Idriver Handicaps:/I Charlotte

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This weekend the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series returns to Lowe's Motor Speedway for the longest race of the year, the Coca-Cola 600. As a preview to the race, RacingOne brings you our weekly detailed look at some of the field, including stats, notes and driver's quotes for the 400-lap event.

1. Jimmie Johnson (Points: 1562): Johnson held on to his lead in the point standings for the eighth-straight race after posting his second DNF of the season at Richmond. Johnson, who now leads Greg Biffle by 41 points, has finished in the top 10, with three wins, in six of the seven LMS races he's competed in. His 2003 Coca-Cola 600 win came from the furthest starting position (37th) and in 2004 he swept both races. His 8.3 finishing average leads all active drivers that have entered seven or more races. Johnson, who has led 836 laps at Lowe's, will race chassis No. 48202 this weekend. This car won both races at Lowe's in 2004 and finished second at Atlanta and third at Texas this year. He will be one of many pulling double duty this weekend in the both the Busch and NEXTEL Cup Series.

Quotable: "The surface is totally different and it’s a whole new place. I feel like I'm coming to a new race track right now."

2. Greg Biffle (Points: 1521): Biffle's best finish at Lowe's Motor Speedway came in his first start in the 2003 Coca-Cola 600. In his three other starts, he has finished 17th or worse giving him an average finish of 21.8. Biffle will look to improve on his LMS stats as he's improved his career-best finishes on seven of the eleven tracks already this season. He will race a brand new car (RK-299) that is similar to the car he won with at Texas. Biffle tested the car at Charlotte earlier this month. He will also enter the Busch race on Saturday where he has one pole, two wins and seven top-10's.

Quotable: "Our tire blow-out in the All-Star race is a little concerning. We'll have to figure out what caused that and make sure it doesn't happen again but other than that, I feel pretty confident with the car we're taking. It should be a good race for us."

3. Jeff Gordon (Points: 1438): Luckily, Gordon's performance at Lowe's Motor Speedway is MUCH better than his rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." Gordon is tied with Mark Martin among active drivers with four victories (three in the 600) and leads with seven poles. Last year, he finished 30th in this event and second in the fall. The 2001 Coca-Cola 600 was the last time he led a lap. He has led 16 of 24 races for 391 laps.

Quotable: "The new surface is very fast, and with two racing lines, it should make for better racing. I'm really looking forward to rubber being laid down out there. It should make us more maneuverable."

4. Elliott Sadler (Points: 1413): In 13 races at Lowe's Motor Speedway, Sadler has either started in the top 10 (6 times) or below 23rd (7 times). He's only finished in the top 10 twice, both in 2004, with his best finish of fifth one year ago. He has led in five races for a total of 67 laps. Sadler moved up to fourth in the points standings after Richmond and trails Jimmie Johnson by only 149 points. Last year after 11 races, he ranked 10th in the standings. Sadler will return in the Pedigree car again this week. On Saturday before the race, Sadler will team with Jamie McMurray to battle Anna Kournikova on the tennis court.

Quotable: "My guys worked so hard all weekend so it was tough not to win on Saturday but if anything it makes us hungrier to come back here this weekend and try and get to Victory Lane on Sunday night."

5. Kurt Busch (Points: 1407): Busch's fourth-place finish last fall marked his first top-10 in nine races at Lowe's Motor Speedway. In 2002, he led 46 laps of his LMS total of 52 after starting a career-best 11th. This weekend, Busch's No. 97 will sport the colors of Smirnoff for the first of three races this season. He will be driving the same chassis No. 62 which raced at LMS last fall and California (finished third) this year.

Quotable: "We were a little too aggressive on our setup last week for the All-Star Challenge. This new track is definitely different; it's more like Texas than it is like Charlotte now, so we've got to revert back to some of those notes."

6. Tony Stewart (Points: 1397): In 2003, Stewart led 149 laps en route to his first win at Lowe's Motor Speedway after overcoming a 7.9-second lead by Ryan Newman with 36 laps to go. Even though that was Stewart's only win at LMS, the driver of the No. 20 has captured nine top-10 and six top-five finishes in 12 races. This weekend's chassis (No. 88) for the Home Depot team has made six starts, two this season, most recently finishing 31st at Texas after leading twice before the engine expired. Stewart wanted to bring his All-Star car back to the track, but unfortunately that was destroyed in the race.

Quotable: "We always work these races backward. You really don't pay attention to how many laps you've run. You pay attention to how many laps you have left. You know how many laps are in a segment and you know that when it comes to that last segment that you better have it right."

