CONCORD, N.C. – Charlotte Motor Speedway is hosting the 60th running of the 600-mile race this Sunday. Originally know as the World 600 when it debuted in 1960, it that started and ran all 400 laps around the 1.5-mile track ran during the day.
With installation of lights in the early 90’s, the start time was moved back to late afternoon forcing the finish to take place at night. The race is a survival of the fittest for both man and machine to get to the coveted checkered flag.
You win a Coca-Cola 600; you’ve won a Crown Jewel race of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competition.
The reigning winner is a name that doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon in Kyle Busch. The driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Toyota comes into this race second in points trailing Joey Logano by nine markers, but is 29 ahead of third-place Kevin Harvick.
In the 2018 race, the team not only won but dominated leading 377 of the 400 circuits around CMS. With the way he and the team have been running this year makes them an easy favorite to repeat.
“I like running the 600 miles,’’ Busch said. “I think it brings a different aspect to our sport – it’s longevity. People will say, ‘It’s too long. It’s boring.’ Whatever.
“Well, you know, it’s a part of the product and history that we’ve had on Memorial Day weekend for a long time.
“And, car preparation goes into that. Will your car make it? Will your engine last? Are the drivers able to be competitive throughout the whole race? You’ll have fatigue sometimes, even at a 500-mile race. If you don’t show signs of weakness, you should be pretty good.’’
A few other drivers to keep an eye on are Martin Truex, Jr. and Austin Dillon. Both are recent former 600 winners looking to repeat their past achievements.
Truex, Jr. and his No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota team have already visited Victory Lane this season twice in the last four races. When it comes to the historic 600, he definitely knows his way to the Winner’s Circle.
In 2016, he led a record 392 laps from the pole to win. He backed that up with Fall 2017 victory and, in the last five CMS races, he’s led 716 laps finishing no worse than third.
“Charlotte has been a really strong track for us the past few years,’’ Truex said. “I felt good about how our car drove in the All-Star race last weekend, so that gives me confidence going into this weekend that we can make some of those same things work for the 600.”
Dillon, one of the few native North Carolinians in the race, won in 2017 when he took over the top spot as leader Jimmie Johnson ran out of fuel with two to go. It was Dillon’s first Cup victory and the first for the storied No. 3 Richard Childress Racing No. 3 since Dale Earnhardt’s 2000 Fall win at Talladega.
A Daytona 500 pole and victory have followed for Dillon and the team. In 2015, he swept both Xfinity Series CMS races from the pole.
Memorial Day Military Salute
The tradition of Salute to the Military will once again take place on Sunday. Cup teams will carry names of fallen military heroes on the top of their windshields and have their family members in attendance.
Look for a huge pre-race military salute and even a race stoppage with a moment of silence for all fallen military members who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
Xfinity Series Also in Action
Saturday’s 300-mile race for the NASCAR Xfinity Series was first run in 1982 with Harry Gant capturing the win. Nine different drivers have won their very first career Xfinity race at CMS.
Most notable of the nine winners are three NASCAR Hall of Famers; Darrell Waltrip in the Fall of 1982, Bobby Allison in 1984 and Terry Labonte captured the checkers in 1985.
Fast forward to recent times and you’ll find Brad Keselowski as the reigning winner of this event in 2018. Current Series Points leader Tyler Reddick will have to contend with fellow championship contender Christopher Bell to keep his top spot.
Bell comes into CMS with the best 1.5-mile average finishes of 5.667 to Reddick’s 7.0, so far, this year. Their race starts at 1 p.m. ET meaning no need to flip on the lights.