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Dustin Off the Next Race: Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway

Dustin ParksAnalyst IMay 29, 2010

CONCORD, NC - MAY 25:  David Reutimann, driver of the #00 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 on May 25, 2009 at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina. Reutimann won the Coca-Cola 600 due to a rain out on lap 227.  (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)
John Harrelson/Getty Images

Last Saturday, 21 drivers ran 100 laps in the Sprint All-Star Race. We saw intense action, a bit of frustration, and one happy driver at the end of the night.

However, that race is only 25 percent of what Sunday's action will be. NASCAR's longest race is on tap Sunday afternoon, encompassing all aspects of a NASCAR event.

It starts in the afternoon, with the sun shining down on the fans. As the light begins to fade, the skies turn to sunset and the lights come on. Finally, the stars appear and the night consumes everyone.

The Coca-Cola 600 will put all teams and crews to the test. So, allow me to dust off my list of who will be hard to beat when the green flag flies.

Favorites

Jimmie Johnson

Not one to back down, I will keep it simple. This track is Johnson's yard, and he is the big dog in that yard.

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Six wins, three in this race, nine top-fives and 13 top-10s in 16 races at this track. He averages a finish of 8.6. There is no one better at the Charlotte Motor Speedway than the No. 48.

He won two of the first three segments in the All-Star Race. Johnson may have won the overall event if his final pit stop got him completely out front.

I picked him because of statistics and history. Johnson is ready to rule his yard once again.

Kasey Kahne

Another driver who enjoys racing here is the driver of the No. 9 Budweiser Ford. Kahne has won at this track four times, including a clean sweep in 2006—plus the 2008 All-Star Race.

If there was ever a track that could get this team one the right track, it would be Charlotte. Kahne enjoys this track and has found success at other tracks similar in size and shape. This is the time for Kahne and his team to get in their stride.

The No. 9 team needs a break, and this track can definitely do that. Watch for Kahne to get out front quick and stay there.

Jeff Gordon

Long before Johnson had a stranglehold on this track, it was dominated by the No. 24 and Jeff Gordon. It was almost a guarantee that this team would be out front when Charlotte came around.

Sure, he fell off during the beginning of Johnson's run of domination, but he found his stride the last few years. He last won here in 2007, when he was battling Johnson for the title.

This year, Gordon has come so close to winning he can smell the checkered flag. He just hasn't closed the deal. Maybe an extra 100 miles will do the trick.

Watch the DuPont/Honoring Our Soldiers Chevrolet to be close to the lead, especially after the lights come on.

Sleepers

Kyle Busch

I'm not sure if the younger Busch brother deserves to be in this category. On the one hand, the 1.5-mile tracks have been extremely good to the younger Busch brother.

However, on the other hand, recently at these kind of tracks, Busch has been close to victory. Yet, something has prevented him from getting there. Last year at Texas, he runs out of fuel and hands his brother the win. Last week, he was in strong position to win $1 million, yet a run-in with teammate Denny Hamlin took him out of the running.

Busch still doesn't see eye-to-eye with Hamlin on that incident, so maybe that's my big reason he's here. It could effect him at some point during the race, and then have a trickle-down consequence.

The No. 18 will be strong, but which Busch will be racing on Sunday? The new one, who's all right with finishing second, or the Busch nicknamed "Rowdy" who wants to get a win at all costs?

Kurt Busch

Alright, I know I'm going to take a lot of flack for this one. Yes, Kurt has won at Texas and Atlanta, and won last week's All-Star Race.

I'm putting him here, because last week was just a 10-lap sprint to get a checkered flag. I want to see if the blue deuce can pull off the same feat when it's a 400-lap endurance race.

The No. 2 will be strong, there's no doubt in my mind. So I could be proved wrong by the time the night ends.

An all-American salute will be this weekend, as the Armed Forces honor their fallen brothers and sisters. With the entire crowd draped in red, white, and blue, the Coca-Cola 600 will be the most patriotic race of the entire NASCAR season.

The race is set to go green at 5:45 p.m. on FOX, the final FOX broadcast of the season.

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