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Statistically Speaking

Update: Charlotte (Spring)

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Preliminaries for the Coca-Cola 600 can be difficult to judge.

Since drivers, fans, and teams spend so much time in the area, Charlotte Motor Speedway has always done things differently. One practice and qualification is run on Thursday, Friday is spent away from the track, and Saturday resumes activity. One of Saturday’s practice sessions is early in the day; the other is in the afternoon. The Coca-Cola 600 will conclude under the lights, and teams have to take all of that into consideration when preparing the car.

Thursday’s practice was spent working on qualification trim only. Erik Jones (with a speed of 192.713 mph), Jimmie Johnson (192.472), and Kyle Larson (192.465), Denny Hamlin (192.465), and Kevin Harvick (192.150) topped the charts. It was not a fortuitous omen for all of them.

Jones slowed dramatically toward the end of the session, but it appears that nothing mechanical was hurt. He fared well in qualification and lines up fifth. Better still, he had fast sessions on Saturday underscore his fantasy appeal.

Larson slapped the wall fairly hard at the end of the first practice, which caused the team to spend the afternoon making repairs. Partly as a result of getting to the station late, he was unable to clear inspection in time to make a qualification lap and rolls off the grid 39th on Sunday. The good news there is that Larson is going to be one of the best values in fantasy games that offer place-differential points as a result. He will come to the front in a hurry and could easily contend for the top 10 and segment bonus points at lap 100.

Johnson simply did not get as much from his car as expected in qualification. He missed advancing to the top 12 by two positions and lines up on the outside of row seven. He is capable of coming to the front, but with the struggles he has shown this year, that is far from guaranteed. Players may want to wait another week or two and keep evaluating him.

Harvick is the driver who made the most of his practice one speed. He laid down a blistering lap of 193.424 mph and claimed the pole. He also led the field to green last fall, however, and that did not work out so well. He blew an engine and finished deep in the pack, which was partly responsible for his failing to advance to the final round of the playoffs.

Last week’s pole sitter and top-five finisher Ryan Blaney posted the fastest time in Saturday morning’s practice with a speed of 188.055 mph. He was followed on the chart by Jones and Martin Truex Jr.

Truex is particularly notable because it appears he could be picking up where he left off last year. He dominated the 2016 Coke 600 and starts close enough to the front in eighth that he could win again this year. Truex also had the quickest 10-lap average on Saturday ahead of Kyle Busch and Larson.

Finally, Larson posted the fastest single lap in Happy Hour with a 186.400 mph lap. Blaney and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top three.

In this session, it was teammate Jamie McMurray that had the best 10-lap averages. He has been stout on the similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks all season and Charlotte has been kind in the past. McMurray is one of this week’s top mid-cap picks who will not disappoint owners. 

 

Start

Driver

Qual Speed

Practice 1
Rank

Practice 2
Rank

Final Practice
Rank

Avg. Rank

             

5

Erik Jones

      191.782

1

2

5

3.3

7

Ryan Blaney

      191.734

8

1

2

4.5

4

Matt Kenseth

      192.130

6

15

3

7.0

1

Kevin Harvick

      193.424

5

9

20

8.8

14

Jimmie Johnson

      190.349

2

13

8

9.3

8

Martin Truex Jr.

