This article is part of our DFS NASCAR series.
Location: Concord, N.C.
Course: Charlotte Motor Speedway
Format: 1.5-mile quad-oval
Defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliott finally got his first win of 2021 last week in a rain-shortened adventure at Circuit of the Americas. The decision to end the race early was very fortunate for him, since he was about two laps short on fuel and would have had to give up the lead to ensure he made it to the finish. Interestingly, Elliott is also the most recent series victor on the oval at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He won the midweek race last season following the Coca-Cola 600 in the pandemic-altered schedule. Penske Racing's Brad Keselowski is the defending winner of this week's race, however. The 600-mile event is the longest in NASCAR and presents unique challenges to teams as a result. It will be the 62nd running of the Memorial Day weekend fixture, and this week gives drivers and teams on-track practice and qualifying in a rarity for the 2021 season.
Key Stats at Charlotte Motor Speedway
- Number of races: 122
- Winners from pole: 17
- Winners from top-5 starters: 68
- Winners from top-10 starters: 90
- Winners from 21st or lower starters: 10
- Fastest race: 160.655 mph
Previous 10 Charlotte Winners
2020 II - Chase Elliott
2020 I - Brad Keselowski
2019 - Martin Truex Jr.
2018 - Kyle Busch
2017 fall - Martin Truex Jr.
2017 spring - Austin Dillon
2016 fall - Jimmie Johnson
2016 spring - Martin Truex Jr.
2015 fall - Joey Logano
2015 spring - Carl Edwards
Charlotte is a fast 1.5-mile oval. Over half of the 122 races held on the circuit have been won by drivers starting in the top five, and nearly 75 percent of those races were won by someone starting in the top 10. That trend is likely to continue this week with the return of practice and qualifying. Drivers who have fast cars early in the weekend have the ability to build on that early speed and then drive away from the competition once the green flag waves. Charlotte's wide turns and 24-degree banking offer multiple grooves for drivers to change their lines as the handling of their cars changes. The space also opens the door for passing, and the current rules package featuring the tapered spacer is going to create wild restarts. With 600 miles of racing, strategy can be a factor. Teams will plan from the finish backward to determine their pit windows, but late cautions could encourage gambling with fuel-only or two-tire stops to gain track position.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
DraftKings Tier 1 Values
DraftKings Tier 2 Values
DraftKings Tier 3 Values
DraftKings Long-Shot Values
MY PICKS THIS WEEK
Lower-Risk Lineup ($50K Salary Cap)
Denny Hamlin (DK $10,800, FD $12,500) hasn't yet won this season and also has never won at Charlotte. However, it still seems like just a matter of time before he finds the breakthrough this year, and doing so at a track he has never won at is entirely plausible. He drove from the 29th starting position to second in the second race at the track last season. Alex Bowman (DK $9,400, FD $10,000), on the other hand, already has two wins this season and will be looking for a third this Sunday. He has two top-10s at Charlotte and led 215 laps in the two races there last year. Ryan Blaney (DK $9,000, FD $11,000) may have only led two laps at Charlotte last season, but he finished third in both races. Those are his best finishes at the track from 10 starts. Austin Dillon (DK $7,700, FD $8,500) won the Coca-Cola 600 in 2017. He also finished eighth in the second race there last season. Roush Fenway Racing and Chris Buescher (DK $6,700, FD $6,500) have been fast on 1.5-mile ovals. They first showed their hand at Homestead but have continued to demonstrate that speed on these circuits. Charlotte should be a good chance for them to do so again. Buescher finished 10th in the 600 last season without the same speed, which indicates he could be in store for another top-10 this week. Chase Briscoe (DK $6,200, FD $6,000) is another driver seeing a recent upturn in results. He was 11th at Darlington and sixth last week at COTA. His four top-20 finishes from the last five races are his first since the dirt race at Bristol. He will do double duty this week in the Xfinity Series, which gives him an advantage for Sunday in knowing how the track will evolve throughout the distance.
Higher-Risk Lineup ($50K Salary Cap)
Kyle Larson (DK $11,300, FD $14,000) hasn't had the best results at Charlotte so far in his Cup Series career, but judging by his speed each week so far this season, his best result yet could come this week. He has only led 20 laps in 11 starts and has a best finish of fifth. William Byron (DK $9,200, FD $10,500) is challenging for the most consistent driver this season. He is second in points only to Hamlin and hasn't finished outside of the top 11 since the road course race at Daytona. Byron finished 12th and led 11 laps in the second Charlotte race last season. Tyler Reddick (DK $8,200, FD $8,700) finished eighth in the 600 last season and went on to finish 14th in the second race. He currently holds the final playoff spot in the standings with a 38-point advantage over Matt DiBenedetto. After an encouraging start to the season, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (DK $ 7,400, FD $7,700) finds himself slumping. He hasn't finished in the top 15 since Martinsville but was 12th in Atlanta and finished fourth in the second Charlotte race last season. Bubba Wallace (DK $7,000, FD $5,000) has been improving with his new team nearly every week, and Charlotte could be a race at which he outperforms expectations. He was 16th at Atlanta and scored his best finish of the season two weeks ago at Dover. Fantasy players not paying attention to Ross Chastain (DK $6,900, FD $6,000) may want to start now. He has quietly put together a nice string of results inside the top 20 and scored his best finish of the year last week in Texas. He was 14th at Atlanta earlier this year, which suggests he should be in store for a top-15 this week, too.