With 400 laps and 600 miles to get to the front of the field, it would stand to reason that starting at the rear of the field in Sunday night's Coca-Cola 600 isn't a death sentence. However, that isn't always the case. Drivers tend to be patient and conservative in the first half of the event, leading to long green flags and the potential to get lapped by the frontrunners. Yes, Kevin Harvick
did win last year's race after starting 28th, but only two of the last eight Coca-Cola 600s have been won by drivers starting outside the top 20. During the same stretch, five drivers have won the event from a top-10 starting spot, including for from a top-five spot.
Given the numbers, the Richard Petty Motorsports duo of Aric Almirola and Marcos Ambrose do deserve some consideration from fantasy owners this weekend. Almirola has quietly been cracking the top 20 lately, and he could parlay his first-ever Cup Series pole into another solid run. Meanwhile, Ambrose could be a threat to win Sunday night. He finished sixth and fifth and Charlotte last season and was seventh last weekend in the All-Star Race. In fact, former RPM driver A.J. Allmendinger cracked the top 10 in both races at Charlotte last season, as well. The organization runs well at the 1.5-mile track, and starting up front only increase the likelihood that Almirola and Ambrose will run well.
Of course, there is a good chance everyone is racing for second place Sunday night. After winning the All-Star Race for the third time in his career, Jimmie Johnson qualified third for the Coca-Cola 600. He has already won the event three times and has six regular season wins at Charlotte. Johnson was the class of the field last weekend by a wide margin, and he should be out front early and often after securing a great starting spot.
Other drivers starting in the top 10 that fantasy owners will want to target include Greg Biffle, Mark Martin and Kasey Kahne. The point leader will start fourth Sunday night, and Biffle has been so consistent in 2012 that it's tough to bet against him at any track. Martin will start sixth, and smooth driving style is a perfect fit for the grueling, 600-mile race. Not to mention that he has finished 12th or better in four of the five races he has qualified in the top 10 this year. Last but not least, there's Kahne. He is surging up the standings thanks to five straight top-10 finishes, and his three wins at Charlotte since the start of the 2006 season are the most in the series.
Owners looking for a driver starting deeper in the field that could make a move to the front should look no further than Matt Kenseth. He qualified an unspectacular 20th, but the guy isn't exactly known for his qualifying prowess. For the year, he has a 15.5 average starting position but is second in the series with a 7.9 average finish. Kenseth is also tied for the series lead with six top-five finishes in 2012. More importantly, he led the most laps in last year's Coca-Cola 600 and won the fall event at the track.
About Brian Polking
Racing has been part of Brian's life ever since he can remember, and he spent his childhood at dirt tracks throughout Ohio and Kentucky watching his father race. NASCAR naturally became his favorite sport, and he has been following the Cup, Nationwide and Truck Series for most of his life. Brian majored in journalism and economics at Ohio State University and becoming a sports writer has always been his dream. Although he has covered everything from minor league baseball to the NCAA tournament, his passion has always been NASCAR. Brian has served as a NASCAR writer for a variety of sites, eventually becoming head editor of the NASCAR section for Fanball.com. His knowledge of NASCAR comes from his life-long love of racing, and he tries to add a personal touch to every article he writes. Brian is always up for talking NASCAR with anyone that wants to. Brian joined KFFL's team in 2011.
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