The NASCAR Cup Series heads to Charlotte this weekend for the Coca-Cola 600. Who can survive the extended distance to ride to victory lane?
The second half of the regular season begins this weekend as the NASCAR Cup Series rides into Charlotte for the Coca-Cola 600.
In positive news, the garage will see a familiar face return to action this weekend ahead of the year’s longest race. Hendrick Motorsports’ Alex Bowman has been medically cleared to return to the track this weekend after missing three points-paying races. Bowman suffered a fractured vertebra in a Sprint Car accident on April 25 but is now good to go for the playoff push.
Despite missing some time, Bowman is only five points out of a playoff spot in 17th. He now has the back half of the schedule to get back to form and make his way into the 16-driver playoff field. As happy as the team was for Bowman’s return, they also heaped praise on Josh Berry, who filled in for Bowman during his absence, after doing the same earlier in the year for Chase Elliott.
In a statement released by Hendrick Motorsports, they call Josh “an absolute pro.” They go on to say that “His talent and hard work allowed the team to continue operating at a high level while Alex recovered. We can’t say enough about the great job he did under some challenging circumstances.”
Berry, a full-time Xfinity Series driver for JR Motorsports, is slowly putting together a resume for another opportunity in a Cup Series ride, making the most of his reserve role.
With another heavyweight back in the mix this weekend, we should have some exciting racing ahead at Charlotte.
Can't get enough of last year's finish. #CocaCola600 pic.twitter.com/0aXbWAxcjP
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) May 24, 2023
Charlotte Motor Speedway is a 1.5-mile quad oval in Concord, North Carolina. The track first appeared on the NASCAR Cup Series in 1960 and has since hosted two races per year. It also hosted the NASCAR All-Star Race in 1985 and from 1987-2019, making it a familiar site for NASCAR fans. Jimmie Johnson is the all-time wins leader at the track with eight, while the most recent winner on the quad-oval is Denny Hamlin.
I specify the “quad-oval” because since 2018 the track’s second yearly race has been run on the Roval configuration which incorporates the infield road course. Last year’s Roval race was won by Christopher Bell. The oval characteristics include 24-degree banking in the corners with five-degree banking on the straights.
Sunday’s race will be 400 laps long and cover 600 miles. Due to the increased length (the longest on the 2023 schedule), the race will be split into four stages instead of the usual three. The math is quite simple. With 400 laps, each stage will consist of 100 laps, making it four equal stages across the race.
As we have officially entered the second half of the season, let’s shift to looking at the playoff standings and the top 16 drivers in the playoffs as of now.
- William Byron*, Hendrick Motorsports
- Ross Chastain, Trackhouse Racing
- Christopher Bell*, Joe Gibbs Racing
- Kyle Larson*, Hendrick Motorsports
- Denny Hamlin*, Joe Gibbs Racing
- Martin Truex Jr.*, Joe Gibbs Racing
- Kyle Busch*, Richard Childress Racing
- Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing
- Tyler Reddick*, 23XI Racing
- Joey Logano*, Team Penske
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr.*, JTG Daugherty Racing
- Ryan Blaney, Team Penske
- Brad Keselowski, RFK Racing
- Chris Buescher, RFK Racing
- Bubba Wallace, 23XI Racing
- Chase Briscoe, Stewart-Haas Racing
*= 2023 race winner
It’s not an interesting pick, but I’m taking Kyle Larson this weekend. He’s fresh off an All-Star Race win, and he runs well at Charlotte. If you take into account all of the events he’s run at the track (All-Star opens/heats included), he’s taken four wins and had nine top 10s in 14 events. Larson has been on a roll this season, and there’s no reason to believe it will stop now.
- Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports
- Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing
- Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports
- Tyler Reddick, 23XI Racing
- Kyle Busch, Richard Childress Racing
How To Watch – NASCAR at Charlotte (All times ET)
- Practice: Saturday, May 27 – 7:05 p.m. – FS1
- Qualifying: Saturday, May 27 – 7:50 p.m. – FS1
- Coca-Cola 600: Sunday, May 28 – 6:00 p.m. – FOX (Green flag at 6:15 p.m.)