7. Ryan Newman (Points: 1370): Newman's odds of extending his streak of top-10 starts to 19 consecutive weeks looks good as he possesses a series-best average LMS start of 2.25. In eight races, Newman has earned four poles, three top-10's and has led 137 laps. Last weekend, Newman won the pole and led the most laps in the All-Star challenge before he crashed in Turn 1 on lap 71 of 90. Newman will race the same car (PRS-46) that won at Dover and scored five top-10 finishes in 2004.

Quotable: "Saturday night was a heartbreaker. The All-Star Challenge is a total team effort and it would have been great to win that one for the crew. But, we do know now that we had a great car with a great set-up and that knowledge has us excited for the 600 this weekend."

8. Kevin Harvick (Points: 1364): Harvick has a 15.6 starting average and an 18.5 finishing average in eight races at Lowe's Motor Speedway. He finished 23rd in this event one year ago. Harvick scored his best finish (second) at LMS in his first race at the track in 2001. Last October, he posted his first DNF after finishing 36th.

Quotable: "The thing that made me most upset last week was that we lost our primary car for the Coca-Cola 600 for no reason. The All-Star race has turned into a crash fest."

9. Jamie McMurray (Points: 1351): McMurray captured his first NEXTEL Cup win at Lowe's Motor Speedway, in only his second career start, back on Oct. 13, 2002. His only finish outside the top 10 in four starts came in the 2003 Coca-Cola 600, when he finished 25th. Since then, McMurray has posted finishes of seventh, fourth and eighth giving him a solid average of 9.0. He will return in chassis No. 307 which finished 14th in last Saturday's NEXTEL Open. This is the same car McMurray raced last year where he led 15 laps in the 600. The No. 42 will sport the second of four "Shine On" Texaco paint schemes on Sunday.

Quotable: "Obviously racing at Charlotte always puts a little edge in your step. For most of us, we're racing at our 'home track' since most of the teams are based around Charlotte. And for me, Charlotte definitely carries great memories."

10. Mark Martin (Points: 1344): One of Martin's four wins at Lowe's Motor Speedway came in the 2002 Coca-Cola 600. The remaining three victories came in the fall 500-mile event in 1992, 1995 and 1998. Martin will not return in the chassis that won last weekend's All-Star race, as the team opted to bring a car (chassis RK-247) that they tested earlier this month at Lowe's. This car also finished 20th at Texas Motor Speedway in April. Martin is the current leader among active drivers in laps led (1,148) and top-five finishes (15).

Quotable: "I tell you what I love Lowe's Motor Speedway. In my opinion, it's the greatest place to race in the world. I can remember the first time that I ever went there in 1981 and thinking 'wow' this is just like a small quarter-mile track somewhere, except it's huge, but you could race just like that.

11. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Points: 1333): After placing sixth or better, Earnhardt Jr. was one of five drivers that finished in the top 10 in both events at Lowe's Motor Speedway in 2004. His third-place finish in the fall was his career best at the track, which is the site of his first Cup start. In May 2000, Dale Jr. won his first career pole at LMS and became the first rookie to win the All-Star race. He scored his first top-five (fourth) after leading 175 laps in the 2000 edition of NASCAR's longest race.

12. Rusty Wallace (Points: 1290): Wallace will race in his last 600-mile race this weekend in his 47th start at Lowe's Motor Speedway. He has won twice at the track, most recently on May 27, 1990, in a race where he led 306 laps. At LMS, he has eight top-five and 21 top-10 finishes and has led a total of 925 laps.

13. Carl Edwards (Points: 1289): Edwards made his first start at Lowe's Motor Speedway in the Cup Series in last weekend's All-Star Challenge. He kicked off the 600 weekend with a 26th-place finish in the dirt modified race on Wednesday at The Dirt Track at Lowe's Motor Speedway. The No. 99 will bring back the All-Star car (chassis RK-270) for the Coca-Cola 600. He did not test at the track.

14. Dale Jarrett (Points: 1264): Jarrett is a three-time winner at Lowe's Motor Speedway. In 1996, he won his only Coca-Cola 600 after leading 199 out of a track total 530 laps. His first five of 36 starts at LMS resulted in five of his ten DNF's. Jarrett is third in top-five's (11) and tied for second with Jimmie Johnson for wins among active drivers at LMS. He will race the same car (chassis No. 38) that finished sixth in the All-Star race and 15th at Darlington this year.

15. Kasey Kahne (Points: 1261): Last fall Kahne dominated the race at Lowe's Motor Speedway, leading 207 laps before blowing a right front tire and crashing into the wall on lap 267. He finished 12th and led five laps in this event last year, his first start the speedway.

16. Jeremy Mayfield (Points: 1257): Mayfield made his first Cup start at Lowe's Motor Speedway on October 10, 1993. This weekend he will start at the track for the 23rd time. In the last six races at Lowe's, he posted three DNF's. His best finish of second came in the fall 2000 event. The two races in 2000 were the only times where he led at the track, for a total of 53 laps.

