Coke 600 JJ's to lose? Not so fast ...

May, 26, 2011

Listen up, because I'm about to drop some knowledge on you.

I know Jimmie Johnson's six Charlotte wins make him a tempting fantasy play this weekend. But when you're picking your A-lister for Sunday evening, you should go with a guy who's never won at Charlotte.

Trust me on this one. I've got numerical evidence to support it!

So, Johnson has a sextet of Charlotte wins, but five of those came between 2003 and 2005. He had two runner-up finishes in 2006, and in the subsequent eight races, he has a single win, just one other top-5 finish and five finishes of 10th or worse.

Kyle Busch, on the other hand, is rocking a streak of seven straight finishes of eighth or better at Charlotte, with four top-three finishes in that span.

An explanation? I'm getting to it.

Last year, Busch's driver rating and number of fastest laps run were better in both Charlotte races than Johnson's marks in either of those races.

And this past fall, Busch had the best overall green-flag speed, but a win was not to be, as it went to Jamie McMurray.

But I know you want a sleeper, too, and I will deliver.

Joey Logano, in just four starts at Charlotte, has an average running position that ranks behind only Johnson's going back to 2005. He's averaging 68.5 quality passes per race, or nearly 20 more per race than what any other driver is averaging. Quality passes are green-flag passes inside the top 15 on the track.

So, don't let those early numbers sway you into picking Johnson. Or, maybe there is something behind those six wins?

The Eliminator: Charlotte

Most people just pick winners -- some by hunches, some by stats, some by just picking names off the top of their heads.

I don't pick winners; I pick losers. I'll make my race pick by telling you why all but one driver in the field just can't win.

1. Fifteen of the past 16 Charlotte winners had a previous top-10 finish at the track (15 drivers eliminated, 33 remaining).

2. The past 10 Sprint Cup Series winners this season finished 18th or better in their most recent race at the track (18 eliminated, 15 remaining).

3. Ten of the past 11 600-mile race winners at Charlotte finished in the top 20 in that season's Daytona 500 (seven eliminated, eight remaining).

4. The past five Charlotte winners finished 19th or better in the most recent Chicago and Kansas races (three eliminated, five remaining).

5. The past three Charlotte winners had a top-three finish in that season's Southern 500 (four eliminated, one remaining).

Your winner: Carl Edwards.

Matt Willis | email

ESPN Staff Writer
Matt Willis has been a studio researcher at ESPN since 2006, working on "NASCAR Now" and "SportsCenter," among other shows. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2006 with a degree in journalism. While there, he worked on ICTV, on shows such as "Ya Think You Know Sports?" and "Sports Final." He also was a member of the IC Comedy Club and figures about half of the jokes he makes in his column are actually funny.



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