With the All-Star Race behind us, it’s back to points racing with one of NASCAR’s most prestigious and demanding events, the season’s only 600-mile race. Since its repaving, Lowe’s Motor Speedway has been home to fast and treacherous competition, with side by side in the corners proving next to impossible to control for drivers struggling with the handling of their racecars. A true test of man and machine, Sunday’s race will be a battle of attrition and adjustment as the track transitions from day to night. But just like Jeff Gordon’s back, the Frontstretch Fantasy Insider is ready to get your fantasy teams through 600 miles… and when our picks go three-wide, expect them to come out unscathed.
By the Numbers
The deck may seemed stacked against Gordon this weekend… he’s coming off a wreck in the All-Star Race, a back procedure earlier this week, and may well be considered the third-tier option at Hendrick Motorsports behind red hot Mark Martin and the unofficial master of Lowe’s Motor Speedway, Johnson. But Gordon’s returned to form at LMS recently… he’s scored three consecutive top-10 finishes at the track and was among the contenders for last year’s 600 crown. Gordon’s been the most consistent driver in the Cup field this year; and while a win may be pushing it, a top five seems all but assured for a driver truly in championship form. – Bryan
Call Johnson Mr. Lowe’s. His car is sponsored by Lowe’s, and he has won at the speedway sponsored by the same company five times. He’s also second in average finish since 1999 with a 8.9 average. It’s true he hasn’t been on his game here as of late; last spring, Johnson came home 39th, his worst finish here since a 39th his rookie season. In his 15 races at the track, Johnson has three finishes outside of the top 10 and eight finishes of third or better. On top of those stats, Johnson was on fire at the beginning of the All-Star Race, leading the first 50 laps. He was coming back through the pack late in the going when he was pushed into the wall and his evening was ruined. Expect the No. 48 team to come back with a vengeance this weekend, putting his stamp back on the track again. – Mike
You can’t buy momentum, and that’s fine by Tony Stewart… he’s got more than anyone out there right now. Coming off an All-Star Race performance that saw Stewart score the win only after his teammate Ryan Newman darn near stole it himself, there’s no question that Smoke and Co. are the hottest team in Sprint Cup racing right now. The first points win is next on the agenda…and considering how well they ran at LMS just a weekend ago, there’s no reason to think the No. 14 car won’t be the class of the field again on Sunday night. – Bryan
Kurt Busch was at the front of the pack all night Saturday in the All-Star Race. Busch did not lead a lap, but was running with the leaders and contending for the win for most of the night before finishing in third place. Busch was also a factor in the fall race at Lowe’s last year, putting the new Dodge engine on the track for the first time with a solid third-place finish. The combination of the success his team is having with the new engine and the strength the team has been showing all year means that Busch should be or near the front on Sunday; in fact, he very well could score his first career win at Charlotte. – Mike
It hasn’t been flashy, but Bobby Labonte has been remarkably consistent in Charlotte over the last few years. Despite driving in lower-tier Petty Enterprises equipment the past few seasons, Labonte has not finished outside the top 20 at this track since 1998. Hall of Fame Racing had a solid outing in the All-Star Race this weekend, and Labonte’s methodical aptitude at Lowe’s is well-suited to weather the inevitable attrition of the 600-miler. A top 15-20 finish is a likely forecast for the No. 96 team… and that’s money in the bank for fantasy owners’ C-tier roster. – Bryan
Sam Hornish Jr. is beginning to show some real strength in stock cars this season. In the last four races, Hornish has two top-10 finishes, and he also led the race at Talladega before bring taken out in a late-race crash. Hornish also scored his first victory in a stock car in the Sprint Showdown last weekend, showing sudden progress in his sophomore season of driving. The other factor working in Hornish’s favor is that he has run well at Charlotte. His average finish at the track is 17.5, which is certainly one of the best averages at any track in his young career. Expect Hornish to have a better than average chance of posting a good finish this weekend. – Mike
Charlotte is a very fast track that offers a very big challenge to the teams this weekend. The race transitions from daylight to night and is the longest on the schedule, meaning 600 miles on a track that changes dramatically will put the drivers and teams to the ultimate test. Remember, the one that sets up a car that can be adjusted and makes the right ones all night long will finish out front; but when all is said and done, expect to see teams that have run well here in the recent past to run well again this weekend.
Results of our experts in the Frontstretch Games
Game of Tomorrow
Hat Dance Dynasty
To help the readers track how well our experts are doing, we’ll keep track of the cumulative points scored by all three drivers every week and the total for the season.
Bryan 439 3733
Mike 336 3690