Attrition is part of racing no matter what form one decides on. Wear on equipment, drivers and teams are part of a weekend at the track just like rowdy fans, beer sales and souvenir purchases. It is something that all can be used to.
But for one weekend out of the year, the attrition makes a race longer, and more exhausting. The simple reason: it's the longest race of the season.
While Americans honor the fallen heroes of this country, NASCAR is gearing up for a marathon event that is a main staple of the schedule. The setting is NASCAR's home base, Charlotte, North Carolina. The track is the Charlotte Motor Speedway, and the race is a Memorial Day weekend tradition that tests everyone involved with each team.
A race that goes 100 extra miles often shows who can endure the attrition more any other, and the driver that is able to withstand a race that starts with bright sunshine, fades through sunset, hit twilight and end under darkened skies has certainly earned the victory.
Drivers such as Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte, Matt Kenseth and even Casey Mears have gotten their first victory in NASCAR's longest event, making it a moment they treasure for years to come.
But, these days the longest race becomes a marathon that seems to never end. But, at the end of a long night, it's all about getting a major trophy. But, who's the one that will bring home one of the most coveted trophies in the sport?
The writers have spent two weeks judging who to go with, and used last week's All-Star Race as a guide. Now, the time has come. Here are the picks for the Coca-Cola 600:
Misan Akuya: Jimmie Johnson
Six points wins and three all star race wins. Jimmie Johnson's record at Charlotte speaks for itself. After his performance in the all star race, the field has their work cut out for them.
James Broomhead: Jimmie Johnson
The writers’ pool is back from the All-Star break and I’m back from a weekend at the Nurburgring in time for NASCAR’s longest event on motorsport’s biggest day of the year.
As for my pick, you hate to say it but after going though a rough patch JJ is back on form and in Charlotte, a favorite stomping ground of the multiple champion it’s tough bet to pick anyone but the 48.
Kelly Crandall: Matt Kenseth
Billy Fellin: Jimmie Johnson
I feel as though everyone is going to go for Johnson this week. And why not? After his dominating performance in the All-Star Race and winning at Darlington, the 48 team is on a roll.
We all know how hard that team is to beat when they are on a roll.
He's got five wins at Charlotte and I think it'll be two points races and three actual races in a row for Johnson.
Michael Hirshbein: Kyle Busch
Christopher Leone: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
It's time, Junior Nation. No, seriously. The 88 car was fast as hell in the All-Star Race, and Steve Letarte elected to bring the same car back to Charlotte for the 600-mile endurance race.
Looks like they might have finally found something.
Kara Martin: Tony Stewart
Ryan O'Hara: Jimmie Johnson
The man to beat.
Dustin Parks: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
No questions asked, Junior has found his groove. Last week, even for just the short run, he was fast. The same car is making a return to the track for the longest race of the season, so if the car was that fast for just some 20-lap stints, you know Steve Letarte is going to make sure that car is the best one he's ever had for this race.
He came SO CLOSE last year to this win, just two corners away, only to run dry and handing the win to Kevin Harvick. Now, he's got the most confidence in his team, and more importantly in himself, than ever.
That confidence is what will end his winless streak on Sunday.
Patti Rodisch: Kasey Kahne
Kahne has had success at Charlotte Motor Speedway second probably to teammate Jimmie Johnson who has dominated this track.Kahne is on the verge of his first victory at Hendrick Motorsports. His recent string of top 10 runs has turned around a rough start to the 2012 campaign.
A win here would solidify his turnaround and boost his hopes to make the Chase. He has three wins, six top fives and eight top 10 finishes at CMS. He generally runs very well under the lights here and will more than likely have a say in who crosses the finish line first on Sunday night.
Sal Sigala Jr: Jimmie Johnson
Rob Tiongson: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
I got burned by my pick at Darlington thanks to Jeff Gordon. However, I DO think a Hendrick car will win this Sunday at Charlotte.
Provided he can hold off those Roush-Fenway Fords of Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards, I'm going with Dale Jr to not only redeem himself and his 88 teammates, but ending that annoying winless steak that's gone on as long as finding NO marshmellows in a box of Lucky Charms.
Standings following Darlington:
James Broomhead (414) Jimmie Johnson WON (2)
Billy Fellin (403) Denny Hamlin finished 2nd (2)
Sal Sigala Jr. (397) Kyle Busch finished 4th (1)
Christopher Leone (391) Kyle Busch finished 4th (0)
Misan Akuya (384) Greg Biffle finished 12th (1)
Kelly Crandall (373) Kyle Busch finished 4th (1)
Rob Tiongson (368) Jeff Gordon finished 35th (3)
Kara Martin (360) Jeff Gordon finished 35th (1)
Dustin Parks (351) Denny Hamlin finished 2nd (1)
Michael Hirshbein (347) Kyle Busch finished 4th (1)
Patti Rodisch (325) Carl Edwards finished 7th (0)
Ryan O'Hara (282) Jeff Gordon finished 35th (0)
Final Thoughts: This is the biggest weekend overall in motorsports. Formula 1 gets to experience the Grand Prix of Monaco, run on the streets of the city that sees fans look from balconies and beachfront properties to watch the race.
The afternoon kicks off with the running of the Indianapolis 500, which will be a great race but bring back somber memories, as it's the last race won by Dan Whelton prior to his untimely passing last year in Las Vegas. But, the night cap is the one race NASCAR fans long to watch, despite the race being 100 miles longer than an average race, a unique start time, and ever-changing conditions from green flag to checkered flag.
NASCAR will celebrate it's Memorial Day weekend beginning at 5:30 p.m. ET.
Summary of Picks:
Dale Earnhardt Jr-3