Here are my final driver rankings for tonight’s race at Charlotte. I compiled them by crunching the practice and qualifying data from Charlotte Friday and Saturday, and then melding it with the loop, practice and qualifying data from the fall 2010 race weekend at Charlotte and this year’s race weekends at Las Vegas and Texas:
- Carl Edwards
- Denny Hamlin
- Kyle Busch
- Paul Menard
- David Reutimann
- Martin Truex, Jr.
- Jimmie Johnson
- Jeff Burton
- A.J. Allmendinger
- Kurt Busch Continue reading
Jimmie Johnson watches his team work on the 48 during practice Thursday. Surprisingly, he's not the favorite for tonight's race. (Photo Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)
The NASCAR Sprint Cup teams got in all three practice sessions and qualifying at Charlotte Thursday and Friday, including an all important Happy Hour Friday evening. The Happy Hour session occurred after dark, better mirroring the track conditions the teams will face in tonight’s race than the mid-day practices did.
To handicap the race, I crunched the numbers from those prelim sessions to produce initial rankings, and then I merged those rankings with the historical rankings I produced earlier this week (weighting the results heavily toward the initial rankings). Finally, I tweaked the results by considering starting positions, 10-lap averages during practice and the opinions of another online expert.
The results are pretty interesting. Several top-five regulars stumbled in the prelims, and a number of typically second-tier drivers ran really well. Check it out: Continue reading
Sorry, race fans! I didn’t notice this week’s race occurs on Saturday instead of Sunday until this afternoon, so I failed to put together my preview before practice began. Instead of writing up a full preview now, I’ll just list my top 14, which does not take into account driver performance during Practice 1, which is running as I type:
- Kasey Kahne
- Ryan Newman
- Jimmie Johnson
- Kurt Busch
- Clint Bowyer
- Mark Martin
- Kyle Busch
- Jamie McMurray
- David Reutimann
- Denny Hamlin
- Jeff Gordon
- Tony Stewart
- Jeff Burton
- Matt Kenseth
I didn’t update my Yahoo! Fantasy League drivers either, so I’m stuck with: Greg Biffle and Gordon in Group A; Burton, Kenseth, McMurray and Kevin Harvick in Group B; and Paul Menard and Sam Hornish Jr. in Group C.
Here’s hoping these guys look good in the prelims!
The 48 comes down into the 11, damaging both cars. (Photo Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)
I was hot and cold with my Charlotte picks last week:
- Jimmie Johnson: My #1 pick was indeed strong, but a brush with the wall led to full-blown crash later on that gave the 48 a terrible finish.
- Kasey Kahne: The 9 wasn’t nearly as fast as I thought he’d be. He was off during the sunny portion of the race, and seemed to improve only a little in the twilight and dark portions.
- Kurt Busch: Much like the All Star race, Busch’s car came alive as the track cooled, and he powered away for the win.
- Denny Hamlin: Hamlin seemed fairly strong, but his car suffered some damage in a collision with the 48 and he wasn’t much of a threat after that.
- Clint Bowyer: The 33 was very strong, running up front most of the race.
- Martin Truex Jr.: Like Kahne, I thought Truex would be faster than he was. He didn’t show much during any portion of the race.
The big surprise: Jamie McMurray. I did not foresee the 1 running so well. His car was faster than Busch’s on long runs, and he likely would’ve won if he’d had a few more laps to work with.
Carl Edwards whacked the wall hard during Thursday's practice. He's in a backup car now. (Photo John Harrelson/Getty Images)
The preliminaries are over in Charlotte, and the action helped clarify who will likely run up front in tonight’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race. Significant fog remains, however, because the data provided by practice and qualifying has limited value.
Particularly the practice session and qualifying run on Thursday. Why? In a word, heat. The race will begin in the evening tonight, and the black asphalt track will be pretty hot after baking in the North Carolina sun all day. When the sun goes down, the track will begin to cool, and when this speedway undergoes temperature changes, it really affects race-car performance.
Thursday’s practice was held in the heat of the day, and the track conditions then bore little resemblance to the track the drivers will face during tonight’s 600 miler. In a pit-road interview during the practice broadcast on Speed, Jimmie Johnson said the 48 team was practicing on the hot, slick track only because if they didn’t, “we’d Continue reading
Kurt Busch leads the field to the green flag in the All Star race. (Photo Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)
The Sprint Cup series remains at Charlotte Motor Speedway (CMS) following the exciting All Star race last weekend, gearing up for the long, arduous Coca Cola 600. I think this race offers those of us handicapping NASCAR a fair amount of predictability despite a couple limiting factors.
CMS is another 1.5-mile, steep-banked, D-shaped track, very similar to the other banked cookie-cutter tracks on the circuit, including Texas, Atlanta, Las Vegas and Homestead. We therefore have a good amount of historical practice, qualifying and race data to analyze for this race, including pretty current data from this year’s races at Texas, Atlanta, and Las Vegas, as well as the All Star race data. Continue reading
This made Kyle Busch very angry... (Photo Streeter Lecka/Getty Images for NASCAR)
My top picks again were about as fast as I thought they’d be, with one surprise:
1. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson had a terrific car, and if it weren’t for a spin in the closing laps, he probably would’ve finished second, and maybe first.
2. Kyle Busch: Busch also was very fast and likely would’ve contended for the win if not for a late-race brush with the wall, and then a full-blown crash in the closing laps.
3. Jeff Gordon: Gordon got into the wall hard on the very first lap, so we never got to see how fast he was.
The surprise: In the final segment, Kurt Busch’s car really came on. When he got to the lead, Jimmie Johnson couldn’t catch him, and it appeared to be due to more than just the clean-air factor.
Denny Hamlin's engine blew during practice yesterday. (Photo John Harrelson/Getty Images)
Tonight NASCAR puts on its grand show, the All Star Race. I think this event is a lot of fun, but from a handicapping perspective, it’s a challenge due to the funky race format (i.e., the four-segment thing, which I’ll get to below). Plus, two other predictive factors, the weather and tires, aren’t on our side this weekend either.
At press time, Weather.com says there’s a 45% chance of scattered thunderstorms this afternoon and tonight in the Charlotte, N.C., area, and that decreases predictability. First, it increases the chance we’ll have a rain-shortened race tonight, which could give us a wild card winner. Second, rain could wash the rubber out of the track, forcing the teams to chase changing track conditions with their setups. Continue reading
The 18 heads out for a run during testing yesterday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Sprint Cup teams wrapped up their testing of the new spoiler this afternoon at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and while just how significant an impact it will have remains unknown, the general consensus seems to be that it won’t be a big impact. I’ve seen several informative articles on the topic, and I’ll list some of the better ones below:
“Spoiler Testing Underway at Charlotte Motor Speedway,” by Jim Utter at ThatsRacin.com;
“Johnson Not Worried About Spoiler,” by Jeff Owens at SceneDaily.com. Go to SceneDaily.com for a bunch more good stuff on the spoiler.
“Gordon: Spoiler Not a Big Change,” by Mike Hembree at SpeedTV.com;
“Drivers Take Spoiler for a Spin at Charlotte,” by David Newton at ESPN.com;
“Spoiler Impact Unpredictable,” by Mike Hembree at SpeedTV.com;
Note: I found most of these articles via Nascapper.com‘s NASCAR News forum.