NASCAR’s longest race of the season, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, will roar into the night on Sunday, May 25 during Memorial Day weekend in Concord, North Carolina. NSCS drivers without wins hope that drivers with wins won’t be adding to their victory column, because good results count in more ways than the big money of last week’s All-Star Race at CMS.
Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson would like nothing better than to add a new winner to the elimination contender class of nine and not have to leave home doing it. Although both have had a decent season, the results have fallen off a cliff from last season.
Nine different winners have joined the Chase championship contender list which, this year, virtually requires a win. Neither Kenseth nor Johnson are among the achievers.
Perhaps this weekend the question of when Kenseth or Johnson will win might be answered, as one or the other chases the skunk out of Victory Lane with the checkered flag.
There may not be any home-field advantage, as most of the drivers and crew members live in the Charlotte area, but a good night’s rest in a familiar bed may help many.
Gordon won his first NSCS race 20 years ago at CMS and, even though he has a bit of gray in his beard these days, more wins are likely in his future.
“I was part of an event with Charlotte Motor Speedway at the NASCAR Hall of Fame a few weeks ago where they commemorated that victory,” Gordon said. “It was a cool moment to relive.”
Earnhardt spoke about his special sponsor going into the Memorial Day weekend.
“Working with the National Guard is a lot of fun,” Earnhardt said. “They are very creative with what we do together. I have met some great people and heard some great stories. It’s affected me to be that close to it and see the things that go on behind the scenes.”
Logano has a birthday this holiday weekend, but his focus appears to be on different numbers.
“I’ll just be celebrating behind the wheel of the No. 22 Pennzoil Platinum Ford,” Logano said. “I’m totally focused on practice on Saturday. Birthdays when you are 24 aren’t like they were when you were 12. It’s really just another day of the week anymore.”
Harvick prepared himself mentally for NASCAR’s longest race.
“I watched the guys who have had success here in the past and studied a little bit to try and figure out steering, throttle, brakes and different techniques that the guys that were winning the races were using and tried to adapt that.”
Busch expected challenges for a race he hasn’t won.
“I think the biggest challenge about Charlotte is how much the track changes from practice,” Busch said. “You practice all during the day and then you go into night racing. You’ve got to know what kind of adjustments to make.”
Gordon got his first win at CMS and Kenseth made his first start at CMS.
“I like going back to Charlotte,” Kenseth said. “I made my first series start there a long time ago, so it’s always been a special track for me and it’s always fun to go back there and compete.”
Johnson shared his fondness for Charlotte. Perhaps his many wins at CMS give him an inner boost of confidence.
“I love this race,” Johnson said. “It’s such a challenge to all of us mentally and physically. The 48 team does well here because it’s such a long race that you have time to adjust on your car, make the changes from day to night and improve with each stop.”
Gordon rolls into the long race with the NSCS points lead. Logano arrives there with the Chase pinnacle lead, as he sits on top of the Chase for the Sprint Cup leader board.
Many NSCS drivers may be fatigued after the long miles of the Coca-Cola 600—live on Fox at 6 p.m. ET—but only one will have to expend the energy to stand on his car and cheer.
FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained firsthand or from official release materials provided by sanction and team representatives.