte betting odds, driver preview

Kevin HARVICK 6/1 - Three-time winner, including 2011 and 2013. On the 1.5-mile tracks most similar to Charlotte, he led a race-high 131 laps at Atlanta and finished sixth and finished 10th at Texas. He'll be using the same chassis he used last week in the All-star race that led 21 laps in the first segment.

Jimmie JOHNSON 6/1 - Seven-time winner, including taking five of six races from 2003-05. He's the only driver to win four straight on the track that has hosted two races a season since 1960. He's also led a series-best 1,735 laps over his career. Beyond all his past history, the top reason to back him this week is doing well on tracks where the new low downforce package is a big deal; he won at Atlanta and Fontana, was third at Las Vegas and fourth at Texas.

Kyle BUSCH 6/1 - Just two tracks, Charlotte and Pocono, have avoided a Busch victory burnout in the Cup series. He's also never won the non-points All-Star race at Charlotte, so that's three chances a year for the past 12 years that he's gone winless. However, he's been close several times. He's got 10 top-five finishes in 24 starts and has led 907 laps. His best stat supporting his first Charlotte win Sunday is that he's the only driver to finish in the top-five in all four 1.5-mile tracks this season, including winning the last two at Texas and Kansas. His Kansas win on May 7 was the first of his career there.

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