NASCAR's longest race this weekend - It's the Coca-Cola 600
Unfortunately, always in my mind was NASCAR and the Indianapolis 500. This year, I will have to watch via internet, but thank God I have that and an on-board generator to recharge the laptop.
As Eric said earlier this week, tomorrow morning we have the Indianapolis 500. It is bound to be a true test for the new DW12 and for Chevy and Honda to test out an oval track, well a rectangular track maybe.
Once up a time drivers tested themselves by driving both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte in the same day. Tony Stewart is possibly the most famous, and vocal, drivers to do so. In 1999, Stewart's rookie season in Sprint Cup, he competed in the Indianapolis 500, finishing ninth. He then flew to Charlotte, NC and started the Coca-Cola 600, bettering his Indy finish by coming in fourth. Many drivers run both the Nationwide races and the Sprint cup races in the same weekend, but Tony did the true Double Duty, running a total of 1,100 miles in one day.
The Memorial Weekend race is still the longest on the NASCAR circuit, at a total of 600 miles. The two races are no longer run far enough apart that a driver can run races, but it is still a lot of fun for the fans. Yes, the day is very long, but Charlotte is a fast track and although there were a lot of complaints about last week's All Star race, most had to do with the format. Gone are the days when the drivers could beat and bang on another car's door, as we have seen lately with Kurt Busch. The man drove a car that had hit the wall several times, yet still tried his best to put that car up front. He did end up having to pit, and that seems to be the story with the current version of Sprint Cup car. They are so computerized that the slightest contact can make the car uncompetetive. That is what we, the fans, are given to watch when the racing starts. Oh for the good old days when it was about camber and tire pressures, rather than computer adjustments.
In any case, today we have 300 miles of Nationwide racing, with Joey Logano on the pole. Joey seems to be doing very well in the Nationwide Series, where he is not running for a Championship, only being what used to be called a Buschwacker, back when the series was sponsored by Busch beer. Joey has not lived up to the potential expected when he signed on with Joe Gibbs racing, at least in Sprint Cup, but his success in the Nationwide Series seems only to prove that he should have remained in the feeder series for at least another year, to gain experience. Austin Dillon will start alongside Logano, with Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr in the second row.
In the Sprint Cup race, Aric Almirola is showing his chops as a Sprint Cup driver, winning the pole for tomorrow's Coca-Cola 600. He put the Petty Motorsports 43 up front with a speed close to 193 mph, 1.5 mph faster than his closest competitor, Marcos Ambrose. Yep, that's right folks, it's an all Petty front row. The complete lineup, courtesy of NASCAR.com is here.
The big question, will Jimmie Johnson win the big race? Is he back? Did he leave, or just take a breather? He was the victor last weekend in the All Star race, but the fact that he won the first segment and didn't have to do anything but run around the track until the final segment. He was able to save his car and relax. There will be no relaxing in the 600. Yes, much like Talladega and Daytona, riding around in the back to save the car is a strategy that very well may be adopted. Carl Edwards has been known to use that strategy, as has Jimmie. Frankly, it is my opinion that his strategy isn't within the true meaning of racing. I don't see how a driver can ride around in the back, only to make a run for the front with ten to go and say he "won" a "race". Kevin Harvick is the kind of "Where'd he come from?" and I am a fan of Happy Harvick, so maybe I should keep my opinions to myself?
What of the other drivers who have run well all year? Greg Biffle continues as the points leader and starts in row two, alongside Jimmie. Dale Earnhardt Jr starts 12, while Matt Kenseth will have to work forward from 20th. Being up front is important at Charlotte, as getting clean air to the engine is huge for speed on the track. Often a car in clean air will take off and gain huge distances on the cars behind him (or her, Danica is in the race tomorrow). That same car may go backwards when not running up front.
Everyone has been saying that it is just a matter of time before Dale Jr. wins a race. Yet more have said winning just doesn't matter, as long as he is up front, contending for the win week after week. I say it's a little of both. He has, so far this year, mastered the consistency, and is relishing working with Steve Letarte. Junior seems content these days. He has a girlfriend. He's comfortable at Hendrick Motor Sports. He has a crew chief he trusts. The win will come. Knowing my luck, it will come tomorrow when I am camping and not seeing the race on TV.