Written by Chris Kubala
With the first week of racing after their return from the COVID-19 pandemic in the rearview mirror after a pair of exciting races from Darlington, the NASCAR circuit shifts venues for this weekend. It’s off to Charlotte Motor Speedway for a pair of NASCAR Cup races, highlighted by the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday afternoon, the day before Memorial Day. The race takes place on the same day as the Indianapolis 500 in order to give NASCAR a race to compete with the holiday weekend tradition of the Indycar circuit. That won’t be the case this year as the Indy 500 was postponed until August 23 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With that said, let’s take a look at some of the background about Charlotte Motor Speedway to give you background on the track ahead of Sunday’s race:
Track Built: Ground broken in 1959, first race held on June 19, 1960
Track Length: 1.5-mile quad oval, turns banked at 24 degrees, straightaways banked at five degrees
The track was built in 1959 by a partnership headed by Bruton Smith and Curtis Turner in an effort to cash in on the budding stock-car racing boom. Turner visited Daytona International Speedway earlier in 1959 and came up with the concept of building a similar track near Charlotte. Smith was interested in building a track of his own near Pineville and, as a result, the two partnered to build a track in Concord, which is less than 15 miles outside of the city of Charlotte. Despite some rough times in the building of the track due to issues with contractors and a freak snowstorm, the track opened for business with the World 600 on June 19, 1960. Joe Lee Johnson won the inaugural race and was the lone racer to complete all 400 laps en route to the checkered flag.
The Coca-Cola 600 began as the World 600 when the track was built in 1960. It remained with the World 600 name all the way through 1984. At that point, the race was the Coca-Cola World 600 in 1985. From 1986 until the present, with the exception of 2002, when it was called the Coca-Cola Racing Family 600, the race has been known by its current moniker. This year, the race will be 400 laps, with four stages of 100 laps each. The race will be televised on FOX and coverage will begin at 6 pm ET. It’s expected that the green flag will be dropped around 6:20 pm ET.
Among current racers, Matt Kenseth leads with 38 starts at the famed track while Kurt Busch (37), Kevin Harvick (36), Ryan Newman (36), Jimmie Johnson (35) and Kyle Busch (30) all have plenty of experience racing here. Johnson leads the active drivers with eight wins here at Charlotte while Martin Truex Jr. and Harvick each have three victories. Kenseth is the only other current racer with more than one checkered flag at Charlotte as he has a pair. Johnson also leads with 16 top-five finishes while Kyle Busch (13) and Kenseth (12) are the other drivers with double-digit finishes in the top five on the track. When it comes to pole victories, Ryan Newman has racked up an impressive nine in his career to lead current drivers. Johnson has four, Kyle Busch has three and the trio of Kenseth, Harvick along with Denny Hamlin each have a pair.
Truex Jr. has won two of the last three Coca-Cola 600s, including last year’s race, where he led a race-high 116 laps, including 54 of the final 57 laps in the race. He held off Joey Logano while Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. rounded out the top five. William Byron won the pole in 2019 and finished ninth as a total of 17 cars were on the lead lap when the checkered flag was waved. Truex Jr. also won the Coca-Cola 600 in 2016 and the Bank of America 500 in the fall of 2017. Since 2018, the fall race held at Charlotte is a combination of a road course and an oval, nicknamed the “roval”, which is 2.28 miles in length. Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott won those races in 2018 and 2019, respectively, in the month of September.
The current odds for winning the race, according to FanDuel, show Kyle Busch as the slight favorite at +430 here. Truex Jr. (+550), Harvick (+600), Elliott (+850) and Hamlin (+900) round out the top five of the betting odds. Who will win and who is our favorite? You’ll have to come back for that information in the next day or so to find out.