NASCAR Cup Series: Top Bets for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600

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Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Kyle Larson

This weekend is a motor sports fanatic’s dream, with Formula One’s Moncao Grand Prix, IndyCar’s Indianapolis 500, and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 all lined up on Sunday.

The nightcap of this triple-header is NASCAR’s longest race of the year at 600 miles. Charlotte Motor Speedway has a relatively high did-not-finish rate, and this race often produces surprising winners due to strategy, so it’s a good time to take shots at drivers with longer odds to win. The winning driver in seven of the last 13 Coca-Cola 600s has led fewer than 29 laps.

 

Charlotte is a typical 1.5-mile oval, where long-run speed, year-to-date performance, starting position and 1.5-mile performance are the main factors in my machine learning model. I also use the RotoViz Driver Sim Scores to gauge race-winning upside.

As always, make sure you shop around for the best lines.

Kyle Larson: +600

Of the top-tier drivers this weekend, Larson, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, and Martin Truex Jr. are comparable in both projected average finish and upside. As a result, I’ll take the driver with the best odds among that group. Larson had the second-quickest 10- and 15-lap average in practice as well as a car to win two weeks ago at Kansas before late-race contact ended his winning prospects. The Sim Scores show that three of his top 13 comps won their races. Note: this line has already moved from +700 to +600 since practice ended, and I expect it to decrease even more by the drop of the green flag on Sunday.

Erik Jones: +1200

Jones was extremely fast in final practice, posting the best single-, five-, 10-, and 15-lap averages. Additionally, Jones has performed well at 1.5-mile tracks this year with an average finish of 7.5 while leading 5% of his laps. Per the Sim Scores, two of his top 18 comps won their races.

Joey Logano: +1500 

Logano is easily my favorite value this weekend because he checks all the boxes. Logano posted the fifth-best 10- and 15-lap average in the only post-qualifying practice session and has the third-best driver rating at the 1.5-mile tracks this year. Logano was in the mix to win two weekends ago at Kansas, which is similar to Charlotte in terms of tire wear. The RotoViz model gives Logano the highest average projected finish, and the Sim Scores show that two of Logano’s top 12 closest comparable drivers won their races.

Chase Elliott: +5000

Elliott hasn’t been superb at 1.5-mile tracks this year, but if we remove the race at Las Vegas, where Kurt Busch wrecked Elliott (who was having a good race), then his performance looks better. Elliott’s average finish of 11.0 at the other 1.5-mile tracks puts him in a tier of drivers capable of winning on strategy, and of that tier he offers the best value relative to expected performance. Elliott had the 10th-best 10-lap average in the Happy Hour practice, and his Charlotte history is strong. He finished second in the most recent Charlotte race and led 103 laps in the 2016 fall race.

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