Part of the changing face of NASCAR has been a proliferation of night races. Since most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series weekends are shared with one or both of the support series, track time comes at a premium and teams are required to practice during daylight hours and then interpret their findings for night-time setups. As challenging as that is on any track, it is magnified at Charlotte Motor Speedway because this is one of the most temperature-sensitive courses on the circuit.
Teams not only need to collect a comprehensive set of notes, they basically need to plan for two separate races. Half of the Coca-Cola 600 will be completed in daylight, and the second half of the race will be contested during the night. Certainly, the second half is the most important for drivers because that’s when the checkered flag waves. In the NASCAR Fantasy Live game, however, quality passes, laps led and fastest laps posted are scored throughout the night, and that could play a vital role in who scores the most points.
The first practice began at 10 a.m., so that session was the most similar to the cooler conditions drivers will face in the evening. Already a favorite, Jimmie Johnson posted the quickest 10-lap average during the opening minutes with a speed of 188.348 mph. Jeff Gordon and Martin Truex Jr. settled in second and third on the grid, and so long as they maintain a position on the lead lap while the sun is shining, they could come on strong when the temperatures drop.
Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch, and Jamie McMurray were the top three drivers in regard to 10-lap averages in the final practice, and they could score the majority of their points in the first half of the race. At the end of the night, these six drivers could all be great values, and their fantasy value could be enhanced by the difference between their starting position and finish. Johnson, Gordon, and Truex all roll off the grid outside the top 10, which could make them more valuable overall since they will almost certainly earn positive place differential points.
Practice was not uniformly good for everyone in the field, however. Danica Patrick blew an engine in the first session and will be forced to the back of the pack to start the race. According the NASCAR Fantasy Live rules, the No. 10’s official starting position remains 24th and her place differential will be based on that. With a salary cap of $11.50, she has been a good value much of the year and earned an average of 36.1 points per race, but this could be one of the weeks when starting her is a difficult decision.
Trevor Bayne also blew an engine in practice. He will have to give up his 29th-place spot on the grid and drop to the back, which makes the No. 21 a questionable value.
Jeff Burton oiled down the track in the final practice as well, but his problem was a broken oil cooler. The No. 31 team did not have to change engines and Burton will get to keep his 27th-place position on the grid.