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NASCAR Coca Cola 600 preview

by Dave Grayson
Thursday, May 27, 2010

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Last year's winner David Reutimann
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will be enjoying their second consecutive week at home. Many of the teams are located in Moorseville-North Carolina, as well as other small communities, just down the freeway from their next stop on the Sprint Cup schedule: the Charlotte Motor Speedway. It's the home of the annual Coca Cola 600 NASCAR's longest race of the season.

There's more than a few reasons why anyone of the teams in the 43 car starting field wants to win this race. First off, there's bragging rights. After all they are racing at the place where they call home. The bragging rights extends to who is the toughest driver. These Sprint Cup drivers are naturally acclimated to the 400 and 500 mile races they drive in all year long. That extra 100 miles can be extremely physically demanding. The race is also extremely lucrative in terms of post event pay outs. There is a also a lot of prestige to winning the Coca Cola 600 because of its historical significance. This event saw its first green flag in the spring of 1960 and quickly became one of NASCAR's annual crown jewels.

THE STORY BREAKDOWN

It's only inevitable that we will once again get treated to "a tale of two team mates" during the Coca Cola 600 weekend. We all watched the on, and off, track tension between Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin last Saturday night during the Sprint All Star Challenge. We watched team owner Joe Gibbs rush to Hamlin's car hauler to work his benevolent magic that somehow quickly resolves major situations. We've heard the reports that it's over and all is back to normal. But that doesn't mean there won't be speculation and a ton of video highlights all weekend long. Get ready for it.

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As we all know by now Kevin Harvick signed a multi year contract extension with Richard Childress Racing this past week ending speculation that he was considering leaving that organization at the end of this year.

But this story line doesn't end here. There's still the matter of what corporation is going to replace Shell/Pennzoil as the team's primary sponsor after they move to driver Kurt Busch and Penske Racing next year. Earlier in the week, during a press conference, there was a reference that said the Richard Childress Marketing representatives were meeting with new companies that are presently not involved in the sport. There seems to be a great deal of optimism that says the sponsorship hunt will turn out to favorable.

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On the subject of sponsor programs it appears that all is well between Bass Pro Shops, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing and driver Jamie McMurray according to Johnny Morris the founder of Bass Pro Shops. The sponsorship contract runs out at the end of this current season and, why no new pact is signed yet, Morris says that he anticipates that his sponsorship will remain with EGR and does not anticipate any move.

McMurray and the team winning the 2010 Daytona 500 helped that cause along a great deal. But it turns out that one of the big considerations is the fact that Bass Pro Shops is headquartered in Springfield-Missouri while McMurray is from nearby Joplin-Missouri. Morris described that as being "huge back home."

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During this Memorial Day weekend many of the Sprint Cup teams will be adopting a patriotic theme honoring our Armed Forces with their paint schemes. Kasey Kahne's #9 Budweiser Ford will sport a bright red camouflage paint scheme with the logo "Budweiser is proud to serve those who serve." The special promotion is a part of the Budweiser and USO partnership. Additionally, all four of the Hendrick Motorsports teams will display special patriotic paint schemes using the theme "Honoring Our Soldiers."

But the promotion that really stands out is the ExtenZe Local Hero program employed by Front Row Motorsports and driver Kevin Conway. The guest of honor during Sunday's race will be Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jim Herring, a National Guardsman and Silver Star recipient, currently stationed in Roanoke Rapids-North Carolina. Herring is the only the second soldier since World War Two to earn the Silver Star while serving in the North Carolina National Guard. In addition to the $1,000 prize from ExtenZe, Herring will be sitting on the team's pit box Sunday as Conway's honorary crew chief.

THE RACE BREAKDOWN

The Coca Cola 600 is 400 laps/600 miles around the Charlotte Motor Speedway's 1.5 mile quad oval.

