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).


The Left Turn

NASCAR is back for the 2020 Daytona 500

Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images


After three months of waiting, the time has finally come for the great american race, the Daytona 500. This will be the 61st running of NASCAR's crown jewel and while there were many changes to the landscape of the sport in the off-season, the slate is now cleaned for each driver.

This will be the final Daytona 500 for the current car they are running as next season they will switch to the "next gen" model which will be VASTLY different than the car we will be seeing on Sunday. This is important because now teams will be able to maximize the current cars they have now before they become obsolete in 2021. Many team owners have done a good job of taking advantage of this including team JTG Daugherty Racing as they were able to reach a deal with Hendrick Motorsports allowing them more resources that they didn't have last year. These include pit crew support and engines as well. The team has really reaped the benefits of this as their new driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr went on to claim the pole on Sunday.

We will see if this will improve parity and if we will see any new winners in 2020.

Another major storyline coming into this new season is the rookie class. Over the last couple of years, NASCAR's rookie class has not been as strong as fans would like it to be, but this year is a completely different story. Drivers Christopher Bell, Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick have all been promoted to the cup series in 2020. This has been long overdue as they have all shown excellent promise by outrunning multiple Cup racing stars who frequently race in the Xfinity series. While Reddick is the only one of the three to win a championship, they have all won a combined 34 races over the last three years.

Tyler Reddick will move to the #8 Caterpillar Chevy for Richard Childress racing 2020 replacing Daniel Hemric. Many fans believe that adding the young driver will revitalize the slumping team as he finished ninth last year in his second Cup Series start at Kansas. Reddick is easily the most accomplished as he has won back to back NASCAR Xfinity Championships. Overall, if he can translate his success to the Cup series he will for sure be one to watch this year.

California native Cole Custer will be driving the #41 Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas racing as he will be replacing Daniel Suarez. This comes as no surprise considering his connections to the race team as his Dad, Joe Custer is the team president. While many people have been quick to bring this up, it doesn't take away from the immense talent this young man has. Last season, Cole won seven races and was very close to claiming the championship after a fierce battle with Reddick at Homestead. Overall, I also believe that Cole will be going into one of the better situations as he will be driving in championship winning equipment as well. I look for Custer to really make a splash this year.

While both of these drivers are extremely talented, I believe that Christopher Bell is the best of the three and will win rookie of the year. The Norman, Oklahoma phenom will be driving the #95 Toyota Camry for Bob Leavine and the Leavine Family Racing team. Unlike the other two, Bell has yet to make a Cup Series start but don't let that fool you, no one could be more prepared for the big time than this young man. Overall, I believe that he is the most polished prospect that the sport has seen since Tony Stewart considering both their backgrounds in Dirt Racing. This could explain why Joe Gibbs and his team has been so instrumental in moving Christopher's career forward considering Stewart also drove for him from 1999 to the end of 2008 when he would form his own team the next season. I think Coach Gibbs sees a lot in this young man and that's why he is spending a lot of money and resources on a partnership with Leavine Family Racing. Look for Bell to be contending for wins and championships for decades to come.

While one of those three drivers are easily the favorites to take Rookie Of The Year, another driver who is finally getting his shot at the highest level is John-Hunter Nemechek. Son of NASCAR vetran Joe Nemechek, racing has been in this young man's blood since even before he was even born, you had to figure that this young man was destined to be where he is today. While he isn't driving for a big money team in front row racing, he has been rather impressive. Last year at Texas he was in the top twenty to top fifteen throughout the day. If the young man can keep this up his name could come up for a promotion to another team. Look for Nemechek to surprise some folks this year.

Aside from this year's stacked rookie class, there will also be plenty of new faces in new places. One of the biggest announcements this year was Ricky Stenhouse Jr and Chris Buescher switching rides at Roush Racing and JTG Daugherty Racing. This came as a big surprise last season as Stenhouse had re-signed with Roush to remain in the #17 Fastenal Ford but after he struggled for most of the season, the hall of fame car owner decided to go in a different direction so they brought in their former developmental driver Chris Buescher. To counter this move, car owners Tad and Jodi Geschickter decided to bring in Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Another big move this year was Matt DiBenedetto moving to the Wood brothers to replace the retiring Paul Menard in the legendary #21 Ford Mustang. This was a popular move among NASCAR fans as he will continue to try and move his budding career forward. It will be interesting to see how these drivers will do at their new teams.

While there were many changes easily the biggest storyline this year is Jimmie Johnson and his announcement that 2020 will be his final season in NASCAR before retiring. Over the course of his 18-year career, it's hard to find anyone with a better resume. He has 83 wins and most importantly seven championships. He has experienced his fair share of success here at Daytona as well as he has won the 500 twice back in 2006 and 2013. While during his prime, Jimmie wasn't always the most popular one thing remains, Jimmie was the best to ever do it. In his final Daytona 500, Jimmie is who I am picking to win. Over the course of speedweeks Jimmie has been pretty quick as he posted speeds in the top four in both rounds one and two. Of all the drivers in the field, Johnson easily is the most experienced and that should definitely help him in the long run. Look for Jimmie Johnson to go out on top in his final daytona 500.

One darkhorse driver to watch out for is Ricky Stenhouse Jr. As I mentioned earlier, Ricky is having a week to remember as he went on to claim his third career pole on Sunday and was a lap away from winning one of winning one of the Duel qualifying races as well. I look for him to have a good race and if he can keep up his momentum a good season as well. It will be fun to watch as he tries to capture his first Daytona 500 victory from the front row on 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).

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