Coca-Cola 600 Race Day Notes: Bowman Returns, Military Salute, Cindric Climbing

(HHP/Jim Fluharty photo)

After missing the last three NASCAR Cup Series points-paying events due to a back injury sustained April 25, Alex Bowman makes his return Sunday – during the longest race of the year in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (6 p.m., Fox, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). 

“[Race length] was definitely discussed but at the same time, I feel I am ready,” Bowman said Saturday afternoon. “It is what it is. I ran a lot of laps Tuesday at North Wilkesboro and I’m pretty confident I’ll be just fine.”

Bowman, driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, says he is still dealing with lingering pain from the injury, but not enough to keep him from behind the wheel any longer – particularly when he still sits 17th in the Cup Series point standings with plenty of time to earn a spot in this year’s playoffs.

“It shows how good a season we were having before I got hurt,” Bowman said. “A lot can happen and change pretty quickly. There’s some discomfort but I’m just going to have to deal with it. After five hours in the race car, I’m probably not going to feel the best.”

In what has become a traditional Memorial Day salute, the Cup Series cars have special paint schemes this weekend and also feature the name of a fallen service member.

“NASCAR does a good job with the 600 Miles of Remembrance program,” said Austin Dillon, driver of the No. 3 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. “This weekend, the windshield headers of every car are replaced with the name of a fallen soldier. We’re honoring a Navy SEAL, Mark Crampton. We also have a special decal on our car honoring Rusten Smith, a soldier who died in April in a Blackhawk training accident.

“This weekend is about remembering those who gave everything for our country. It’s great to see the impact the 600 Miles of Remembrance program has on the service members’ families. There’s nothing like the national anthem during the Coca-Cola 600. It’s a real freedom feel, American flag flying-type weekend.”

Aside from the increased distance, the Coca-Cola 600 also offers NASCAR Cup Series drivers another challenge to navigate – one extra stage.

But for a driver on the bubble of the playoffs, like Team Penske’s Austin Cindric who enters Charlotte in 20th place, it’s another opportunity to gain some elusive points for the postseason chase.

“It could be one of the most important regular season races,” Cindric said. “The biggest difference is the extra stage.”

The 24-year-old is still looking for his first win since the 2022 Daytona 500, a span of 48 races.

“The last two months have been extremely frustrating. Twentieth in points is not where we want to be. We’re not pushing the panic button. We’re fortunate to be able to keep going to the track every week and try to improve.”


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