Commentary

Flash back to Daytona: Newman gets back on track with victory at Lowe's

The Eliminator: Charlotte

Updated: May 23, 2008, 2:17 PM ET
By Matthew Willis | ESPN.com

First of all, let me clear up some rumors. No, I was not behind the "Eliminate Kyle" signs that were being held up at Darlington. But, yes, I love the free advertising and, yes, I will take the royalties.

That's right, Eliminator Fever is sweeping the country. And it's so much better than those other diseases. Seriously, who can blame them after I picked up another second-place finish at Darlington thanks to Carl Edwards?

That good run put your favorite Eliminator up to fourth in the points … if only I were running. This begs the question: Should I have been picked for the All-Star race? Debate among yourselves. (The answer is yes.)

Now it's time for the biggest weekend in racing of the year. We get 1,100 total miles of racing between the Brickyard and Charlotte, and let me tell you, that'll be a lot of nachos for yours truly.

Well, enough from me, you guys all have a column to read, but first …

Trivia break! Four active drivers have posted their first career wins in the Coca-Cola 600. Who are they?

First of all, since the inception of the All-Star race, 22 of the 23 spring Charlotte winners raced in the preceding All-Star event. The only exception is Matt Kenseth in 2000, and he's gone on to have a pretty decent career. So let's take out the drivers from the entry list who weren't involved in the main event Saturday, leaving us with 23.

Next up, since the Sprint Cup Series began racing at Fontana, in even-numbered years, every Charlotte winner was in the top 14 of the last California race … with the lone exception of Jamie McMurray, who won at Charlotte in just his second career start. That means we're left with 12 drivers from the top 14 finishers at California.

Another oval-track factoid: Dating back to 2004, only one Charlotte winner was not in the top 10 in the most recent Texas race, and that was Casey Mears, who turned an awful start last season into a Coca-Cola 600 win. But that doesn't mean I'm not going to eliminate the five drivers who finished outside the top 10 at Texas.

Seven drivers remain, but now let's flip this around. In the past two seasons, all four of the Charlotte race winners finished outside the top 20 in that race one year ago. Maybe they learned something from their experience. Anyway, that takes out another five, and we have our last two.

It's been a while since Ford's won at Charlotte -- 11 races, dating back to the 2002 600-miler with Mark Martin, who now drives a Chevrolet. That's enough to take out Matt Kenseth, and we're finally down to one.

Trivia break! Casey Mears (2007), Matt Kenseth (2000), Bobby Labonte (1995) and Jeff Gordon (1994) are the four active drivers who picked up their first career wins in the 600-mile race at Charlotte.

Flash back to the Daytona 500, because this weekend, The Eliminator's taking the "Rocket Man" -- yes, Ryan Newman -- to get back in Victory Lane. Remember, the numbers don't lie.

Eliminator breakdown

  1. Twenty-two of 23 spring Charlotte winners also raced in the All-Star race. (25 drivers eliminated, 23 remaining)
    Drivers eliminated: Stanton Barrett, Dave Blaney, Patrick Carpentier, David Gilliland, Robby Gordon, Jeff Green, Travis Kvapil, Sterling Marlin, Michael McDowell, Paul Menard, Joe Nemechek, Kyle Petty, David Ragan, Tony Raines, David Reutimann, Scott Riggs, Elliott Sadler, Johnny Sauter, Ken Schrader, Regan Smith, Reed Sorenson, Brian Vickers, Michael Waltrip, Jon Wood, J.J. Yeley.


  2. As long as the Cup series has been racing at California, the Charlotte winner has finished in the top 14 in the last California race in even years. (11 drivers eliminated, 12 remaining)
    Drivers eliminated: A.J. Allmendinger, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Sam Hornish Jr., Bobby Labonte, Mark Martin, Jamie McMurray, Casey Mears, Juan Pablo Montoya.


  3. Since 2004, all but one Charlotte winner was in the top 10 in the last Texas race. (Five drivers eliminated, seven remaining)
    Drivers eliminated: Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Martin Truex Jr.


  4. In the past two seasons, all four Charlotte winners were outside the top 20 in the previous year's Charlotte race. (Five drivers eliminated, two remaining)
    Drivers eliminated: Jeff Burton, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart.


  5. Ford hasn't won at Charlotte in 11 races. (One driver eliminated, one remaining)
    Driver eliminated: Matt Kenseth.


  6. And your winner is: Ryan Newman.

Matt Willis is a studio researcher at ESPN.