What to Watch For: Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway

What to Watch For: Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway

CONCORD, NC – For the second consecutive week, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers and teams will take to the high-speed Charlotte Motor Speedway, deep in the heart of NASCAR country.

Sunday’s race marks the longest and perhaps the most decorated event in the 2017 MENCS season. Drivers will battle it out in NASCAR’s ultimate endurance race totaling 400 laps/600 miles.

NASCAR’s Longest Race:

The distance of 600 miles makes this race unlike any other on the Cup Series schedule, as it is a full 100 miles longer than any of the 500-mile events.

Drivers will have to battle changing conditions as the race starts in the late afternoon, carrying over into the evening, and concluding in the late hours. What does this mean? Drivers and their crew chiefs will have to work especially hard to ensure that their cars handle well as the track and air temperatures will change from the green to the checkered flags.

This race will take its toll both physically and mentally on all of the drivers, crew chiefs, and pit crews. Keeping the driver cool and hydrated can make the race easier on teams and increase their chances of winning the Coke 600. Should a driver’s cool box or hydration unit malfunction, it could make the longest race of the season seem even longer.

PJ what?

One positive outcome to competing at the same track on back-to-back weekends is knowing how the cars react to the track and how the racing action will be for this premier event.

Last weekend’s All-Star Race revealed a multitude of issues; it was hard to pass, only one racing groove was evident in the corner, and once a car was in the clean air it was gone, no matter whether it was the best handling car or not.

As a result, NASCAR and Charlotte Motor Speedway, officials decided to apply a resin to the surface of the track in all of the corners in hopes of developing a higher groove of racing, as opposed to the standard low-line.

Much like the VHT substance that was used at Bristol Motor Speedway in April, the application of the PJ1 or “grip strip”, will hopefully make for a more exciting race for fans and drivers. If not, it could be a very long night.

If Saturday’s NASCAR XFINITY race at Charlotte was any indication, the racing action should be improved since last weekend’s events. NASCAR had planned to apply additional PJ1 to the track overnight in hopes of having the second groove available for the entire event.

Long race brings changes to the stage racing format:

With the scheduled distance of Sunday’s race being 600 miles, NASCAR officials decided to make a minor change in the stage racing format.

Instead of the typical three stages as seen in all other series’ events, there will be four stages of racing all totaling 100 laps in distance. The change for this week will allow drivers, teams, and the fans with an extra opportunity to relax, recharge, and make the necessary changes to their cars.

As we have seen in years past, there tend to be long green-flag sequences where green-flag pit stops are the only option, but this year’s edition of the Coke 600 will guarantee that the field will be bunched up at least three times.

Is this Joe Gibbs Racing’s week?

Kyle Busch snapped (somewhat) the Joe Gibbs Racing victory lane drought in 2017. Busch admitted to not having the best car in the All-Star Race but was able to capitalize on a late-race restart that proved to be what he needed to win the one-million dollar prize.

The JGR organization has experienced its share of successes at Charlotte Motor Speedway and could use this Sunday’s race to propel their momentum in a direction that will provide additional wins as the summer months approach.

There are several other organizations that would love to extend JGR’s winless streak, including Chip Ganassi Racing, Stewart-Haas, Team Penske, and Hendrick Motorsports, just to name a few.

Staff Picks:

Greg Atkins – Chase Elliott – The Coca-Cola 600 has been kind to drivers seeking their first career victories in the past. Drivers like David Pearson, Jeff Gordon, and Matt Kenseth all got their first win in the 600-mile crown jewel event. I believe that Chase Elliott can follow in his No. 24 predecessor’s footsteps and earn his first career victory this prestigious event.

Tyler Painter – Kyle Larson – After his strong showing in the All-Star Race came up one position short, I look for Kyle Larson and his Chip Ganassi Racing team to right the ship and add their names to the list of winning NASCAR’s longest race. Larson will have to make it happen in dramatic fashion, as he will start the race from the rear of the field after missing an attempt at qualifying due to a delayed inspection. It is well-documented that Larson is a driver that enjoys racing on the high-line of a race track and the application of the PJ1, should help the No. 42 to run out by the wall.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Huff (ApertureOne.net) 

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