17. Michael Waltrip (Points: 1235): Waltrip scored his only top-five finish at Lowe's Motor Speedway in last year's Coca-Cola 600. The finish was also his third-straight top-10 in the 600-mile race. Waltrip won the 1996 All-Star race after transferring from the Open. In Sunday's race, the No. 15 on board camera will carry a congratulatory message for jackman Kevin Pennell on winning his individual portion of last Thursday's Pit Crew Challenge.

18. Jeff Burton (Points: 1228): Burton has two wins at Lowe's Motor Speedway both coming in the Coca-Cola 600 in 1999 and 2001. He has competed in 22 races, led 134 laps, scored 10 top-10 finishes and has a finishing average of 13.9 at the 1.5-mile track. Burton will bring back the same car (chassis No. 115) he raced in the All-Star Open last weekend. The No. 31 will run a new paint scheme promoting Cingular's GoPhone in Sunday's race.

19. Sterling Marlin (Points: 1168): Marlin is back in the hunt for the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup after the last race. He is 394 points back from the leader and comes to Lowe's Motor Speedway for his 49th start. He won there on October 7, 2001, after starting 13th and leading 135 laps. In total, Marlin has led 317 laps at the track, has 13 top-ten's and leads all active drivers with 15 DNF's. The No. 40 team is racing chassis No. 203, which placed 13th in its season debut at last weekend's All-Star race. Marlin took the car to three wins in 2002 at Darlington, Las Vegas and Charlotte.

21. Matt Kenseth (Points: 1097): Kenseth has captured six top-10 finishes at Lowe's Motor Speedway, including his first NEXTEL Cup win in 2000. Last year he finished third in this event. He has led eight races at the speedway and suffered two DNF's. Kenseth will race the same car (chassis No. 38) that finished 26th at California.

22. Kyle Busch (Points: 1086): Busch's best finish in two starts at Lowe's Motor Speedway was 32nd in this event one year ago. The Carquest colors will be on his car (chassis No. 349) for the third time this year. This car was tested at LMS earlier this month. He will also race in Saturday's Busch race where he is the defending champion.

25. Casey Mears (Points: 1037): Mears posted personal bests at Lowe's Motor Speedway in 2004. The May race marked his best finish (seventh) and the fall race marked his best start (third). Mears will be wearing a special helmet designed by Sarah Novak, the 8-year-old sister of a patient at Target House in Memphis, Tenn. when he climbs into chassis No. 206 this weekend. The Coca-Cola 600 will mark the first race for the car that was tested earlier this month.

26. Brian Vickers (Points: 1034): Vickers made his first NEXTEL Cup start at Lowe's Motor Speedway on October 11, 2003 finishing 33rd. His best finish (15th) at LMS came in this event last year. Vickers will be back in the car (chassis No. 334) that won the NEXTEL Open and finished third in the All-Star Challenge. His crew chief Lance McGrew has scored one win and four top-10 finishes in the Busch Series at LMS.

29. Mike Bliss (Points: 980): Bliss has two starts at Lowe's Motor Speedway, finishing a career-best 32nd in this event in 2000. In last Saturday's NEXTEL Open, he almost won in his first race at LMS with the Haas/CNC team, but was knocked out of the way by a hard-charging Brian Vickers. Bliss' seven-day-old qualifying record of 189.208 mph could be in jeopardy on Thursday night.

31. Bobby Labonte (Points: 968): This weekend's Coca-Cola 600 will mark the 10th anniversary of Labonte's first NEXTEL Cup victory. Labonte visited Victory Lane one more time at LMS in the 2000 500-mile event. Labonte holds the best finishing average (8.5) among all drivers that have entered all races at Lowe's Motor Speedway since 1998. Labonte has three poles at LMS, including a sweep in 1999. Overall, Labonte has captured 14 top-10's and has led 794 laps in 24 races. He will race the same car (chassis No. 99) that was involved in an accident on lap one at Atlanta in March. Labonte will also enter his first of eight Busch Series races in Joe Gibbs Racing's No. 19 on Saturday night. He will promote the movie "Madagascar" on his No. 18 at LMS, just like his teammate Tony Stewart did in the All-Star Challenge.

RacingOne Staff Picks:

Pete Pistone: Elliott Sadler
Rick Benjamin: Greg Biffle
Ron Lemasters: Tony Stewart
Jeff Wackerlin: Jeff Gordon

Wins: Jeff (Greg Biffle-California, Kevin Harvick-Bristol, Jeff Gordon-Martinsville), Rick (Jeff Gordon-Talladega)

Coca-Cola 600
Lowe's Motor Speedway

TV: FOX, 5:00 p.m. (ET).
Radio: PRN/XM Satellite.
Race length: 400 laps, 600 miles.

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