The longest race of the year is set to begin Sunday evening. The Coca-Cola 600 tests not just patience, but endurance as well. A 600 mile race that consists of 400 laps at Charlotte Motor Speedway where speeds hit 200+ MPH is sure to give the fans a lot of action. Who will be able to set themselves up to sketch their name into the history books? Let’s take a look.
Since joining the ranks of NASCAR full-time back in 2013, Patrick’s career has been more underachieved than not. Charlotte Motor Speedway and the Coca-Cola 600 is no exception for the five-year veteran. In five career starts in the longest race of the season, Patrick has never finished in the top-20. In fact, an average finish of 28.2 in the 400 lap contest is all Patrick has been able to muster. A Coca-Cola 600 victory isn’t likely this year.
A change of scenery is all Bowyer needed to get on the right “track” this season. Since joining Stewart-Haas Racing in 2017, Bowyer has managed two Top-5s and five Top-10s in 11 contests. Outside of a 32nd place finish in the Daytona 500, Bowyer hasn’t finished worse than 15th this season.
That could be in jeopardy this weekend. In 11 starts in the Coca-Cola 600, Bowyer has only recorded two Top-10 finishes. Along with the lack of finishing up front, Bowyer has also logged a poorest 19.2 average finish. The change of scenery has done wonders this year, but it won’t help put Bowyer in Victory Lane Sunday night.
Dale Earnhardt Jr
Sunday night will mark the last time Dale Jr suits up in the Coca-Cola 600. It may be hard for some drivers in their last competitions at certain tracks or events, but this race or track for that matter, isn’t one that Junior will miss. Outside of Homestead Speedway and Watkins Glen, Charlotte Motor Speedway is the worse track on the circuit for Dale Jr.
While the long time veteran was able to score an All-Star race at CMS in 2000, Junior has never won a regular season contest there. Over 18 contests in the 600 mile race, Earnhardt Jr has only been able to obtain three Top-5 finishes. His final start in the famed race may give the driver a spark and vote of confidence, but don’t expect to see the 88 doing any burnouts after the Checkered flag is waved.
Coming off his first career All-Star race win last week, Busch looks to have his troubles at CMS behind him. All though it wasn’t a regular season win, that win gets the “monkey” off of Busch’s back.
The dimmer side of this is the actual history in which “rowdy” has made in the Coca-Cola 600, and it’s not too good. Over his last four contests in this spectacle, Busch has an average finish of 22.75.
Another part of history that is good news/bad news for Busch is this; Only seven times have a driver been able to win the All-Star race and Coca-Cola 600 in the same season. The last one to do it was Kyle’s brother, Kurt, in 2010.
So far in 2017, Ryan Blaney can phrase it as “the year they got away”. “They” in that phrase meaning wins. Had things gone the right way, Blaney could have two or three wins under his belt heading into the 1/3 point of the season. That’s the thing about this sport though, you have to either driver a great race mistake free or have luck on your side. Blaney unfortunately hasn’t been able to have either.
That may change Sunday night as he will be on his favorite type of track, 1.5 miles. In four races this season on intermediate tracks, Blaney has scored three Top-5s and an average finish of 10th. Will he have one of the two major factors on his side to get his first career win?
Like Blaney, Elliott is looking to get his first career win. Elliott is in a bit of a slump as he has finished 24th or worse in the last three races. CMS may be the cure he is needing.
In his first race at the Coca-Cola 600 as a full time driver, Elliott notched an eighth place finish. In fact, while racing in 18 contests at intermediate tracks, Elliott has five Top-5s and ten Top-10s. What better way of getting your first career win than in one of the biggest races of the year?
“The Closer” as many call him, has a top-tier resume in the Coca-Cola 600. Harvick has been to Victory Lane three times, but what he’s done in his last six contests may be more impressive. After notching his second career win in the 600 mile race in 2011, Harvick has compiled four Top-5s, six Top-10s, and an average finish of 3.6.
To make matters better for the 17-year veteran is he will start on the pole Sunday night. Clean air does a car well. If Harvick can stay out of trouble and have a clean night on pit road, he may be able to notch his fourth career Coca-Cola 600 win.
Jimmie Johnson is looking to make history Sunday night when he suits up for his 16th career Coca-Cola 600. If Mr. “Seven Time” ends up in Victory Lane, he will tie Hall of Famer, Darrell Waltrip, for most wins all-time in that race.
Johnson has complied four wins, six Top-5s and eight Top-10s in this race. Over the past three 600s, Johnson has two Top-3s. The 48 has already notched two victories in 2017, a third win at this magnitude has Johnson hungry.