Race: Coca-Cola 600
Date: Sunday May 24th, 2009
Track: Lowe’s Motor Speedway
Time: 5 pm ET
This weekend brings us the Indy 500 of the NASCAR world. While Tony Stewart has attempted the feat of sweeping Indy and the Coca-Cola 600 in one weekend, I think he’ll have to settle for a run at the Coke title this weekend. As an owner-driver, I can’t see him attempting something quite like that his first year out. Anyway, we’re headed back to Lowe’s Motor Speedway this weekend for the longest race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The Coca-Cola 600 is a historic race that many drivers fight for every year. This race has a lot of history behind just as the Indy 500 does. The Coke 600 was brought to you by the founder of Lowe’s Motor Speedway, Bruton Smith, and this year celebrates its 50th year as part of the NASCAR family.
If you watched the Showdown and the All-Star last weekend, you know how crazy things can get at this track. The thing about the Coke 600, though, is that you will see much more reserved drivingthat is, until the end. The hardest part of this race is making it to the end. It’s a ridiculously long race that drivers have to strategize for in order to make their cars last. Cars that are in wrecks early here have zero chance of making it to victory lane.
This track is a 1.5 mile quad-oval with 24 degree banking in the turns and 5 degree banking in the straights. The frontstretch boasts 1980 feet, with the backstretch coming in at 1500 feet. Probably the toughest part of this track is the sharp exit of turn 2 into turn 3. It’s tricky, especially late in the day with the sun shining right into the windshields, blinding the drivers.
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If we take a look at past winners just at this track, it’s pretty clear that this is the house of Jimmie Johnson. He basically owns this place and you better believe that he will be running up front at the end. Two other true contenders are Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart. Stewart is a pro at the long races, not to mention did get his first win at the All-Star. He’s someone worth watching. Kyle Busch, well, he’s Kyle Busch. He’s always up for the win. What he is going to have to battle is staying in the race. He has to be smart about how he drives until the end, and that is certainly something that Busch isn’t necessarily a pro at. He’ll have to hold his aggression in until the end.
My pick: Jimmie Johnson. With good equipment, Chad Knaus, and Lowe’s Motor Speedway, there really is no way that Johnson doesn’t have this one. It doesn’t hurt that he’s coming into this race with FIVE previous consecutive wins.
Here’s a look at your current top 12 in the points:
1. Jeff Gordon
2. Tony Stewart
3. Kurt Busch
4. Jimmie Johnson
5. Denny Hamlin
6. Jeff Burton
7. Kyle Busch
8. Ryan Newman
9. Greg Biffle
10. Matt Kenseth
11. Mark Martin
12. Carl Edwards
The Roush drivers need some redemption this weekend. Look for them to run smart races to gain some positions in the points. They really need to bring up their game. Jeff Gordon only has 29 points over Tony Stewart, which is pretty impressive since Stewart is in his first year as an owner. Jimmie Johnson needs to show that he can get his consistency back. He’s hit a few bumps and dropped a few spots, so this weekend is going to be critical for him to show that he can perform where he is expected to do well. Get your sleep in Saturday because Sunday is going to be a long night y’all!