As if one weekend of outstanding racing wasn't enough for NASCAR, it's time to buckle up for another weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway—this time, for the longest race of the year in the Coca-Cola 600.
Whether fans still refer to it as the World 600 or know it by the new name, Charlotte has been the longstanding home of the historic race. After a memorable All-Star Race with Jamie McMurray taking the top prize, it might be a more familiar face capturing the checkered flag on Sunday night.
Jimmie Johnson, better known as Mr. Six-Time by NASCAR fans, has put together a great season despite the fact that he doesn't have a win. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon took his first victory in Kansas and might just be of assistance to JJ, as both have dominated Charlotte throughout their careers.
Before the Coke 600 officially gets underway on Sunday night, here's a look at the Charlotte race along with the latest team news and top drivers to watch.
Site: Charlotte Motor Speedway, Charlotte, North Carolina
Date: Sunday, May 25
Start Time: 6 p.m. ET
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go
Latest Team News
It's been an up-and-down year for Stewart-Haas Racing, but it will literally be an up-and-down weekend for Kurt Busch.
The SHR driver will attempt the taxing marathon that is participating in the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in the same day. Busch has flown back and forth between Indianapolis and Charlotte to qualify for both events while also participating in the All-Star Race last weekend.
He'll have a lot to learn in a short amount of time, but he has an overwhelming amount of driving talent on his side. He has a great car owner with Michael Andretti, who's not only an owner but he's been a driver, too. Michael has so much to offer Kurt in terms of knowledge and firsthand experience. It really seems like a natural pairing.
The Outlaw may not win either race, but finishing both would mean he drove 1,100 miles in a single day. Add on the fact that he'll be flying between the two sites to participate in both, and it's a monumental achievement for a driver who has an already impressive resume.
While some might consider Busch's attempt at the two huge races a super feat, Hendrick might literally be driving with super heroes. The team's official Instagram account provides a teaser for the upcoming paint schemes:
Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s paint scheme has already been revealed, but we'll get to that a little later.
Drivers to Watch
It's bound to happen eventually, right?
After asking that question for weeks about Gordon, the No. 24 machine finally found Victory Lane at Kansas. Now it's time for teammate Johnson, who has thoroughly controlled the upcoming track, winning six races in Charlotte.
While it's been a struggle for the No. 48 car to take the checkered flag this season, Jeff Hammond of Fox Sports believes it might finally be time:
I think Saturday night and next Sunday afternoon/evening/night will give us an excellent chance to evaluate where the No. 48 program is for 2014. Sure they haven't won yet and trust me, Jimmie, Chad, Rick and everyone tied to the No. 48 is already sick of hearing about that.
These next two weekends won't be easy for them but I know how much winning both events means to them and I expect them to come out of the box with both guns blazing.
For a driver who has 12 top-five finishes in only 25 starts at the track, it's easy to see why Johnson will be near the front on Sunday. While fans in North Carolina likely want to see another driver visit Victory Lane in Charlotte, JJ might once again find himself at the top of the leaderboard on Sunday.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Wait, Earnhardt doesn't have any wins, has an average finish of 19.4 at Charlotte and he's going to be a contender on the track?
Let's just call it a hunch.
Junior will be looking to make a huge statement at CLT with his second win of the season. But earlier in the week, he already made an impression with his Superman paint scheme, via his road manager Mike Hoag:
Another event that took place on Wednesday was Earnhardt and his team receiving their rings from winning the Daytona 500. The huge win set the stage for a spectacular season for Junior thus far, so can he finally win the other premier race on the Sprint Cup circuit?
While he was passing around those rings, Earnhardt made a statement about his expectations for the upcoming race, per Hendrick:
With the race just in his backyard at Hendrick and in is home state of North Carolina, Earnhardt would love nothing more than to give his hometown fans a victory. But with Johnson and Gordon highlighting a tough field, will Earnhardt be able to overcome his elite teammates?
One thing McMurray has proven over the last two years is when he gets up front, he's hard to stop.
Last year in the Sprint Showdown, McMurray never trailed to earn a berth to the All-Star Race, where he would finish 19th. Given an automatic start this year, McMurray once again found clean air and blistered the field with 19 laps led and a win.
During his career at Charlotte, McMurray has nine top-10 finishes with two wins at the track in points races. While he's never been one of the most popular drivers on the circuit, he has still been extremely successful at the track.
If McMurray can qualify well and find his way to clean air once again, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver might once again put the No. 1 machine in its rightful place.
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