2017 Coca-Cola 600 Preview: Who Will Go The Distance?
A test of speed and endurance, the Coca-Cola 600 is one of NASCAR’s most anticipated races each year. Here’s a preview of this year’s event:
2017 Coca-Cola 600
Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord, NC; Sunday, May 28 at 6 p.m. (ET) on FOX
The Coca-Cola 600 is NASCAR’s longest race of the season. The length of the race presents strategic challenges for the teams and drivers in regard to pit stops, track temperatures and physical stamina. The race also allows racing fans to continue gorging on four-wheeled action on Memorial Day weekend well after the Indy 500 ends. Here’s who could win this Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600:
Kevin Harvick claimed the pole for Sunday’s race with a speed of 193.424 miles per hour. Harvick has been great recently on this year’s Monster Energy Cup Series, logging five, top-six finishes in his last six races. He’s subsequently risen to sixth-overall in points. If Harvick’s early-season struggles are fully behind him, he could be a force on Sunday in Charlotte.
The Returning Champ
Last year, Martin Truex Jr. dominated this race in impressive fashion, leading 392 of 400 laps and spending 588 of 600 miles in first — both NASCAR records. This year, Truex rides into Charlotte second in the circuit in points with 431. He’ll start eighth, but it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he finished first.
The Points Leader
Currently first in points, Kyle Larson is having a spectacular year. Larson had one of the fastest cars at Charlotte this week, but he found the wall in practice, which set him back far enough that his car failed a technical inspection. That means Larson will start a distant 39th in the field. However, with 600 miles, he’ll have plenty of time to get to the front.
The Hottest Foot
Coming off wins in both the Truck Series and All-Star races last weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Kyle Busch is clearly in peak form. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver also logged top-five finishes in his last two Monster Energy Cup Series starts. Busch will start second on Sunday and could be very difficult for other drivers to run down should he get clear of the pack.
The Perennial Favorite
NASCAR legend Jimmie Johnson has eight career victories at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Never bet against him adding to that total, even in a 600-mile race. Johnson is currently eighth in the points race, and he’ll start all the way back at 14th on Sunday. Still, until someone else is celebrating, Johnson is a threat to win here.
Retiring Dale Earnhardt Jr. has had a challenging year, claiming just one top-five finish and falling to 25th in points. This is hardly the way such a gritty competitor wanted to leave NASCAR. The length of the Coca-Cola 600 could allow Earnhardt time to get through the field and set up a late dash for glory. Moments like that have been too rare in this race recently. Both the sport and the driver could use it.