In NASCAR, there are very few races that can be considered marque events. Everyone knows that Daytona is the biggest, and the Brickyard is the most hallowed track in the country. Darlington is the oldest, and Talladega is the largest.
But, when NASCAR goes to it's home headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina, it means that it is time to prepare for a race that can be considered one of the biggest, but without any doubt it is certainly the longest. The shortest points-paying race on an oval track each year is only 300 miles. Imagine trying to set up a car, and a team, for a race that goes double that amount. Then, also have to prepare a car to race in daylight, sunset, twilight, and under the lights. It is an event that is unlike any other, especially on a weekend where the toughest men and women in the country also are honored.
This weekend is the longest race NASCAR does every year, one that is tough on equipment and people, but to win this event can launch a career. Just ask Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte, or even Casey Mears.
For the writers, it means they have to wait for 400 laps to see if they are right. But, there is no turning back at this point, as they all are prepared for one long night. Here's who they decided are worthy, or at least they feel are worthy, to win this year's Coca-Cola 600:
Misan Akuya: Jamie McMurray
McMurray has been so fast this year and has raced so hard this year. Yet he has had little to show for it. Until he win the All Star race of course. Fourth win at Charlotte overall McMurray needs a points win to turn the rest of his season around. If he stays away from any bad mojo he will be up there.
Rob Blount: Joey Logano
James Broomhead: Jimmie Johnson
Billy Fellin: Kevin Harvick
I was going to go with Joey Logano, but the 22 wasn't exactly blowing away anyone during practice. So, I'll take that rocketship that Harvick is sitting in.
Michael Hirshbein: Kyle Busch
Kara Martin: Kevin Harvick
C'mon get happy!
Ryan O'Hara: Joey Logano
Dustin Parks: Jimmie Johnson
Honestly, this has been probably the hardest race to pick for because so many guys can be chosen here. Hell I even had Danica in mind because of how well she ran at Kansas. Gordon was my lead pick since he's the most recent to win at a 1.5-mile track. But the more I think about it, and the more I contemplated, the big thing right now is to also look at those that are in need of a victory right now. WIth that in mind, I went with history at this track, and with these Gen-6 cars handling better than the previous model, I can't help but think that the guy who's always been tough here will get the job done.
He's got six wins at this joint, three of them coming in this race. It's only a matter of time before he gets the win, and I'm going for it. Johnson for the win.
Patti Rodisch: Jeff Gordon
This is the first time this season I've been torn between which driver to take for the marathon that is the Coca-Cola 600. It was literally a coin toss and a hope it landed on it's side. I went with Gordon, as his speed has been the most consistent this season on the 1.5-mile tracks. He had the best car on Saturday night if not for a part failure. I like Harvick as well but troubles on pit road, lack of overall consistency led me toward Gordon as my pick. Coming off a win at Kansas, which is the track closest to CMS in terms of how the track feels and drives, Gordon should be tough to beat Sunday night.
Aaron Rosser: Kasey Kahne
Sal Sigala Jr: Jimmie Johnson
Rob Tiongson: Jeff Gordon
I'll be right there when the action happens and it's going to be a fourth win for Jeff Gordon and his No. 24 team with the 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. I look for them to be strong all evening long and as long as they avoid the ill timed caution during a green flag stop and have figured out the issue they ran into during the All Star race last Saturday night, they'll be prime for a win!
Standings after Kansas:
Kara Martin (394) Matt Kenseth finished 10th - 2
Dustin Parks (390) Carl Edwards finished 6th - 1
Ryan O'Hara (381) Matt Kenseth finished 10th - 3
Michael Hirshbein (373) Kyle Busch finished 15th - 1
Rob Tiongson (358) Jeff Gordon WON - 2
Sal Sigala Jr (354) Jeff Gordon WON - 3
Rob Blount (340) Joey Logano finished 4th - 1
Patti Rodisch (339) Matt Kenseth finished 10th - 1
Billy Fellin (328) Jimmie Johnson finished 9th - 0
Aaron Rosser (327) Jimmie Johnson finished 9th - 1
Misan Akuya (298) Aric Almirola finished 8th - 0
James Broomhead (279) Jimmie Johnson finished 9th - 1
Final Remarks: This is a race that cannot be won early, but certainly can be lost early if the team gets behind. Even with 400 laps, the entire rae is a huge marathon of trying to adjust to changing track conditions and darkness. Being able to change within the race shows what teams are able to be the elite, and show why they have either won this race before, or have won it multiple times.
The marathon at Charlotte goes green at 6 p.m. ET Sunday night on FOX, kicking off with a tribute to the men and women on this Memorial Day Weekend that have served or are serving in the United States military.
Summary of Picks: