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.
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.
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.
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.