What to watch: Larry McReynolds previews Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600
A week ago we basically ran the shortest race of the year to this weekend which is the longest race of the year, all at the same track with the Coca-Cola 600. I think this race is going to be very interesting for several reasons. The first, and most obvious, is the continued dominance of the No. 4 of Kevin Harvick and the No. 48 of Jimmie Johnson at the mile-and-a-half tracks.
Even last Saturday night in the Sprint All-Star race, Kevin Harvick came home second and, quite honestly, if it hadn’t been for his qualifying effort, I’m not sure we wouldn’t be talking about him as the Sprint All-Star winner. Now, while Jimmie Johnson didn’t run that well Saturday night, I remind people that he didn’t run well in the 2014 All-Star Race, yet won the 2014 Coca-Cola 600.
So, those are the first two drivers you need to watch for this weekend. I would also tell you to keep an eye on Joe Gibbs Racing. They won the Sprint All-Star Race last Saturday night, and seemed to have plenty of steam under the hood. By far, Saturday night was the best JGR has been at the intermediate speedways so far this season.
The question becomes: Was that a science project, as I call it? Because it was a short race and they could have been experimenting with engine combinations. I’ll be the first to say that I don’t know. Since both Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth already have a win this season, plus a spot in the Chase, I’m not sure I wouldn’t bring that same combination right back to the track for Sunday — because they have nothing to lose.
We also know that Kyle Busch needs a win to get into the Chase. Now sure, he also needs to be in the top 30 in points come the checkered flag in Richmond in September too, but first he needs to win a race. So, I am anxiously going to be watching the JGR camp.
I’m also interested to see how Roush Fenway Racing performs on Sunday. In particular, I am going to be watching Greg Biffle because he looked the best he’s looked in quite a while during the Sprint All-Star weekend. So I’m interested to see if he can back that performance up on Sunday.
Let’s face it, Sunday is going to be about the toughest animal these teams are going to have to deal with. Not only is this the longest race of the year, but you have to remember that we start the race during the heat of the day, we go through twilight and then end it late at night.
As I always tell you, there are going to be major swings with this racetrack. We’re going to see drivers be fast early on and then they will fade. We will see drivers who are junk the first couple hundred miles into the race, and then if by magic their cars come alive at the end. Whoever can keep ahead of the track changes is going to be the team and driver standing in Victory Lane Sunday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway.