Three weeks of trekking through the Carolinas come to a close this weekend as the NASCAR Cup Series makes its way to Charlotte Motor Speedway.
With the 2023 regular season at the halfway point, Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) marks a pivotal event for drivers to set the tone for the summer playoff push. But before the action gets underway at the home track for numerous drivers and teams, get a primer for the weekend with trends to watch ahead of Sunday, tire notes and interactive ways to follow all the action at Charlotte.
RELATED: See patriotic schemes for Coca-Cola 600 | Betting favorites for NASCAR’s longest race
SHOWSTOPPER OR SCENE-STEALER? 🤔
Whether it’s the behemoth in length or the battle for bragging rights, the Coca-Cola 600 has produced a vast array of results. From some of the most dominant performances in the sport’s history to first-time winners and underdog surprises, the action in Charlotte is never predictable.
The Next Gen car’s debut at the 1.5-mile North Carolina oval produced a thriller for the ages last season as Denny Hamlin won a five-hour, 13-minute battle of attrition to score his first Coke 600 trophy. A year before that, however, eventual 2021 Cup champion Kyle Larson outclassed the field, leading 321 of 400 laps, marking one of his many highlights from his 10-win campaign to the title.
Martin Truex Jr. has the one-up in performance on Larson in this event as he led all but eight laps in the 2016 edition of the Coke 600.
The Coca-Cola 600 produced first-time Cup Series winners in underdogs Casey Mears (2007), David Reutimann (2009) and Austin Dillon (2017) and springboarded the Hall of Fame careers for David Pearson (1961), Jeff Gordon (1994), Bobby Labonte (1995) and Matt Kenseth (2000).
MORE: See all winners of the Coca-Cola 600
📉 TRENDS TO WATCH 📈
— Four of the last seven Coke 600s were won from the pole, including the last two.
— Six different drivers won the last six Coca-Cola 600s.
— Ford has only scored one win on the Charlotte oval since 2016.
— The final lead change came in the final three laps of the last four 1.5-mile track races.
(Via Racing Insights)
NOTABLE MOMENTS 🎥
1994: Jeff Gordon scores first Cup win in Coke 600 | WATCH
2005: Johnson outduels Bobby Labonte at the finish line | WATCH
2011: Dale Jr. runs out of gas on final corner, Harvick wins Coke 600 | WATCH
2017: Austin Dillon brings No. 3 back to Victory Lane | WATCH
ON-TRACK SCHEDULE 🗓️
Saturday, May 27
— 7:05 p.m. ET: Practice (FS1, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
— 7:50 p.m. ET: Qualifying (FS1, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
Sunday, May 28
— 6 p.m. ET: Coca-Cola 600 (FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
MORE: Full weekend schedule at Charlotte
RULE CHANGES/GOODYEAR TIRE NOTES
The GEICO Restart Zone returned to its 2022 dimensions after being extended for this season’s first five races.
Goodyear brings the tire setup to Charlotte that was first featured at Homestead-Miami Speedway last October. It’s the same setup that was used at Fontana, Las Vegas, Kansas and Darlington earlier this season. Teams will be issued one set of tires for practice, one set for qualifying and an additional 12 sets for Sunday’s 600-miler.
NASCAR has implemented an update to the Next Gen NASCAR Cup Series chassis that will go into effect beginning with this weekend‘s action at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
In the event of a lost wheel that is contained to pit road, the offending team will be subject to a pass-through penalty under green-flag conditions. If the infraction occurs during a caution period, the offending team will restart at the tail end of the field.
If the wheel breaks free outside of pit road, the new rules guidelines mandate a two-lap penalty plus a two-race suspension for two crew members. Each penalty is series-specific: Violations in one series will not impact those crew members‘ eligibility to participate in other series.
NOTE: No. 2 Team Penske crew members Keiston France and Patrick Gray were suspended from the next two Championship Series events after Austin Cindric lost a tire on track at Kansas Speedway on May 7.
RELATED: See rules changes for 2023
Fans can get in on the action all season long with NASCAR Fan Rewards, a free program that rewards fans for participating in the action when they watch races and play NASCAR Fantasy.
There‘s no cost to join. Fans must be 18 years or older to participate in the program.
Earn points by checking into a race from home or at the track, setting your Fantasy Live lineup, making purchases on the NASCAR.com shop and more. Points can be redeemed for race tickets, merchandise and VIP experiences at the track, including pace car rides and waving the green flag at qualifying.
FOLLOW THE RACE 📲
NASCAR Mobile has now added support for fans to “Follow the Race” and access live leaderboard and race information from Live Activities in the current app release (v13.2.0), available now. Android users, we didn‘t forget you — the same functionality has been custom-built for Android devices, as well.
How to access Live Activities on iPhones:
- Make sure your iOS device has been updated to 16.1 or higher.
- Available on the leaderboard of all NASCAR Series races.
- Click on the three-dot menu near the top right of screen.
- Select “Follow the Race.”
- Swipe up to access the home screen and you will see the Live Activities at the top.
- Lock the device and you will see Live Activities on the Lock Screen.
- To turn off, simply visit the leaderboard, click the three-dot menu and “Unfollow the Race.”
FANTASY LIVE 🏆
Want to manage a team and race your way to the top of the leaderboards? Check out NASCAR Fantasy Live, which is open now. The free-to-play game lets you choose your drivers each week and show off your crew-chief instincts by garaging a driver by the end of Stage 2, and there is a $25,000 prize for the winner. (NOTE: For this week only the garage will lock after Stage 3. Also, only stage points from Stage 1 and Stage 2 will count toward your score.)
How to play: Fantasy Live | Set up a team today!
ALSO ON NASCAR.COM 💻
Get additional camera views by logging on to NASCAR Drive, where each week, in-car cameras will be available.
NASCAR has partnered with LiveLike to add fan engagement to the NASCAR Mobile App. Log in to the mobile app during the race for polls, quizzes, the cheer meter and more — and see instant results from NASCAR fans like you.