The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is in Charlotte, North Carolina for a second-consecutive week following last week’s All-Star Race for the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday. The green flag is scheduled to fly at 6 p.m. ET for the four-stage marathon.
Drivers will hoping to capitalize on the long race in an effort to catch up to Kevin Harvick, who has taken home a series-leading five wins in addition to last week’s checkered flag in the All-Star Race. Harvick has secured his spot in the playoffs alongside Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer and Austin Dillon. If a new driver wins on Sunday, he will join that group in the Round of 16, beginning Sept. 16 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Can Jimmie Johnson secure his spot in the playoffs on Sunday? USATSI
In a rare occurrence, 42-year-old Jimmie Johnson has yet to win and secure a playoff spot this season. Good news for the seven-time series champion is that he’s one of the best at Charlotte. Johnson boasts eight career wins — including four in the Coca-Cola 600 — to go along with five pole positions and the highest active driver rating (109.8).
“The 600 is a long race,” Johnson explained in a release to NASCAR. “It’s a test of endurance and patience, and you have to accommodate for track conditions changing from the day to the night.”
If anyone has the endurance to take on a 600-mile thriller, it’s Johnson. He’s an avid cyclist who has completed a 102.7-mile ride in the past, so there’s no questioning his stamina in a long event like the Coca-Cola 600.
Chase Elliott hopes to earn his first victory on Sunday. USATSI
That’s right Chase Elliott fans, despite all those second-place finishes, the driver of the No. 9 has still yet to take a trip to Victory Lane in a points race. Fortunately for Elliott, Charlotte is the mecca for first-time winners. Just ask Austin Dillon, who took his first checkered flag in this race last season.
A driver has secured his first career win at Charlotte 10 times in NASCAR history. Seven of those wins have come in the Coca-Cola 600 including such names as Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte, David Pearson, Jamie McMurray and Matt Kenseth.
We’re not just looking at Elliott here. Some other drivers on the circuit that could pull off their first-career win this weekend include Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr., Alex Bowman, William Byron and Daniel Suarez to name a few.
Kyle Busch has yet to conquer Charlotte Motor Speedway. USATSI
Kyle Busch has won at every track on the NASCAR Cup Series circuit, except one. Yup, you guessed it, that track is Charlotte Motor Speedway. Despite being historically strong at the track with 16 top-10 showings, Victory Lane has continued to elude Busch.
The driver of the No. 18 finished second in this race last year to Dillon, the third time in his career that he has done so. Busch also has four third-place finishes at the track. However with three wins on the season already and Busch leading the points, the time has never been more ripe for his first career trip to Victory Lane at Charlotte.
Brad Keselowski is honored to pay respect to fallen service members this weekend. USATSI
In honor of Memorial Day, all 41 cars entered in Sunday’s field will feature the name of a fallen soldier on their windshield. In addition NASCAR will be paying tribute to all service members that have lost their lives since last Memorial Day and each car’s tires will read “Support Our Troops” as well.
Brad Keselowski will be honoring someone extremely close to the No. 2 team. Keselowski will honor U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Chris Eckard on his windshield. Eckard, who was killed in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan in 2010, is a close friend of team chassis fabricator Casey Mahoney.
“NASCAR has always had super close ties to the military,” Keselowski explained on CBS Sports HQ. “We’re privileged and I’m glad to continue that tradition of honoring our service members this weekend.”