NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Fantasy Friday: Don’t expect a comeback from Gordon, others

It’s Week 5 of the Chase, and really, the same guys who were on top going into Talladega are on top going into Charlotte. This is generally not considered a shakeup-the-standings kind of race, but if we look at the recent history of Chase drivers at Charlotte, it could provide a bit of a shuffle. With that in mind, here are this week’s picks.

Top 5 Picks

1. Kyle Busch. Of course. we know he’s a non-Chaser, but he’s led 474 laps in the last five races at Charlotte. And even though he hasn’t won any of those, he has four top-5 finishes in those races. The luck has got to change sometime and it could be Saturday night.

2. Kasey Kahne. He’s on the fringe here, at 36 points behind Keselowski for the lead. Charlotte has been a good track for him and has a win, a top 5 and a top 10 in the last five starts at Charlotte. It could be his best chance to become a legitimate contender for the title.

3. Matt Kenseth. He’s got a win, a top 5 and three top 10s in the last five races here. Sure, he’s in 12th in the Chase and 62 points out, so he’s got nothing to go for but the win here.

4. Kevin Harvick. He has an average finish of 6.8 in the last five races here, including a win. And he has yet to win this year, so he is due.

5. Jeff Gordon. Fans of the No. 24 driver are saying if that throttle hadn’t stuck at Chicago he’d be right in the Chase picture and they’d be right. He does have five career wins at the track and with his back-to-back second-place finishes in the last two weeks, maybe a win is in the cards here.

Shoulda, woulda, coulda: Jimmie Johnson. It’s always dangerous to not pick Johnson at this track. He’s got six career wins at Charlotte, but in the last five races he has an average finish of 22.6, not exactly the type of numbers you’d expect from the five-time champion.

Here’s a look at how last week’s picks fared in Week 4 of the Chase at Talladega.

Kevin Harvick – 11th. He was in the mix up front in the later stages and avoided the big one at the end for an OK finish.

Clint Bowyer – 23rd. He was contending for the win until his No. 15 Toyota crashed the scene with Tony Stewart’s No. 14 Chevy.

Brad Keselowski – 7th. The points leader did what eventual champions do at Talladega … avoid the big one.

Tony Stewart – 22nd. Being a second late on the blocking tactic while in the lead on the last lap at Talladega cost him a potential win and likely any shot at second straight Sprint Cup title.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – 20th. Was trying to push his way to the front when he was swallowed up by the Big One.

Season Stats

150 Predictions
15 Wins
48 Top 5s
69 Top 10s

Grade for the week: C-. Only giving this grade because it was Talladega and really, no one knows what will happen there.

One last thing: The only non-Chase driver to win a Charlotte Chase race is Jamie McMurray in 2010.

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