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Coca-Cola 600: Make sure your driver has seat up front

By Pete Pistone  ( 

May 23, 2020 11:12 AM

NASCAR’s successful return for a pair of events at Darlington Raceway was a success both on and off the track. The series put on a couple of entertaining races at the iconic South Carolina track while also demonstrating proper protocols and policies to ensure the safety and health of the competitors. 

Now the sport heads to its home track at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the longest race of the season and Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600. It is the annual test of man versus machine that has been a Memorial Day weekend staple since 1960.

However as NASCAR racing evolved from those early days of the 600, so has the complexion of the race. The machines have gotten better and attrition, which was a huge part of the race in its formative years. But even though the cars are less apt to fail over the course of the nearly five-hour affair, it’s still much a grueling race for those behind the wheel. 

There have been surprise winners in the race’s history and the additional 100

miles more than any other race on the schedule can definitely produce 

unexpected results. Unlike the two Darlington races, there will be qualifying Sunday before the 600. Historically starting positions matter in terms of outcome. A total of 59 drivers have won in Charlotte’s 119 races by starting in the front two rows. Only one driver has been able to be victorious from as far back at 37th spot.

Kyle Busch

Statistically speaking, Charlotte has not been one of Busch’s better tracks 

during his NASCAR Cup career even though he won the 600 two years ago and finished third in 2019. Busch’s overall average finish is 11.9 over the last ten races at the 1.5-mile track. He has also finished in the first three in the last three races of the 2020 season including a second place performance Wednesday night in Darlington.

Martin Truex Jr.

Truex Jr. has not finishes outside the top five in six of the last seven Charlotte 

races a stretch that includes a pair of victories. His 2016 performance 

remains one of the most dominating wins in recent NASCAR history when he 

obliterated the field leading all but eight laps. Truex Jr. has the best average 

finish of any driver dating back to 2014 at 6.8. 

Jimmie Johnson

He owned Charlotte at one point in his career. Eight total wins and 1,930 

career laps led tell the story of Johnson’s dominance. While he continues to 

look for a way to snap a now two-year winless drought, optimism around 

Johnson’s effort this year is growing. He rides into Charlotte this weekend on 

the strength of two top-10 finishes at the track as well as an eighth place effort Wednesday night in Darlington.

Denny Hamlin

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver scored his second win of 2020 this week in Darlington and comes to Charlotte with a great deal of momentum but more importantly with a team very capable of making it back to back trips to Victory Lane. He has three top five finishes in the last six Charlotte races and won on the oval track back in 2014. 

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