      191.245

11

3

17

9.8

10

Brad Keselowski

      190.833

6

8

16

10.0

2

Kyle Busch

      192.513

9

18

12

10.3

6

Denny Hamlin

      191.768

3

26

11

11.5

20

Daniel Suarez

      189.773

13

4

9

11.5

17

Ryan Newman

      190.074

12

12

6

11.8

12

Kurt Busch

      190.007

14

20

4

12.5

3

Chase Elliott

      192.260

17

11

21

13.0

22

Austin Dillon

      189.613

15

10

13

15.0

9

Clint Bowyer

      191.042

16

22

14

15.3

19

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

      189.940

22

14

7

15.5

39

Kyle Larson

              -  

3

19

1

15.5

13

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

      190.631

27

6

19

16.3

18

Trevor Bayne

      190.014

21

5

23

16.8

11

Jamie McMurray

      190.503

10

23

24

17.0

24

Kasey Kahne

      188.442

24

7

15

17.5

26

AJ Allmendinger

      188.278

23

17

18

21.0

15

Danica Patrick

      190.275

18

25

30

22.0

16

Paul Menard

      190.241

19

27

26

22.0

21

Michael McDowell

      189.620

20

21

27

22.3

23

Joey Logano

      189.467

30

29

10

23.0

25

Regan Smith

      188.311

28

16

24

23.3

29

Chris Buescher

      187.337

25

28

22

26.0

27

Ty Dillon

      188.173

26

24

29

26.5

31

Landon Cassill

      185.810

31

30

28

30.0

30

Matt DiBenedetto

      186.909

29

32

32

30.8

28

David Ragan

      188.153

32

33

31

31.0

34

Cole Whitt

      182.704

34

31

33

33.0

32

Gray Gaulding

      184.590

35

36

 

34.3

33

JJ Yeley

      184.143

37

34

35

34.8

40

Corey LaJoie

              -  

33

35

34

35.5

35

Reed Sorenson

      181.336

36

37

 

36.0

36

Timmy Hill

      177.521

39

39

 

38.0

38

Jeffrey Earnhardt

      176.459

38

38

 

38.0

37

Derrike Cope

      176.974

40

40

 

39.0

 

10-Lap Averages

 

10-Lap Averages

 

Avg

Practice 2

 

Final Practice

 

Rank

                 

3

Kyle Larson

      183.492

 

4

Kyle Larson

  180.414

 

3.5

1

Martin Truex Jr.

      184.886

 

7

Martin Truex Jr.

  180.300

 

4.0

2

Kyle Busch

      183.538

 

6

Kyle Busch

  180.301

 

4.0

6

Matt Kenseth

      182.219

 

2

Matt Kenseth

  180.526

 

4.0

8

Jamie McMurray

      181.764

 

1

Jamie McMurray

  180.914

 

4.5

7

Chase Elliott

      181.834

 

3

Chase Elliott

  180.482

 

5.0

 

Jimmie Johnson

 

 

5

Jimmie Johnson

  180.370

 

5.0

5

Clint Bowyer

      182.325

 

9

Clint Bowyer

  180.191

 

7.0

 

Kevin Harvick

 

 

8

Kevin Harvick

  180.282

 

8.0

10

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

      181.375

 

 

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

 

 

10.0

 

Denny Hamlin

 

 

10

Denny Hamlin

  179.966

 

10.0

 

Kasey Kahne

 

 

11

Kasey Kahne

  179.883

 

11.0

 

Austin Dillon

 

 

12

Austin Dillon

  179.806

 

12.0

4

Danica Patrick

      182.402

 

21

Danica Patrick

  178.273

 

12.5

11

Kurt Busch

      181.313

 

14

Kurt Busch

  179.644

 

12.5

 

Ryan Newman

 

 

13

Ryan Newman

  179.757

 

13.0

14

Timmy Hill

      173.719

 

 

Timmy Hill

 

 

14.0

 

Joey Logano

 

 

15

Joey Logano

  179.453

 

15.0

12

Michael McDowell

      178.802

 

19

Michael McDowell

  178.618

 

15.5

 

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

 

 

16

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

  179.324

 

16.0

13

Matt DiBenedetto

      176.511

 

20

Matt DiBenedetto

  178.284

 

16.5

9

Brad Keselowski

      181.494

 

25

Brad Keselowski

  177.090

 

17.0

 

Ty Dillon

 

 

17

Ty Dillon

  178.908

 

17.0

 

Paul Menard

 

 

18

Paul Menard

  178.736

 

18.0

 

David Ragan

 

 

21

David Ragan

  178.273

 

21.0

 

Trevor Bayne

 

 

23

Trevor Bayne

  178.155

 

23.0

 

Regan Smith

 

 

24

Regan Smith

  177.527

 

24.0

 

Dan Beaver

Dan Beaver has been covering fantasy NASCAR for more than 20 years with a little help from his >650,000 record database. He can be found on Twitter @FantasyRace.