May 23, 2008
Experts' Picks: Coca-Cola 600
  My Pick: Jimmie Johnson
Why he'll win: Never bet against Johnson at Charlotte, where he's won five times. The two-time defending champion has been quiet the past three races, failing to crack the top 10, but he'll be on his game on Sunday at the track that's sponsored by Lowe's, which is also the sponsor of Johnson's car.
Keep an eye on: Carl Edwards -- Edwards has been the series' dominant driver this season on 1.5-mile tacks like Charlotte. He's won three times and should have had a fourth victory in Atlanta, where his engine blew late.
Don't expect much from: Casey Mears -- Though Mears won this event last season on fuel mileage, he has done little memorable since that night and he's currently mired in a serious slump. In his last two starts he hasn't finished higher than 35th and he's 27th in points. There's chatter in the garage that he may lose his ride with Hendrick at season's end if he doesn't start producing better results.
  My Pick: Jimmie Johnson
Why he'll win: He's already won as many races at Charlotte as teammate Jeff Gordon (5), but with less than half as many starts (13 to 30). If anybody is going to break through against Kyle Busch this week, my money is on JJ.
Keep an eye on: Carl Edwards -- Besides the Shrub, ol' Carl has been (at times) the most dominant driver on the circuit this year. All three of his wins have come on intermediate tracks, and he was second last time out at Darlington. Edwards will be in it to win it on Sunday.
Don't expect much from: Greg Biffle -- Did you know he was still in the top 12? For a streaky driver, the Biff is having a troubling run of mediocre luck. In his last six races, he's got just one top 10 and four finishes outside of the top 15. At Lowe's, where he has just three top-10 finishes in 10 starts, I don't expect this trend to reverse itself.
  My Pick: Jimmie Johnson
Why he'll win: Johnson looked like junk in the All-Star Race, but the man who once won four straight points races at Lowe's rebounded to finish fourth in the final segment. Crew chief Chad Knaus always has some tricks up his sleeve, and Johnson knows how to handle the grueling test of that last 100 miles.
Keep an eye on: Kyle Busch -- The way he's performed these last few weeks, how could you not keep an eye on the point leader? Busch won the last time out at Darlington, then dominated the All-Star Race until his engine fell apart 38 laps in. As long as the horsepower holds up this time around, expect Busch to be strong once again.
Don't expect much from: Jedff Burton -- By his standards, Burton's struggled these last few weeks, finishing 12th, 11th, and 10th before struggling in the All-Star Race. You shouldn't expect him to turn things around in the matter of seven days -- Burton's led a total of 15 laps in his last thirteen points races at Lowe's.
  My Pick: Jimmie Johnson
Why he'll win: It's Charlotte. It's Johnson. It's time for the two-time defending champion to get back on the beam -- in the standings and at this track -- at a place where he's won five of 13 starts (but not since the fall of 2005).
Keep an eye on: Kasey Kahne -- A two-time Charlotte winner, he's led 550 of the 2,860 laps he's run in eight starts there.
Don't expect much from: Casey Mears -- His first career win in this race last season was fluky, though a testament to the tactile nature of his right foot, as he milked enough out of his fuel cell the last 59 laps to win a test of attrition. Won't happen again.
  My Pick: Kyle Busch
Why he'll win: He's been the best driver all season but Sunday night will be his longest contest, yet. But in a season where "Rowdy" has been able to find himself up front, why should Sunday night at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte be any different?
Keep an eye on: Kasey Kahne -- After winning last week's All-Star Race when he was voted in by the fans, Kahne's $1 million luck may continue in the 600. This is often a race that benefits a driver that is not necessarily have the best race of the season. After all, does anyone remember that Kasey Kahne won last year's 600?
Don't expect much from: Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- Although he's starting sixth, Earnhardt's winless streak keeps clicking away. A win in the Coca-Cola 600 would be the boost he needs but don't expect it to happen until later this season.
  My Pick: Carl Edwards
Why he'll win: Edwards has been in command this season on the 1.5- and 2-mile tracks, winning at the California Speedway in Fontana, Las Vegas and Texas. He was leading on the third 1.5, Atlanta, when he fell out with mechanical problems. Edwards also was second at 1.3 Darlington, which says something about the No. 99 team's adaptability from the cookie-cooker tracks. They've been one step ahead all season on tracks like Lowe's and it will take a while for somebody to overtake them.
Keep an eye on: Jimmie Johnson -- He's been inconsistent on the 1.5-mile tracks, second at Fontana and Texas, 29th at Las Vegas and 13th at Atlanta, but the No. 48 team has had time to figure out what works and what doesn't and should be ready for a challenging run in the 600. Johnson won the race in 2003, '04 and '05 and also has two wins in the 500-mile fall race.
Don't expect much from: Kurh Busch -- After finishing second at Daytona, he's gone 10 straight races without a top-10. On the 1.5-mile tracks, he was decent at Atlanta, finishing 11th, but was 23rd at Texas and 38th at Las Vegas.
  My Pick: Carl Edwards
Why he'll win: Edwards has been dominant this season on the intermediate tracks configured similarly to Lowe's Motor Speedway. He's also got a strong track record at Charlotte, having finished in the top 10 in five of his six career starts at the track.
Keep an eye on: Jimmie Johnson -- Johnson's average finish of 6.8 at Charlotte is the best in the history of the track among drivers who have more than one start. Unfortunately for Johnson, he's been hit or miss at intermediate tracks in 2008 and during last Saturday's All-Star race it was miss.
Don't expect much from: Jeff Gordon -- Gordon loves racing at Lowe's and won the Charlotte race last fall, but he hasn't had anything near a winning car at the 1.5-mile ovals in 2008. At Texas, his car was awful.

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