I was pleasantly surprised by the All-Star race. I did not know how it was going to come off, but wow, was that a great race.
Everything from the Open races to the finish was the edge of your seat like excitement. If we get anything like that this weekend, it will have been a great month for the sport.
What I want to do here is to look at both races: the XFINITY and MENCS, of course.
I want to look at some trends and some statistics and see if we can glean anything from them.
Let’s start with the XFINITY series.
The one thing you could count on in years past was that this was going to be a race where we saw a lot of big named drivers from the MENCS.
Not this year.
In fact, Austin Dillion is the only Cup driver in the race, and yes, there is a very good chance he is going to be contending for the win.
We do get to see two of the best cars on the year with the 8 and 18 having Jeb Burton and Jeffrey Earnhardt driving, respectively. Both have been solid when they have run in the series this year and I would expect no different on Saturday.
We do get some interesting drivers that are likely to be cheap this week in the Bassett brothers and Mason Diaz. Qualifying position will be everything with these guys because they will not challenge for the win.
The pole sitter has not been the end all here, but it has helped. In fact, Austin Dillon sat on the pole, led 163 laps and won in 2015. Could we see a repeat this year?
This race is still going to be about nailing one or two dominators, one or two mid-priced guys who finish in the top 10 and then two to four cars that have good place differential upside, depending on how the race goes.
One thing I am really starting to look at this week is how many cautions there are and how many cars do not finish the race or finish ten or more laps down.
In the last two years, this race has resulted in about 10 cars finishing ten laps or more down and about 8 cars not finishing the race period.
There have been around 8 cautions over the last two years at Charlotte as well. It is important to note that these are not end of stage cautions; just cautions that are the result of accidents, spins or debris on the track.
There is some evidence to suggest that stage racing has resulted in more cautions, at least in this specific race. I would expect that trend to continue this week.
Prediction: Sure, I am probably being boring here, but I am going to go with Austin Dillon winning the race. The XFINITY field is very strong, even without a bunch of Cup drivers, but I think Dillon will be able to get the job done.
The results at this race in the Cup Series have been far more interesting. While the XFINITY Series has basically been a plug and play Cup driver to win, the MENCS has seen some ultra-dominant situations with a little bit of luck mixed in.
While it is definitely not something worth hanging your hat on, two of the last three Coca-Cola 600 races have seen drivers lead over 370 laps out of 400. Both times, it was done by the pole sitter. The first was Martin Truex in 2016 and then Kyle Busch last year.
The pole sitter, in general, has done well enough. In the last 3 races here, the pole sitter has scored no worse than the 7th highest fantasy points. Three years certainly is not a great sample size, but it is worth noting that if we went back 5 years, three of the five times, the pole sitter has been the first or second highest scoring driver.
The big questions for the Cup races this year has been what exactly will we see? The track should undergo quite a few changes, as it is the longest race of the year and will start when it is light and end when it is darker and cooler. All we have to do is go back to Kansas and see what happened with Kevin Harvick as the track, and ultimately his car changed due to the conditions.
Add to that, it really seems like most of the teams are getting this package. I am hoping this will lead to more competitive racing, and we get the chance to see some competitive racing.
As a strategy, I would say I am looking at between 1-2 dominators in this race. I do not think it will hurt to maybe even look for a third and hope with 400 laps that we see three drivers lead over 100 laps.
I feel that is unlikely, and really, talking any more strategy before qualifying is probably not worth the time or energy. While I do think the dominator’s portion is safe, if we have a bunch of good drivers qualify poorly, then we may see a completely contrary strategy as to what we have seen in the last few years.
Much like the XFINITY Series, I did want to take a look at things like cautions and how many cars did not finish or finished way down. With this being a 400 lap race at a mile and a half (equivalent to 600 laps at a mile track – so that plays into strategy as well), it is theoretically less impactful for a car to finish 10 laps down, as many of the back runners likely will without cautions.
Over the last five races, we are seeing around 7 cautions per race.
In that same frame, we are seeing around 9 cars finishing ten laps or more down, with around 5 finishing off the track. Those numbers are certainly less than we see in the XFINITY series, at least the amount that DNF.
Prediction: He looked like the car to beat in Kansas. He looked like the car to beat at the All Star Race. This week, Kevin Harvick will actually put it all together and get in the winner’s circle.
Thanks for reading! I will be posting a video breakdown tomorrow as well.