Coca-Cola 600 Preview

Thursday, May 26 1362
After an eventful All-Star Weekend, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stays at Charlotte Motor Speedway this Memorial Day Weekend for the Coca-Cola 600, race No. 11. 400 laps in 600 miles make this the longest race of the season. The three-round, group-qualifying format will be executed to set the grid. With 40 drivers on the entry list, no eliminations will need to be made.


Carl Edwards is the defending race winner and currently sits fourth in the Sprint Cup Series standings. A year ago, the driver of the No. 19 Subway Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing led 25 laps and has an excellent shot at Victory Lane this weekend. Edwards has already earned two wins this spring at Bristol and Richmond while JGR as a whole has seven wins in the books this season.


Edwards believes endurance and stamina are going to be key in getting through the grueling pace of this race. "The 600 is really a tough race and it’s tough on the cars, the pit crews. It’s always been that way," he said in a Toyota press release. "The other thing that makes that race tough is throughout the race, the track changes a lot as we go into the night and you have to stay on top of it and regardless of how long it is. A lot of it is you have to be on your game at the end and those have been some long nights and I think that at the end of the day that does wear on you and you have to be prepared for it.”


For the second year in a row, NASCAR will pay tribute to U.S. Armed Forces by displaying names of fallen service members on the windshields of all 40 NSCS cars. This special gesture, also know as the '600 Miles Of Remembrance' will also be the launch of NASCAR: An American Salute which expresses respect and gratitude for past and present Armed Forces Members. Follow the conversation on social media using the #NASCARSalutes hashtag.


Kevin Harvick is currently holding on to the Sprint Cup Series lead. The driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John's Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing will make his 16th '600' start. Harvick's two spring wins at Charlotte came in 2011 and again in 2013 with a runner-up finish to Jimmie Johnson in the 2014 race. He does have a win at the October race - the Bank of America 500 in 2014 and finished runner-up to Joey Logano in last year's fall event. Harvick also boasts four top-five finishes and six top-10's on NASCAR's home track.


According to a Stewart-Haas media advance, Harvick's Charlotte record has improved since he joined the organization at the beginning of 2014. "I don’t exactly remember when it was, but I remember that it was somewhere around the 2009 or 2010 mark that the results started to get better. The first year, I think I finished second, but then it changed and we were just off," Harvick said of his pre-SHR seasons. "I think we got everything straightened out over the last couple of years. Since I got to Stewart-Haas Racing, it’s been a really good racetrack for us and the results have been great.”


Harvick also explained in the SHR advance that the temperature is the deciding factor in whether the race is physcically or mentally challenging. "It just depends on how hot it is, honestly," he said. " If it’s a good weekend and the weather is nice, then it’s more mentally challenging than physically challenging. Either way, it’s still challenging both mentally and physically in some way, shape or form. The hardest part mentally is just getting yourself to overcome that last hundred miles because you are used to the 400- or 500-mile races.”


Here are a few others to keep an eye on this weekend:


  • - Charlotte is only one of the two tracks that Kyle Busch has not won on; the other is Pocono. After winning Kansas for the first time at the beginning of the month, can the driver of the No. 18 M&M's RWB Toyota scratch another 1.5-mile oval off the list?

  • - Jimmie Johnson has won at Charlotte a total of seven times with four coming in the 600-mile event. The Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Lowe's Patriotic Chevrolet driver also has four poles to his credit. He already has a 1.5-mile win at Atlanta as well as a victory at Fontana in this season alone.

  • - Martin Truex Jr. is still looking for that elusive first win for the Colorado-based Furniture Row Racing Team. The driver of the No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota currently sits ninth in the Cup standings and has led the most laps in the two previous 1.5-mile races this spring, 141 laps at Texas and 172 laps at Kansas. Can Truex finally get off the schneid and go to Victory Lane this weekend?

  • - This weekend marks Ricky Stenhouse Jr's is 125th Sprint Cup Series start. He made his first at Charlotte when he got the chance to drive the No. 21 machine in 2011. The result was an 11th place finish, respectable for a rookie. "Charlotte has always been a special place to me,” Stenhouse said in a Roush-Fenway release. “In 2011, I got my first Sprint Cup start there in the famed No. 21. It was an honor to race for the Wood Brothers with their rich history in NASCAR. I earned my best finish of 11th here that year so hopefully we can improve this weekend and earn a top-10 finish." Stenhouse is currently 10 points out of the top-16 Chase standings with 14 races remaining in the regular season.


Qualifying for the Coca-Cola 600 can be seen today on FS1 and heard on PRN/Sirius XM Channel 90 at 7:00 PM (EDT). Race coverage will kick off Sunday at 5:00 PM (EDT) on your local FOX station, PRN and Sirius XM Channel 90.
Katie Williams

Coming off the ranch, I didn’t have a motorsports background but my passion was and still is very strong. My first taste of NASCAR came at the age of seven while waiting for music videos to come on the old TNN network. As I grew up, I pursued other interest but eventually rediscovered cars going left when I found the SPEED channel during the 2011-2012 offseason.

I didn’t decide I wanted to pursue a career in NASCAR until the summer of 2012. I’m not a wrench head or strong enough for a pit crew so media was the next best thing. At the beginning of 2013, I started going to races and making connections within the sport. I also studied Motorsports Management at Sports Management Worldwide. Although I love what happens on the track, I’ve always been interested in what goes on behind the scenes and I’ve gotten to know many people throughout the radio, TV and digital media world.

While I’m a long time writer, 2015 was my first year actually covering the sport with www.nascarfemale.com . I also became a media correspondent for Raceline. I’ve been able to help the TV show gain recognition on social media. My current goal is to acquire more experience in covering NASCAR and move up the media ladder. Outside of motorsports, I have been an equine-sports statistician for 16 years.

I currently reside in Gillette, WY where I’m still involved with horses. I enjoy riding them, rodeo, swimming, traveling and meeting people.

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