NASCAR stays home in Charlotte for the Coca Cola 600

This week, the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads for Charlotte Motor Speedway for their memorial day classic, the Coca Cola 600. This is one of NASCAR's crown-jewel events as it's the longest race on the schedule. The race is known for how challenging it is on the car and drivers endurance and even though there have been a few dominating performances as of late this race usually comes down to attrition so surviving this race is the most important factor of getting a good result.

In last week's All-Star race there were plenty of headlines to talk about. When the dust settled, Kyle Larson captured the victory and the million dollars after going nearly four-wide to make the pass for the lead in the closing stages of the race. While Larson and his crew celebrated, Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman were involved in one of NASCAR's more memorable dust ups in recent memory. On the cool-down lap, Ryan Newman ran into the side of Clint Bowyer's Ford mustang causing him to spin head-on into the wall. After this Newman was then greeted by a series of hay-makers from Clint as he was still strapped in the car. After he was done, Bowyer retreated back to his wrecked race car before Newman could exit. This altercation definitely got people talking, even Bowyer's boss Tony Stewart weighed in. Earlier this week, Stewart told his employee that "If he was going to get into a fight at least take your helmet off. No matter how you look at it, this fight brought a lot of people to the sport and in my opinion, this is what makes NASCAR so great. I am sure that both guys will hash it out and get back to racing this week."

Overall what really got overshadowed last weekend was how great the racing was. There were two photo-finishes in the open and lots of battles for position and there were also some great runs by drivers trying to get their season turned around; Darrell Wallace Jr was the prime example. While he may have not won the All-Star race, the second year driver stole the show. He was able to scratch and claw his way into the race by edging out Daniel Suarez at the end of Segment two of "The All-Star Open" and then he went on to have a great run by finishing fifth. The other example was Larson who would wind up winning the main event. He also had to transfer to the All-Star race by virtue of the All-Star open. It has been no secret that it has been a tough year for both drivers so maybe with their success this can really boost their confidence for the rest of the season.

The driver I have winning here this week is William Byron. Throughout the history of this race, we have seen many drivers claim their first win here in the Coca Cola 600. This is the race where Hall of Fame drivers like Jeff Gordon and Bobby Labonte were able to really kind of establish themselves as elite drivers. This week, I think we see kind of a new era begin. Overall, I have been critical of Byron in the past but there has been no denying this young man can drive a race car. He proved that on Friday by capturing the pole for Sunday's race. This track hasn't been kind to the young driver as he finished thirty-ninth here last season, but it's important to note that 2018 was his rookie year. He now enters his race with arguably the greatest crew-chief of all time and a rookie season under his belt. Look for Byron to take the #24 car back to victory lane come Sunday.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com the best website for all NASCAR stats).


Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

This week, NASCAR heads for the Bluegrass state for the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Motor Speedway. This track is a 1.5 mile tri-oval with tightly banked corners of seventeen and fourteen degrees. Back in 2010, NASCAR announced that it would add this track to the schedule and while it was met with much intrigue then, this track has provided much more tame racing than many would expect. Back in 2015, it was announced that this track would be repaved and reconfigured to fix some of the track's issues with moisture. After this repave, the part of the track that was most affected was turn three. This part of the track is easily the most challenging as there have been multiple incidents on this corner. This should be were all the action is come saturday.

Last week at Daytona,part-time driver Justin Haley pulled off arguably the biggest upset in NASCAR history as he was able to claim his first career win after the rain ended the race prematurely. Driving for newly formed Spire Motorsports, he was able to avoid the big wreck that claimed 18 cars and take the lead right before the rain came. Many would label this victory as a fluke considering he only led one lap but it is important to note that he was running around the lead pack before the last caution.

Another facet fans took issue with was how this team came about in the first place. Back in the off-season, owners TJ Puchyr and Jeff Dickerson purchased the charter from Furniture Row racing and announced that they would be the newest team on the grid. This charter ensured that the team would be assured a spot in each of the thirty-six races in 2019 as opposed to open teams that do not have a charter and are not assured a spot. Many also thought that the team's victory had no bearing on the regular season considering that neither Haley or the team would be eligible for the playoffs. When not racing in the Cup Series, Haley is an Xfinity series regular so that is where he collects his driver points making him only eligible to compete for a championship in that series. Overall, while this wouldn't happen in almost any other circumstance, I think that it is pretty neat to see a new driver go to victory lane for his first win. While I will agree that NASCAR's new charter method is severely flawed in every way, you can't really blame Sprie Motorsports for taking advantage of this and finding success. I wish them the best for the remainder of 2019.

Going into this weekend, the driver that I have winning this weekend is Martin Truex Jr. Over the last two races here, Truex has won both of them. In both of those starts, Truex has lead sixty percent of the laps run here so it's clear this track is basically Truex's playground. While I think that the new aero package may change things up a little bit, I still see Truex winning because of how well he has qualified here as well. Since 2017, he hasn't started worse than second and with Qualifying meaning as much as it does I think he should have no issue with that as well. He will be tough to beat come Saturday night.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com the best website for all NASCAR stats).

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