Nascar Racing

The Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty Norman
There’s nothing quite like Memorial Day weekend… There are a lot of things going on in celebration of the fallen heroes of our country and what they and their families have sacrificed for our country and us. There is also a whole lot of racing going on.

It is no secret that two of the most important and biggest ones would be the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Speedway and the Coca-Cola 600 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway because they are a yearly tradition. The way things are set up for the two races, not only can fans attend one and watch the other one on TV or they can watch both of them on TV. As for me, I will more likely pay a little attention to the Indy 500 while it is going on and watch as the NASCAR Sprint Cup teams endure 600 miles – 400 laps – at the fast one and a half mile oval in Charlotte, NC.

So what is it about this 600 mile race that attracts all the attention? Well… it isn’t just about the race. It is also about that extra 100 miles.

There’s always been something about the 600 that has caught the attention of the fan’s. I’m not exactly sure why it enjoys the popularity it does, but I do know it is a unique race and there isn’t really not another one that compares to it. Some call it an endurance race while some just call it the longest race and either one is true. Either way, it will be full of drama but, from this fan’s view, probably not until the last fifty of those extra 100 miles.

To this fan, one of the things that is most interesting about it is how the drivers have to prepare themselves mentally and physically for the 400 laps they will make around the Speedway. Just when they would be ready to head home after a normal night of racing, they have to make another 100 miles and still be sharp mentally and physically and be up on the wheel, ready to make their move to take the checkered flag. This is no ordinary race for the cup teams and it will test not only the limits of the cars and the drivers but the team as a whole.

The RPM Fords are on the front row for the start of tonight’s race and that means they will have great pit stalls. Other than that, one has to wonder if they will be able to maintain track position at or near the front for the whole night. All of us know it is one thing to be able to run one or two fast laps to qualify on the front row and quite another to keep that track position from the beginning all the way to the end. Although it is great to see Richard Petty Motorsports qualifying as they did, I’m a little skeptical of how their night will end. Yes, it is possible either Almirola or Ambrose could end up in Victory Lane but this fan thinks they are long shots for tonight.

Who would have thought of the four Hendrick teams, Jeff Gordon would seem the least likely of them to win tonight. After all, the first time he won in Cup was right at this very place. Since that time, we all know how his Cup career has gone but to say this year has been a struggle would be the ultimate understatement, at least from this fan’s view. It hasn’t even been because they’ve been running poorly but it has been because they haven’t been finishing well. From my view, the #24 team could win tonight and it could be where the entire year turns around for the driver and the team. I really think they have a good chance at taking the win tonight even though it seems they have been running a little under the radar this weekend.

The obvious ones to be possible winners from the Hendrick camp would be the other three. Of them, I’m having a little trouble deciding whether it will be Jimmie Johnson or Dale Jr with the best chance or whether Kasey Kahne will lead the pack to the checkers. All three of them have been running strong over the last two weekends.

Just because I’ve just mentioned the strong possibility of one of the Hendrick teams finishing up front doesn’t mean none of the other teams have a chance tonight. MWR’s Martin Truex Jr has shown a lot of speed in the practice sessions. I guess I shouldn’t ignore Mark Martin or Clint Bowyer either. All of the MWR teams have a great chance at taking the win for tonight.

In fact, there are a lot of strong teams qualified to start the night in middle of the pack. Names like Harvick, Newman, Stewart, Kyle Bush, Kenseth, Allmendinger and of course Brad Keselowski. I’m not one to think none of them have a chance tonight, I just don’t think they will show their cards until the last 100 laps or so. That means, at least from this fan’s view, it won’t be over ’til it’s over.

What I expect to see tonight is a race that is run fairly conservatively for the first 450 miles or so. Most will try to maintain track position and yet not tax their reserves until that last 150 miles, in particular, the last 50 miles. In fact, I think this race might be just a bit boring in the middle even though I do expect to see a lot of diverse strategies being applied over the whole night.

When it comes down to crunch time, I expect to see some engine failures along with some other types of part failures that could even give us that very unexpected winner for this Coca-Cola 600 (which has kinda become the expectation over the years… )

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© May 27, 2012 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
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By Rusty Norman

Amateur writer, NASCAR Fan, musician and former local Stock Car racer.