FYI WIRZ: NASCAR's Point Leaders Talk Home Turf at Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte

Dwight Drum@@racetakeCorrespondent IIIMay 23, 2013

Jimmie Johnson's No. 48 Chevrolet on Daytona pit road.  Credit: Dwight Drum
Jimmie Johnson's No. 48 Chevrolet on Daytona pit road. Credit: Dwight Drum

NASCAR's longest show, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, will take place on the 1.5 mile quad-oval track with 24 degree banking Sunday, May 26 in Concord, North Carolina.

Since the first race in 1960, the 600 mile race has thrilled fans and worn out drivers. But, as most of NASCAR’s Sprint Cup drivers have homes in the Charlotte area, this race doesn’t have the additional burden of extended travel.

Fans not in one of the 140,000 seats can view the action on Fox at 6 p.m. ET, Sunday evening.

Home-field advantage really isn’t a factor at CMS as Charlotte is the hub for NASCAR shops and teams, but drivers and team members do have the comfort of their nearby homes.

NASCAR and CMS will also honor our nation’s military, veterans and active-duty soldiers during the Memorial Day weekend event.

The top-five NSCS drivers—Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Clint Bowyer—shared their thoughts about NASCAR’s marathon race.

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet)

Jimmie Johnson and team bring a 41-point lead into home territory for the 12th race of the season. He expressed his take on the new Gen-6 car.

"I’m most concerned there that some just casual contact will really create a problem. We won’t have that in the 600. I don’t know why I’m really bringing it up other than the car is so durable. On short-tracks, I have a little bit more concern about the Gen-6 car and being able to hurt it easier than you would expect to. On a bigger track like this, I don’t see any problems. The car has been very durable, very fun to drive and fast.”

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Ford)

It’s no secret that Carl Edwards is one of the most physically fit NASCAR drivers, although almost all present-day drivers train and exercise often. His take on the long Coca-Cola 600:

“I don’t prepare a lot differently physically, but mentally I think all of us have to prepare a little bit for the extra distance. It is a grueling event and if the temperatures are high the whole weekend, everyone starts the event hot and worn out already, so 600 miles—you could look at it and say it’s only 20 percent longer than the other 500-mile race we run at Charlotte—but there’s something about that last 100 miles that does make it a lot more mentally tough, and I think from the mechanical side of everything, the engine department has to make sure that everything is gonna last. You worry about hubs and drive plates and transmissions and all those things that wear out. That extra 100 miles is a long way, especially with how hard we’re pushing these race cars.

“It’s a tough race track on race cars, so I’d say mentally and mechanically it’s a tough race.”

Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Toyota)

Matt Kenseth and team have momentum and three wins in the bag as they take on another challenge.

“The 600 is probably one of my favorite races of the year. There’s a lot that goes on surrounding it, from practicing during the day to qualifying at night. The differences in the track conditions you go through during the race can really provide a lot of challenges since we start the race during the day when it’s usually pretty hot and slick before the track cools down as we go into the night. It’s a fun event, but you also get to see what everyone is made of since it’s our longest race of the season, and there’s a lot going on in the over four hours that we are racing.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Chevrolet)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. used his comment time to honor his military sponsor.

“This weekend is a great time to acknowledge the sacrifices that the military make for us and give them the recognition they deserve. We’re running a special camo paint scheme this weekend for the National Guard. Our sport does a great job of acknowledging and recognizing the military, and its involvement in our sport has always been pretty huge. It’s important to recognizing them and acknowledge them and give them credit for their sacrifices.”

Clint Bowyer (No. 15 Toyota)

Clint Bowyer and team finished second in NSCS points in 2012, and they are solid in Chase points this year as well. Bowyer shared many thoughts in his characteristically outspoken manner.

“The 600 at Charlotte on Memorial Day weekend is a tradition in NASCAR. The folks at Charlotte Motor Speedway do such a great job of honoring our troops—they really do roll out the red carpet for the military. The pre-race demonstration/invasion of the infield is awesome! All that stuff really hits home and it’s great to see.

“The race itself is a whole other kind of deal. It’s 600 miles long! That’s like getting in my 5-hour ENERGY Toyota and driving from Charlotte Motor Speedway to more than halfway back to Emporia, Kan. That’s crazy! We strap in and race on and on and on and on…then we ask our crew chief how many laps are left, and they tell us that we just got to halfway! (laughs). It’s a long day and we have to be sure we are ready for it. We have to hydrate ourselves because it can be grueling inside the car. I joke about how long and grueling this race is, but it’s a huge race to win. It’s the biggest day of racing for the year in motorsports and to win on that day is a very big deal. We won here in the fall and I’d love to do that again this weekend.”

As our nation will celebrates Memorial Day, NASCAR hosts an abundance of lap action.

FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained from personal interviews or official release materials provided by sanction and team representatives.


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