Tonight’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (5:30 p.m. ET, FOX) caps off the greatest day of racing, following the Monaco Grand Prix in the morning and the Indianapolis 500 in the afternoon. For auto racing fans, this truly is a day like no other.
And for the racers, this is a special day, too.
The Coca-Cola 600, first run as the World 600 in 1960, has long been one of NASCAR’s crown jewel events along with the Daytona 500, Southern 500 and Brickyard 400.
Here are four keys to having a successful night in NASCAR’s longest race:
Getty ImagesGetty Images
Stay in the game
The first key to success in the Coca-Cola 600 is to simply stay on the lead lap for the first 500 miles and then race hard over the last 100. Sounds easy, right? But with lots of long green-flag runs, it’s actually more difficult than it first appears. In the last three years, on average, just 14 drivers finished on the lead lap. So not falling back in the pack is critical.
Charlotte Motor Speedway is notorious for being a track that goes through a lot of changes, especially in this race. The green flag is scheduled to fly at 6:18 p.m. ET, with sunset at 8:30 p.m., meaning the race track will be hot and slick at the start and much stickier as the night goes on. It’s important for crew chiefs to build adjustability into their setups so they can tweak the cars to change with the track as the weather cools down after sunset.
The Coca-Cola 600 is the only race in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series with four stages instead of three. That means it pays more points than any other race in the series. And with the extra points available, drivers and crew chiefs will need to take advantage of the opportunity to amass points. If you can’t win, the next best thing is to pile up stage points.
Just like in real estate, the three most important factors at Charlotte Motor Speedway are location, location, location. Last week’s all-star race showed that whoever was out front in clean air had a tremendous advantage, as passing at the front of the field was virtually nonexistent. Kevin Harvick will start from the pole tonight, which means he’ll have the No. 1 pit stall, which ought to be a huge benefit for him. But like all the competitors, Harvick will need solid pit stops to win.