Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup All-Star race gave us plenty of information to get us ready for this week's Coca-Cola 600.
With Roush Fenway Racing drivers winning both races, it's time to move everyone up a notch in consideration for fantasy rosters. Additionally, Brad Keselowski looked awfully racy, as did Joey Logano, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and David Reutimann.
The Sprint Showdown proved that a few teams, who didn't qualify for the All-Star event, aren't slouches. Marcos Ambrose and A.J. Allmendinger both ran well on short stints, but how will that translate to the long 600 miles this weekend?
Moving into the All-Star Race we saw that while Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson were all competitive as expected, the Roush Fenway boys have certainly taken a step forward.
Carl Edwards, who raced hard all night and held off a charging Kyle Busch in the closing laps, took the race. It was pure speed on Edwards' part that won him the race, but swift decisions on pit road and set up gave him the best car at the end. The No. 99 team figured out the best combination that allowed Edwards to mash the throttle earlier than any other driver out of the corner. Busch simply did not have enough grip to finish the job.
Next week is a different race at the same track, but look for the Roush Fords and Joe Gibbs Toyotas to be strong yet again.
Carl Edwards – Edwards is lucky not to be in the Downgrade column after destroying his car during his ill-advised victory celebration in the Charlotte infield following the win. Despite ruining the car, he was clearly the fastest Saturday night, and amongst all the strong Roush drivers, that is an impressive feat. He wasn't the best at Charlotte prior to last weekend with an average finish in the last five points events of 20.8, with only one top-five finish and just three lead-lap finishes. He is the most consistent performer in the series to date this season, and he has rocketed to the top of the expectation list for this week's 600-mile race.
Martin Truex Jr. – Michael Waltrip Racing typically earns strong results at Charlotte, and Truex showed his colors at the front of the field a few times during Saturday's prelude to the All-Star Race. He has two top-10 finishes in the last two points races, and the team is starting to see some better luck, a turnaround from the bad fortune that has kept the team from finishing as well as it did earlier in the year. With Truex behind the wheel, the team should be expecting to finish strong in the 600. His average finish in the last five Charlotte races is 16.8, with one top-10 finish, showing that he can finish well at the track and should have a good opportunity to do so again this Sunday.
Kyle Busch – Busch's average Charlotte finish in the last five races is 4.6, with three top-fives and four top-10s. Statistics don't get better than that, and like most weeks, Busch is a logical favorite. He finished second in the All-Star Race, and just wasn't quick enough to seal the deal. Although he looked like he would be the one to win the night, it got away from him in the closing segments. He said Edwards was able to drive off the corners better than he could. Rest assured that he and the team go into this week working hard to figure out what they can do differently. Busch will come back with a vengeance and should be a positive selection for any roster.
Kasey Kahne – Despite ending against the wall Saturday night, Kahne should always be followed closely at Charlotte. The Red Bull cars were quick Saturday night, but both encountered problems on track that stunted their results. Saturday night shouldn't be much more of a speed bump on Kahne's path to the Coca-Cola 600. He scored two top-five finishes in the last three races, with three top-five starts. And with more consistency in its finishes, this team could be in contention for a spot in the Chase for the Championship. Kahne owns three points victories at Charlotte, and has an average finish of 12.4 in the last five points races at the Speedway. He should be a serious contender Sunday evening.
David Reutimann – Charlotte Motor Speedway continues to be a special place for Reutimann. He was racy all evening and finished third in a very competitive All-Star field. Reutimann clearly has the Charlotte Motor Speedway figured out. He owns a win, two top-fives and three top-10s in the last five races there. His average finish in that span is 12.4. Both 2010 races at the track produced top-10 finishes for him, and that is something that should buoy him as he heads into the Coca-Cola 600. Reutimann got the ball rolling in Saturday night's festivities, and he will carry that momentum forward into this week's classic. If you need a b-driver for your roster, Reutimann should be your man.
Juan Pablo Montoya – Montoya finished 12th Saturday night without much fanfare. He may have poked his nose into the top runners once or twice in the All-Star Race, but he was never a factor. His season to date has been very disappointing with seven of 11 finishes outside the top 10. With just one top-10 finish in the last five Charlotte races, Montoya should not be a driver fantasy owners flock to for the 600. He failed to finish two of those races and was only on the lead lap at the end twice of the remaining three starts. His average finish in that time is 25.2, and Charlotte is a track that he has been unable to perform on.
Clint Bowyer – Bowyer finished 16th of 21 runners in Saturday's All-Star Race. Surprisingly, none of the Richard Childress Racing cars were a threat Saturday evening. He has two top-10s in the last five Charlotte races, but has only led four laps in that time. His average finish is 15.6 in the same period, and with a struggle last weekend it may not be wise to rely on him this week. The 600-mile race the drivers and teams face this weekend will give the No. 33 team more opportunities to tune its car to the conditions of the night, but Bowyer and company are already playing catch up. He may outperform expectations, but fantasy owners should look for something more secure.
Marcos Ambrose – Ambrose put in a strong showing in the Showdown, finishing third and running with the leaders through the event. The problem with that performance is that half of the field wasn't running against him. He was close to advancing into the All-Star Race, and perhaps if he had we would have a better idea of what he is capable of in next week's Coca-Cola 600. He may be a decent selection for a b- or c-list driver if you want to take a small gamble, but the short runs of the Showdown will be nothing compared to the long endurance runs of the 600. Ambrose deserves a look, but expectations should probably be adjusted when considering his point-race result average of 25.0 in the last four events.
Paul Menard – Like the other Childress cars, Menard didn't get the result he was looking for in the Showdown. He finished 11th and encountered his fair share of issues through the short 40 laps. Menard has a new lease on life since joining Childress. He is having his best season yet, and sitting 17th in points demonstrates just how far he has come. With Childress not able to show its muscle at Charlotte just yet, it may be wise to skip Menard in your lineup for the 600. He will have more opportunities as the year progresses, but with none of the Childress teammates making an impact Saturday night, Menard is not the driver to pin fantasy hopes upon.
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