NASCAR & Auto Racing

NASCAR: Coca-Cola 600 preview in 3 minutes

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Jeff Gordon makes his final start in the Coca-Cola 600, 21 years after earning his first Cup series victory in the same race. That was 91 wins ago.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Jeff Gordon makes his final start in the Coca-Cola 600, 21 years after earning his first Cup series victory in the same race. That was 91 wins ago. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Everything you need to know about Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, in three minutes:

Three things to watch

1. Between them, Jimmie Johnson (four) and Kevin Harvick (three) have won the last seven Cup series races held on 1.5-mile tracks dating back to last season. And Harvick has won three of the last eight races at Charlotte, including last fall.

2. After a victory in the All-Star Race, Denny Hamlin is attempting to become the eighth driver to win both the All-Star Race and the 600 in the same season. The most recent was Kurt Busch (2010).

3. Jeff Gordon makes his final start in the 600, 21 years after earning his first Cup series victory in the same race. That was 91 wins ago.

Observations

▪ Talk about endurance. Cup series driver Landon Cassill plans to run 14 miles from Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord all the way to the NASCAR Hall of Fame in uptown Charlotte after the conclusion of Sunday night’s 600, the longest NASCAR race of the season. Cassill is an avid triathlete and competes in four triathlons per year. His goal is to qualify for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Austria.

▪ Nothing will put Kyle Busch to the test than a 600-mile event for his first points race since returning from a broken leg and foot. How competitive he and his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team is will also offer a clue as to whether making the Chase is plausible for him this season.

▪ Nobody celebrates Memorial Day better than NASCAR. On Sunday, fans will see familiar names such as “Harvick,” “Kenseth” and “Almirola” replaced on car windshields with “SGT Mracek,” “HM3 Layton” and “CPT Argel” – all members of the U.S. armed forces who have fallen in service to their country.

Best bets

Three picks for your fantasy team:

Jimmie Johnson: He may have struggled in the All-Star Race, but he’s won four of the last seven races on 1.5-mile tracks and has been fast in practice this weekend.

Matt Kenseth: Toyotas appear to have rectified their speed problem, at least at Charlotte. Kenseth is the master of being around at the end and in position to win.

Jamie McMurray: He’s been on the cusp of winning this season and has a stout record at Charlotte.

He said it

“This track is tricky. It is tough to get it right. Luckily, it’s a long race and if need be in the race, we will make big changes.” – Jimmie Johnson

Notes

Ragan picking up speed: David Ragan, running just his second race of the season in Michael Waltrip Racing’s No. 55 Toyota, is off to a strong start this weekend at Charlotte. He has been consistently fast in practice and qualified seventh for Sunday’s 600, his second-best start of the season.

“The Coca-Cola 600 is mentally and physically a tough race for a driver. It’s tough on our pit crew and tough on the team for making the calls,” Ragan said. “I’m excited to have a good jump to the weekend.

“Our pit crew is really going to help us out on Sunday – they are one of the best on pit road and we’re going to have 10-12 pit stops on Sunday so I’m looking forward to leaning on them a little bit.”

Special dedication: Earlier this week, Fox Sports’ “NASCAR Race Hub” studio in Charlotte was dedicated to the memory of Steve Byrnes, who died last month after a long battle with cancer. Steve’s 12-year-old son, Bryson, helped unveil a plaque that will sit in the studio honoring his late father.

“This studio is dedicated in memory of and in utmost appreciation for the time Steve Byrnes spent not only within its four walls, but in our lives,” it reads in part.

N@SCAR

Getting there

Race facts

Coca-Cola 600

Where: Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord.

Track type: 1.5-mile paved, banked oval.

Race distance: 600 miles, or 400 laps.

Green flag: 6:18 p.m.

Weather: Sunny with high in the 80s.

TV: Fox.

Radio: Performance Racing Network.

  Comments