Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (Cup Series) Predictions and Odds

  • Despite his spotty record at Charlotte, Kyle Busch is the betting favorite to win his second Coke 600 in three years.
  • Toyota drivers have won the last three oval races at the 1.5-mile intermediate speedway. Will that streak continue on Sunday?
  • Since 2002, no Ford driver has won NASCAR’s longest race, but the Blue Oval camp has plenty of ammunition this year.
WhatCoca-Cola 600 NASCAR Cup Series race
WhereCharlotte Motor Speedway
WhenSunday, May 24, 6 p.m. EST
How to watchFOX

When track owner Bruton Smith decided to compete for attention with the Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day weekend, he needed a way to differentiate his race from the spectacle in Indiana. Accordingly, Smith added 100 miles to the length of his debut race at Charlotte Motor Speedway and created what was then the World 600. Since its first running in 1960, the 600 has earned its well-deserved reputation as NASCAR’s longest and most grueling event.

This year’s Coca-Cola 600 won’t have any competition. Roger Penske, who bought the IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway this past winter, has moved the Indy 500 to late August because of the coronavirus pandemic. The F1 race at Monaco, also scheduled for Sunday, has been canceled for the same reason. That leaves the Coke 600 as the marquee sports event of the weekend.

Coca-Cola 600 Odds

The odds for the Coca-Cola 600 are provided by DraftKings.

Kyle Busch+550
Kevin Harvick+600
Martin Truex Jr.+600
Brad Keselowski+800
Joey Logano+800
Chase Elliott+900
Denny Hamlin+900
Alex Bowman+1600
Jimmie Johnson+1600
William Byron+2200
Ryan Blaney+2500
Kurt Busch+2500
Clint Bowyer+2500
Erik Jones+2500
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.+3300
Aric Almirola+4000
Matt Kenseth+4000
Tyler Reddick+5000

Odds taken May 23 from DraftKings.

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Kyle Busch Is the Favorite to Win the Coke 600? Really?

Sure, Kyle Busch won NASCAR’s longest race two years ago, but that’s the only time the driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota has taken the checkered flag in a points-paying event at Charlotte. There are those who believe Busch (+550) finally broke his Charlotte jinx with that 2018 victory, but the reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion still has a lot to prove at the challenging 1.5-mile intermediate speedway.

Busch comes to CMS an uncharacteristic 0-for-3 in the first three of seven events he plans to run over an 11-day period. In Thursday’s rain-delayed NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Darlington Raceway, Busch lost an intense battle against 25-year-old Chase Briscoe in the closing laps, finishing second by .086 seconds. The night before, in the Toyota 500k Cup race, Busch was runner-up to JGR teammate Denny Hamlin, but only after making an egregious mistake that sent Chase Elliott’s Chevrolet careening into the inside frontstretch wall.

So Busch enters the Coke 600 at a track where he has had limited success after failing to win any of his three starts in the resumption of racing after a 10-week hiatus necessitated by the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Again, why is he the favorite?

Can Toyota Continue to Assert Superiority at Charlotte

In Busch’s defense, he’s one of four drivers on a factory-backed Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota team that has won the last three points events on the Charlotte Motor Speedway oval. If you’re looking for a better bet than Busch, however, Martin Truex Jr. (+600) has shown a knack for the 1.5-mile track in recent years, winning the Coke 600 twice (2016 and 2019) and the last fall oval race at Charlotte before the track introduced its Roval (infield road course) for the October event in 2018.

In fact, Truex recorded the most dominant performance in NASCAR history in his 2016 victory, leading 392 of the 400 laps for a record 588 of 600 miles. The bottom line? If Truex’s crew chief, James Small, hits the setup on Sunday, the driver of the No. 19 JGR Toyota could be unbeatable.

Coming off a Wednesday night victory at Darlington, Denny Hamlin is a threat, too. Though Hamlin hasn’t won in 27 starts at Charlotte, he has nine top fives and 17 top 10s to his credit. All of those top fives and 14 of those top 10s have come in Hamlin’s last 17 starts at the speedway. A two-time winner this season (including the Daytona 500), Hamlin (+900) is in the best shape of his life—a plus for a 600-mile race—and is worthy of serious consideration. Hamlin also has two poles at the track, and the 600 is the only event in the 11-day stretch to feature qualifying.

Ford Seeks to Overcome Frustration in Crown Jewel Event

NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin’s victory in the 2002 Coca-Cola 600 was the fourth of four straight for Ford drivers (and for team owner Jack Roush), but since then the cupboard has been bare for the Blue Oval contingent. Matt Kenseth (2011), Brad Keselowski (2013) and Joey Logano (2015) have taken checkered flags in the fall 500-miler at Charlotte, but no Ford driver since Martin has won NASCAR’s longest race. That’s an astounding statistic, given the surfeit of talent behind the wheels of the Ford Performance cars.

The Ford camp features Kevin Harvick (+600), who won the 600 in a Chevrolet during his 2014 championship season. Harvick also triumphed in NASCAR’s re-opening Cup race on Sunday at Darlington. Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Clint Bowyer (+2500) swept the first two stages Wednesday night at Darlington before a late crash ended his winning chances, and SHR’s Aric Almirola also has shown excellent speed.

The Team Penske trio of Keselowski, Logano and Ryan Blaney also are threats to win, though all three turned in inconsistent performances in the two Darlington races, with Keselowski’s fourth-place result on Wednesday night the only top five between them. Returning from a head injury suffered in the Daytona 500, Roush Fenway’s Ryan Newman (+8000) scored 14th- and 15th-place finishes at the Lady in Black and is a decent bet to post a top 10 on Sunday at +325.

Our Pick

Martin Truex Jr. (+600)—Among the three best Toyotas, Truex gets the nod over Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin, thanks to his three wins in the last six oval races at the track. For those inclined to take a flier on a long shot, we think Tyler Reddick is significantly undervalued at +5000. The 600 often comes down to fuel mileage, and anything can happen.

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