With capacity restrictions lifted, tens of thousands of fans are expected at Charlotte Motor Speedway – and millions more will tune in from around the world – for an action-packed Coca-Cola 600 weekend this Friday through Sunday, and there will be no shortage of storylines to keep fans on the edge of their seat during the first-ever triple-header weekend of racing at the iconic superspeedway.
Here are a few of the top storylines to watch this weekend:
The Door’s Wide Open: Kyle Busch, an eight-time winner of the North Carolina Education Lottery 200, is not scheduled to participate in this year’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Busch’s absence substantially increases the probability of the race having a new winner as veterans Matt Crafton (2008 & 2016) and Johnny Sauter (2018) are the only current Truck Series regulars who have visited Victory Lane at the storied 1.5-mile superspeedway. However, that new winner could be one of Busch’s drivers, as Kyle Busch Motorsports will field Toyota Tundras for John Hunter Nemechek, Chandler Smith and Drew Dollar.
Exclusive Club: Only two drivers – Rob Moroso (1989) and Tyler Reddick (2019) – have won the Alsco Uniforms 300 and the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship in the same year. Defending series champion Austin Cindric and Justin Allgaier, who finished second to Cindric in the title chase a year ago, are among those who could make that select group a trio. Cindric has two top-10 finishes in three Alsco Uniforms 300 starts. Allgaier has recorded top-five finishes in the two most recent Alsco Uniforms 300s. He was second to Reddick in 2019 and came home fifth behind Kyle Busch last year.
Another First-Time Winner?: NASCAR’s run of 11 different winners in the first 14 Cup Series races of the season says a great deal about the level of parity in the sport. It also bodes well for the possibility of having another first-time series winner in the Coca-Cola 600. Seven drivers have earned their first Cup Series victory in the race many consider to be the sport’s toughest. The list is comprised of David Pearson, 1961; Jeff Gordon, 1994; Bobby Labonte, 1995; Matt Kenseth, 2000; Casey Mears, 2007; David Reutimann, 2009; and Austin Dillon, 2017. Drivers who could break the ice in the 62nd Coca-Cola 600 include Matt DiBenedetto, Tyler Reddick, Bubba Wallace, Ross Chastain and Chase Briscoe.
Four Stages: The Coca-Cola 600 is the only NASCAR Cup Series race of the season that is broken into four stages of 100 laps each. Since the start of the 2017 season, NASCAR has utilized stage racing as part of an enhanced competition format for its trio of national series. All events, with the exception of the Coca-Cola 600, are comprised of three stages. The fourth stage gives drivers an extra opportunity to secure a playoff point by winning the stage and accumulate stage points by placing among the top-10 finishers in that portion of the race.
Join the Club: Some of the biggest names in NASCAR today are still searching for their first-ever Coca-Cola 600 win. Between them, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano have four Daytona 500 wins and a pair Southern 500 triumphs, but neither has taken the checkered at NASCAR’s toughest test of man and machine. Logano has already tasted victory once this season, besting the field on the dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway. Hamlin is still searching for his first win in 2021. Chase Elliott not only won the NASCAR Cup Series title last season, but also the Alsco Uniforms 500 and the Bank of America ROVAL 400. He fell one spot short of a season sweep at Charlotte, including what would have been his first Coca-Cola 600 win, finishing second to Brad Keselowski. Elliott brings a lot of confidence to this year’s race after notching his first win of 2021 Sunday at COTA. A victory would not only add to the resumes of any of these veteran drivers, but it would also add an iconic Bruton Smith Trophy to their respective trophy case.
Log on to www.charlottemotorspeedway.com for tickets, schedules and more information on the weekend’s three days of action-packed racing. Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 tickets start at just $59. Kids 13 and under get in for just $10 for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 and for FREE on Friday and Saturday.