When Charlotte Motor Speedway was built, Bruton Smith and NASCAR wanted a race that would rival the Indy 500. With the famed race at the Brickyard running since 1909, they knew simply adding another 500-mile race as a head-to-head matchup wasn’t going to move the needle, but what if they made this race longer. And the World 600 was born in 1960.
A little more than 60 years later, the race is still 600 miles long – defying the trend by NASCAR to shorten most of their products to fit a timeframe friendlier for television audiences. The old guard who liked this mix of endurance and speed – and who are willing to sit through four hours watching a sport they love – still have something to look forward to each year.
The extra 100 miles is more than a gimmick, however. For decades, 500 miles was the standard length of a long-form race. Drivers were conditioned to run that long. So were engines. Putting 17 percent more strain on both was not insignificant, and now that most of the races have shrunk to 400 miles or less, that is even more impactful.
The Coke 600, as this race began to be known in the mid-1980s, favors strong drivers and teams, but there have been quite a few who won with pit strategy. Jeff Gordon won his first Cup race on old tires in 1992. After winning a pair of Xfinity races at Charlotte, Austin got his first Cup win in 2007 with a fuel gamble.
In all, 10 drivers have earned their first wins on this track and nearly every one of them went on to have careers that will land them in the Hall of Fame. Another 10 drivers scored either their second or third wins at Charlotte. Don’t be afraid to risk a little money on dark horses.
1. Chase Elliott ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
($10,700 DraftKings | +600 win | -135 top-five)
Charlotte has been good to Elliott, but that has not always been the case. He had only one top-10 in his first four races there, but when he finished second in the 2017 Coke 600, things changed. His last six Charlotte races netted five top-10s, including a win in a 312-mile race in 2020 – NASCAR called it a 500k in the hope we would be confused. Last year, he was second once more in the 600 and should challenge for the win this week.
2. Kyle Larson ⭐⭐⭐
($11,300 DraftKings | +550 win | -140 top-five)
Larson has lost some of his luster, but you wouldn’t know that by his Draft King salary cap. He is in rarified air that we only see when the cap managers are trying to force difficult decisions in the game. His cap of 11/2 is a slightly better value by comparison. Larson won two of the last three races on unrestricted 1.5-mile tracks in 2021 and was second at Las Vegas and Kansas earlier this year.
3. Kyle Busch ⭐⭐⭐⭐
($11,100 DraftKings | +550 win | -140 top-five)
Busch is co-favored on the DraftKings sportsbook with Larson and has only a slightly lower salary cap. Statistically, he has a bigger lag with consistently lower results than Larson in the last two years on this track type and that makes him a race day decision. Your betting strategy probably only allows for one wager at 6/1 or lower, but the top-three drivers this week are all worthy of pre-qualification consideration.
4. Martin Truex Jr. ⭐⭐⭐⭐
($10,200 DraftKings | +1000 win | +125 top-five)
Below the top three, the remainder of this list is more challenging to handicap. Truex was once one of the “cookie-cutter” kings and he amassed a lot of 1.5-mile wins in the 2010s. As parity has begun to take hold in NASCAR, those turned into top-fives and -10s with greater regularity, but he is capable of busting out a solid run at a moment’s notice. Truex won two Coke 600s in 2017 and 2019 as part of a four-race streak of top-fives. Two of his last three races on this track ended in top-10s.
5. Ross Chastain ⭐⭐⭐
($9,800 DraftKings | +1400 win | +175 top-five)
Chastain has gone from being an attractive dark horse to regularly being handicapped as a likely top-five finisher. Bettors and players are not quite certain if this is a temporary or long-term status for the Trackhouse Racing team and until Daniel Suarez starts to narrow the performance gap, one must assume that Chastain is punching out of his weight class. As long as his line stays above 12/1 it doesn’t really matter, and he is an attractive option for a mid-range bet.
6. Denny Hamlin ⭐⭐⭐
($10,500 DraftKings | +1200 win | +150 top-five)
Frequent readers of these Pick Sheets have read this before: But never underestimate a ticked off driver. Hamlin was aggravated by NASCAR’s lack of consistency last week after finishing second to Ryan Blaney in a controversial All-Star Race. The series allowed the No. 12 to compete without their window net in place the same week that the appeals committee upheld a four-race suspension to key members of the No. 11 team for a loose lug nut. Linking the two is like comparing apples to peanuts with Hamlin’s infraction the much smaller of the two. His attitude is going to be worth several positions on the track and could easily put Hamlin in a position to challenge for the Coke 600 win.
7. Ryan Blaney ⭐⭐⭐⭐
($9,100 DraftKings | +1200 win | +150 top-five)
Blaney is not ticked off, but he may also feel that he has something to prove to silence his critics. For the record, NASCAR admitted they made a mistake in throwing a caution that almost cost him the All-Star Race, but in an effort to not compound the error, they let slide one of the most egregious oversights since they first mandated the use of window nets following a fatal crash for Joe Weatherly in 1964. Last week’s venue, Texas Motor Speedway, and Charlotte are similar and Blaney could get his first points’ paying win on the heels of that All-Star victory.
8. Christopher Bell ⭐⭐⭐⭐
($8,400 DraftKings | +2500 win | +300 top-five)
Joe Gibbs Racing is finally figuring out the NextGen car – at least as well as anyone else – and that means all four of their drivers are going to start making regular appearances in the top 10. Bell has not made as much noise as Hamlin or Busch this season, but he has shown greater consistency with six results of seventh or better in his last eight races this season.
9. Tyler Reddick ⭐⭐⭐
($9,600 DraftKings | +1400 win | +175 top-five)
We could go with a safe pick here and add either of the other two Hendrick Motorsports drivers to the Pick Sheet, but given how often Charlotte races have been claimed by a first-time winner and how well Reddick has run in 2022, he is worthy of a moderate bet for the outright win. Toss all his old stats out the window and go with your gut this week.
10. Austin Dillon ⭐⭐⭐⭐
($8,200 DraftKings | +5000 win | +600 top-five)
Dillon was a pleasant surprise when he won in 2017 and frankly the same would be true this weekend. He is one of the top picks to finish among the top 10 on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks, however, and will continue to be until he finishes outside of the top 15 in a couple of races. Right now, he enters the weekend with a 13-race streak of results sixth through 14th on this course type.