What to Watch: Will Ford continue climb at Charlotte?

Coca-Cola 600

(Sunday, 6 p.m. ET | FOX | PRN Radio, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Weekend schedule | TV schedule | Weather tracker | NASCAR 101

Location: Concord, North Carolina
Track length: 1.5 miles
Race purse: $9,874,821
Race distance: 400 laps | 600 miles
Segments: 100 | 200 | 300 | 400

Starting lineup: Ty Gibbs will lead the field to green for 600 miles
Pit stall assignments:
See where drivers will pit
Defending winner:
Ryan Blaney, May 2023

Key things to watch

Saturday sessions

Ty Gibbs set the fast lap to claim the Cup Series pole for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway with a speed of 183.995 mph, his first pole award of his career. William Byron follows in second (183.580 mph) after an earlier harmless spin early in practice; Christopher Bell (183.461 mph), Martin Truex Jr. (182.871 mph), and Chase Elliott (182.704 mph) round out the top five for the 600-mile endurance race.

Tyler Reddick advanced to the final round for Cup Series qualifying and posted a speed of 182.137 to slot him eighth, but due to a pre-practice penalty for unapproved adjustments, the No. 45 will start Sunday’s race from the rear. | Full Saturday recap

Big story line

Does Ford find Victory Lane for the third consecutive week?

After a rough start to the 2024 campaign, Ford has landed in Victory Lane in the last two weeks, with Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano breaking into the Winner’s Circle in the All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro. Despite Logano’s win not counting for any points, the blue ovals have shown race pace the last few weeks. With the manufacturer netting six top fives and 14 top 10s over the last four races. If Ford does find itself in Victory Lane, there are a host of drivers who are more than capable of making it a three-peat on Sunday.

Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney enters the weekend eighth in the Cup Series standings, and he dominated this event a year ago, snapping a 59-race winless streak. While he’s had some uneven results in the first half of the season, Blaney opened his title defense by being tremendously consistent, securing three top-five finishes and the points lead through the first four races — not to mention he had one of the fastest cars at Darlington until an on-track incident took him out of contention in Stage 2.

Blaney isn’t the only Ford driver to watch out for this weekend. There’s the RFK duo of Keselowski and Chris Buescher, who have excelled on intermediate tracks in the Next Gen era, in addition to Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe and Noah Gragson, who have both taken turns carrying the SHR banner and turned in strong top-10 runs on intermediates this season. Logano, coming off a dominant All-Star win, stands as the top contender below the elimination line who could shake up the current playoff picture.

History tells us…

Toyota continues to bring the speed at Charlotte Motor Speedway, placing three cars in the top five. In the last two Coke 600s in the Next Gen era, Toyota has occupied three of the top five spots. The manufacturer also won the pole at both Kansas and Darlington this season, proving its speed has been top-tier in the thick of the season.

That speed has translated to five wins already this year, only two behind Chevrolet through the first half of the season. If we peel back even further, Toyota has won five of the last nine Coke 600s, with their most recent win coming in 2022, when Denny Hamlin led a 1-2 finish for the manufacturer.

He may not be the betting favorite to win, but watch out for…

Chase Elliott. After finding Victory Lane in Texas, the 2020 champ already has a 1.5-mile win under his belt. Elliott would be the eighth driver to win in his 300th Cup Series start, and Charlotte has proved to be a great track for him in recent years. He’s led laps in the last six oval races at Charlotte and finished runner-up in two of the last four Coke 600s. Plus, with two of his Hendrick Motorsports teammates locked into the playoffs with multiple victories, Elliott may be primed to tally the win column again. | Charlotte odds

Speed reads

Our biggest pieces of the week — get covered for race day from all angles. 

• Turning Point: Is Joey Logano back? Has Rowdy been awoken? | Read article
• Up to Speed:
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. fined $75K for All-Star brawl | Read article 
• NASCAR Salutes: See the fallen heroes being honored this weekend | Photo gallery
• Charlotte memories: Take a trip through iconic moments | Photo gallery
• NASCAR Classics: Classic 600-milers to watch before Sunday | Read article
• Hall of Fame:
Ricky Rudd, Carl Edwards, Ralph Moody elected to 2025 class | Read article
• Field of 16:
See the projected playoff picture before Charlotte | Read article
• Brink of history?:
Kyle Larson projected to win after Indy 500 debut | Read article
• 36 for 36:
Check this week’s survivor pool picks | Read article
• Fantasy Fastlane:
Look for Ford to make up your race day lineup | Photo gallery
• Paint Scheme Preview: Patriotic paint schemes for Memorial Day Weekend | Pick your favorite
• Midseason superlatives:
From fiery feuds to photo finishes | Photo gallery

Fast facts 

Race-relevant statistics, brought to you by the experts at Racing Insights.

• 2024 is the third straight season there were at least seven passes for the win in the final 10 laps of the races through 13 events, the longest streak ever
• Only twice in the last 25 seasons has the Coke 600 winner gone on to win the Cup Series championship; both were in the last three years (Kyle Larson 2021, Ryan Blaney 2023)
• Hendrick Motorsports has the most Coca-Cola wins of any organization with 12; next-best on the team win list in the 600 is Richard Childress Racing with six.

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