The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series returns for the second week in a row to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Coca-Cola 600, the sport’s longest race and the nightcap on one of the biggest days in all of motorsports. The race will consist of four stages each of 100 laps.
40 drivers will arrive in Charlotte to compete for 40 spots on Sunday night. Carl Long was scheduled to attempt to qualify, but with the chance of impending rain in the Charlotte area and being short on people with the Xfinity car running this weekend, he withdrew.
Earlier in the week, Charlotte Motor Speedway announced that they would be placing VHT, the sticky substance used in the low groove at Bristol, on the high line in the corners. Officials at the track have also ran the tire dragon over the sticky substance. Officials believe this move will help the high groove come in during the 600, something that did not happen in the All-Star Race.
The Coca-Cola 600 will also feature the addition of a fourth stage. Each stage will be 100 laps.
“The stage racing format is delivering more dramatic moments over an entire race, fueling tremendous racing action this season,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “With a fourth stage added to the Coca-Cola 600, the historic event will have another layer of strategy for teams, and even more excitement within the race for fans.”
This will be the 58th annual Coca-Cola 600. There have been 45 different pole winners at Charlotte. 49 different drivers have made their way into victory lane. Only 16 drivers have won from the pole with Martin Truex doing so last year in the same event. Truex Jr. also set the race record at 160.655 mph in 2016. Kurt Busch set the qualifying record in 2014 at 198.771 mph.
Teams will be allotted four sets of tires for practice, one set for qualifying, and 11 sets for the race. Goodyear is bringing the same tire compound as last season.
Drivers are excited about 600 miles at Charlotte and the chance to honor our nation’s heroes.
“This weekend is more than racing – it's a time for Americans to remember and pay tribute to our military service members who gave their life so we can enjoy our freedom,” said Truex, who is the defending champion of the Coca-Cola 600. “As I learn the courageous background of 2nd Lt. John Yates during his time in Vietnam he is without a doubt a true American patriot.”
“I think you saw from the All-Star Race that track position is going to be key. But we will have longer green-flag runs Sunday and handling will come into play,” said Clint Bowyer, who is looking for his first win in 2017. “We had a really good car last week. If we could have gotten out front in the All-Star Race like we did in the Open, then we would have been tough to handle.”
"Charlotte is a big weekend for us," Chris Buescher said. "We need to come out here and be competitive. This is our fifth 1.5-mile track this season. We’re starting to get an idea of where our intermediate track program is at, and what needs to be done to improve on it. We’ve got to come out and get the job done. This team has been working really hard. We’ve been coming out with better racecars, and we’re headed in the right direction. We get a lot of families from employees in the shop that are able to come out to the races at Charlotte (Motor Speedway) and it’s really special and important to be able to go out and run well for not only the guys on the road every weekend, but for everyone in the shop too."
Cup teams will have one practice session beginning at 2:00 p.m. EST on Thursday, May 25th with qualifying set for 7:15 p.m. EST. Friday will be a “dark” day in Charlotte. Action will pick up on Saturday with two practice sessions slated for 9:00 a.m. EST and 11:30 a.m. EST. The Coca-Cola 600 will be broadcasted on FOX and Performance Racing Network on May 28th at 6:00 p.m. EST.