The NASCAR season continues this weekend with a full schedule at Charlotte Motor Speedway. This weekend will provide even more racing for fans, as the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series will join the Xfinity and Cup Series at the track. As we get ready to take in all the action, here are some things to keep an eye on.
First Cup race with live qualifying
Last week at Darlington, the starting grid was selected randomly for the first race, then set by finishing position for the second race. This weekend, the Cup Series will have live qualifying for the longest race of the season. The qualifying order will be selected randomly, and the cars will hit the track at 2:00 p.m. EDT, with the race starting at 6:00 p.m. EDT. One last important note here is that pit stalls have already been assigned for the weekend, which means they won’t be selected based on qualifying results.
Expect the Toyotas to be strong
The Toyotas rebounded well during the second race at Darlington, and that stout performance is expected to roll over to Charlotte this weekend. Joe Gibbs Racing has won three of the last five Coca-Cola 600s (while former Furniture Row racing won back in 2016 with Martin Truex Jr.). This means a Toyota has gone to Victory Lane in four of the last five 600s, with current Gibbs drivers behind the wheel for all but one of those wins. If I had to make a prediction right now, I’d say Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. are going to be very strong on Sunday.
Memorial Day Moments
One of the coolest parts about this race weekend is how NASCAR does such a great job of reminding us all of the importance of Memorial Day. Drivers carry the names of fallen soldiers on the windshields of their cars, the race stops at the halfway point for a moment of silence (which will be even more somber with no fans in the stands), and almost every car comes to the track with a new, patriotic paint scheme that looks perfect at night under the glowing lights.
Kyle Busch vs. Chase Elliott
This point might be a little deceiving. I don’t expect anything to carry over from Wednesday night’s race that ended with Kyle unintentionally wrecking Chase, however, there’s a new battle coming between the two that fans should get excited about. Chase Elliott will be in the Truck Series field this weekend along with Kyle Busch, as he tries to win the infamous bounty that was placed on Busch’s head by Kevin Harvick. Harvick has yet to officially announce if the $100,000 bounty is still up for grabs, but even if it isn’t, it will be great to see these two go head-to-head in the truck series.
This weekend sets the table for Atlanta
Two races at Charlotte will really help teams get dialed in for the race weekend at Atlanta in early June. These tracks are almost identical, so any notes the teams can get here may help them with their setups for Atlanta. Expect teams to take full advantage of this weekend since live qualifying or practice will probably not be happening at Atlanta.
This is a LONG RACE
The length is in the name, Coca-Cola 600, meaning we’re going racing for 600 miles on Sunday night. The longest race of the season takes a toll on every driver and team, and even the fans. Being prepared for 400 laps means stocking up with your drink of choice, may I suggest a Coca-Cola for this one?
Place your bets
While I’m not a huge gambler myself, I know many who are. Let’s take a quick look at some of the big names courtesy of BetMGM.
- Denny Hamin +900
- Joey Logano +850
- Kevin Harvick +600
- Martin Truex Jr. +600
- Kyle Busch +400
- Alex Bowman +1200
Happy Memorial Day! Enjoy the racing weekend!