Raceday: Your guide to the Coca-Cola 600

May 25, 2013 

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    Race facts

    Where: Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord, N.C.

    Track type: 1.5-mile banked, paved quad-oval

    Race distance: 400 laps, 600 miles

    Weather: Sunday and high in the upper 70s.

    TV: Coverage begins at 5 p.m. Fox. Green flag is 6:19 p.m. ET

    Radio: Performance Racing Network

Three things to watch

1 . Jimmie Johnson has the most wins at Charlotte Motor Speedway of any active driver, yet hasn’t claimed a victory in a points race since 2009. Can he change that today?

2. Clint Bowyer won last fall’s October race at CMS and is still looking for his first win of the 2013 season.

3 . Denny Hamlin starts from the pole. If he finishes in the same position, it’s ‘game on’ for his race to make the Chase.

Observations

There is one unexpected issue that may play a role in any NASCAR decision whether to allow Bruton Smith to move one of his two Sprint Cup races at Charlotte to Las Vegas. So far, NASCAR has approved every realignment request since it instituted the policy but has always said it reserves the right to say no based on the best interests of the sport. Now that NASCAR’s Hall of Fame is up and running in Charlotte, it’s three biggest weeks of the year are the three race weeks at CMS – the two points races and the all-star race. Take one away and the Hall will lose a significant amount of revenue and attention. And remember, NASCAR has a vested interest in making sure the Hall remains self-sufficient.

Denny Hamlin’s biggest obstacle to making the Chase is not going to be his own performance. He’s certainly shown already he is no worse for wear since returning from his back injury. The biggest problem is even if Hamlin does well each week, he has to count on the six drivers between him and the coveted 20th spot in the series standings to do worse than him. That’s not impossible but it’s not probable, either. And even that 20th spot won’t mean much with a victory or two to use a wild card entry. In this case, close isn’t going to cut it.

Although this is Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s rookie season in the Cup series, this will not be his first start in the Coca-Cola 600. Two years ago, Stenhouse filled in the Wood Brothers’ No. 21 Ford in the 600 when Bayne was diagnosed with Lyme Disease. He started ninth and finished 11th.

Best bets

Three picks for your fantasy team:

Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne

Notes

Air Titan has “cost issue”: NASCAR Chairman Brian France said Saturday that NASCAR’s new Air Titan track drying system is available to every track but admitted there is a “cost issue” involved that has made it difficult for track owners to incorporate its use.

France said without the Air Titan system at Talladega, Ala., earlier this month, neither the Nationwide nor the Cup race would have been completed on their scheduled days.

“My hope is that we will get the cost down, number one, and that every track in risk of having rain will be using the system,” France said. “It just takes the industry a little time to realize that it really works, all of us to get together and implement it.”

Menard says RCR right fit for him: Paul Menard said he believes Richard Childress Racing is the right fit for him and that’s why he and sponsor Menards re-signed with RCR on Friday.

“Richard is a great guy. He’s there all the time and I feel like we have a really good relationship,” Menard said. “We’ve known each other pretty well over the last 10 years or so, and this being the third year working with him, I enjoy it.

“We have good people. Slugger (Labbe, crew chief) is coming back. We have a lot of great guys behind the scenes at RCR that work hard and are smart and they do the right things.”

Final practice update: Kasey Kahne was fastest in Saturday’s final pre-600 practice session with an average speed at 188.594 mph. Kurt Busch was second fastest and pole-winner Denny Hamlin was third. Kahne was also fastest in Saturday’s morning practice session.

Three to the back: During the first Cup practice on Saturday, the engine in Danica Patrick’s No. 10 Chevrolet blew up. In the second session, both Jeff Burton and Trevor Bayne lost engines. All three drivers will have to start Sunday’s 600 race from the rear of the field.

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