The race has 47 entries vying for the 43 starting spots. 11 of those entries are on the go or go home list meaning they are not guaranteed a starting berth in the race because they are outside of the top 30 in NASCAR owner points. These teams will have to depend on their qualifying speed to earn a spot in Sunday's race.

The defending race winner is David Reutimann who last year scored his first ever Sprint Cup victory following a race that was shortened by inclement weather.

When it comes to winning the Coca Cola 600 no one does it better than the dynamic duo from Hendrick Motorsports. Jimmie Johnson has three consecutive wins from 2003 through 2005. Jeff Gordon has two wins from 1997 and 1998. When it comes to total wins at Charlotte, both the spring and fall races, Johnson has six and Gordon has five. That in turn has helped Chevrolet lead the manufacturer's standings with 36 wins.

The track qualifying record for the Charlotte Motor Speedway, 193.216 MPH, was set by Elliot Sadler back in October of 2005. "The Rocket Man", Ryan Newman, holds the Coca Cola 600 qualifying record, 192.988 MPH, set in May 2005.

Weather should not be a major factor for the Charlotte weekend except for the possibility of in car temperatures. Saturday and Sunday's forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with daytime higher in the upper 80's.

Fox Sports will broadcast the Coca Cola 600 live beginning at 5pm eastern time. This will be the final NASCAR on Fox broadcast of 2010. The race will be re broadcast on Wednesday, June 2nd, on SPEED beginning at 12 pm et.

THE TRACK BREAKDOWN

The Charlotte Motor Speedway is a 1.5 mile quad oval.

The four turns are banked 24 degrees with the two straightaways banked at only five degrees.

The pit road speed is 45 MPH.

The speedway presently has seating for 171,000.

The Charlotte Motor Speedway opened in 1960. The first 600 mile race was held in the spring of that year and featured 60 starters. The winner was Joe Lee Johnson whose margin of victory was a whopping four laps. It took more than five and one half hours to complete the race.

THE VEGAS BREAKDOWN

It should not come as a shock to anyone that the Las Vegas based World Sports Exchange, (WSE), has six time Charlotte winner Jimmie Johnson on top of their weekly rankings at 4 to 1 odds. Right behind him is fellow Hendrick Motorsports team mate, and five time Charlotte winner, Jeff Gordon at 7 to 1. Joining Gordon in that same category is the red hot Kyle Busch. A wager on either driver at those odds could turn out to be lucrative. The equally red hot Denny Hamlin is right behind them at 8 to 1. Kurt Busch, the winner of last Saturday night's Sprint All Star Challenge, is ranked 9 to 1 and that is also a wager worthy of consideration. The Busch team will be bringing a ton of momentum to Sunday's Coca Cola 600.

Looking towards the middle of the WSE rankings you'll find Mark Martin and Kevin Harvick at 15 to 1. Martin is a four time Charlotte winner while Harvick is the series' points leader and running very strong at the moment.

At 18 to 1 odds we have Kasey Kahne and Jeff Burton which is a very interesting pair of drivers worthy of playing the long odds. Both are three time winners at Charlotte. Kahne has very good stats at this track while Burton is running very strong of late and it's just a matter of time before he hits victory lane again.

At 20 to 1 odds we have Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth, both previous Charlotte winners, along with Greg Biffle and Joey Logano. The 25 to 1 group features Juan Pablo Montoya, Clint Bowyer and Carl Edwards. The much improved team of Martin Truex Jr leads the 30 to 1 group along with Dale Earnhardt Jr, Ryan Newman and former Charlotte winner Jamie McMurray.

At the bottom of the list this week is Brad Keselowski at 35 to 1 and apparently there's no love for the defending race champion because David Reutimann is ranked at 40 to 1 odds.

Now for the disclaimer: NASCAR wants to remind you that they consider these rankings as information and entertainment sources and they neither encourage or condone the placing of wagers on their races. They would prefer that you invest your gambling money on official Digger souvenirs before the official fat rat of Fox Sports disappears following the network's final race broadcast of the year.

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