Now that the Sprint All-Star race is complete, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will head back to Charlotte Motor Speedway for a much more important and longer race. The Coca-Cola 600 begins in the day and ends at night. While the All-Star race was more of a sprint to the finish, the 600 will have more to do with endurance. Several drivers shined in the All-Star race, but can they carry that over to the 600 on Sunday night? It may not be a matter of who is fast or slow but a matter of who can last the longest during the most grueling race of the season.
Who will outlast all the other competitors to win the race? … The Coca-Cola 600 is an endurance race. Most races during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series are no longer than 400 or 500 miles long. With this race being over 100 miles longer than these drivers used to, keeping hydrated and rested up for the race will be vital to winning the race. The drivers will have to pace themselves during the race and not push the issue before the end.
Will we see the Kyle Busch/Denny Hamlin feud continue? … Busch and Hamlin are clearly not happy with each other. At the very least, they have a pretty heavy disagreement going on right now. Both drivers were strong during the All-Star race, and there’s no reason to think they won’t be again this weekend for the Coca-Cola 600. If both drivers last until the end of the race, it’s more than likely they will be racing each other for the win once again. Busch felt he was wronged. Hamlin felt like he was maintaining his position and had every right to do so. Drivers never forget. Keep an eye on the No. 11 and No. 18 on Sunday night.
Which drivers will carry over their success from the All-Star race to the 600? … Aside from the strength of the Joe Gibbs Racing drivers and race winner Kurt Busch, drivers like Jimmie Johnson, Martin Truex Jr., and Tony Stewart showed some strength. All-Star success does not always translate to a Coke 600 victory. However, Kasey Kahne would beg to differ (Kahne won both the All-Star race and the Coke 600 in 2008. The Saturday night All-Star race makes a great test session for the Sunday night 600-miler race. If drivers can keep themselves out of trouble, drivers such as Busch (both of them), Johnson, and Hamlin should all be strong at the end of the race on Sunday night.
Have race fans died and gone to Heaven? … Every race fan marks this weekend on their racing calendar. This Sunday, the Indianapolis 500, the crown jewel of auto racing, will run just hours before NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600. 1100 miles of racing? What race fan could ask for more? A full day of intense racing action across two different series gives race fans something to look forward to every Memorial Day weekend.
Will Jimmie Johnson make a comeback this weekend? … Johnson hasn’t particularly struggled, but he hasn’t been contending for the win the past few points races. However, in the All-Star race on Saturday night, Johnson was won 2 of the 4 segments. He spun while racing Hamlin for the second position, admittedly pushing the issue and trying to make a pass his car clearly wasn’t handling well enough for. Bottom line, he was competitive. Johnson has always been competitive at the track that used to be called “Lowe’s Motor Speedway.” Lowe’s is Johnson’s sponsor and the four-time champion has dominated and won many races here. It would be a great race to shake off the “slump” talk and work on getting back that points lead.
Bonus questions: What will you be doing to celebrate Memorial Day other than watching racing? … What is your favorite paint scheme of the weekend? … Anyone interested in taking Bruton Smith’s challenge to win both the Indy 500 and Coke 600?
Photo courtesy of NASCAR Media. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author.