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Last Updated Monday, Jun 7, 2010 1:17 am, EDT

Race Capsule

Charlotte Motor Speedway
  • What:

    Race 13 of 36 on Sprint Cup circuit

  • Where:

    Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord, NC

  • When:

    May 30, 2010 6:16 pm EDT

  • Laps:

    400

  • Track Length:

    1.5 miles

  • Race Length:

    600.00 miles

  • Purse:

    $6,474,775

Drivers to Watch

Ryan Newman Newman won his eighth pole at Charlotte a year ago and finished second in the rain-shortened event. "We need to improve one position from last year's race and it will be a super weekend," said Newman. "This is home for many of us, and this is where we want to shine. We've had some good runs lately but still need to step it up a few notches."
Kurt Busch Busch, 237 points out of the lead, is another Cup star looking for his first Cup win at Charlotte, where he has three top-five and four top-10 finishes in 19 starts. He was 34th last May and 10th in October. "You have to figure out how to be at your very best at night under the lights," Busch said. "It's a real marathon -- 600 miles -- out there, and you have to stay on top of a continuously changing track. You really have to get your car handling well on the long runs. Then you have to consider all those restarts that we'll likely have as the race winds down. It's definitely the biggest challenge that we face in our sport."
Martin Truex Jr. Truex finished ninth last fall at Charlotte for his second top-10 finish in nine starts at the track. "Momentum is a big thing in this sport," said Truex. "You see it all the time. It worked for us a couple years ago (2007, when he won the Showdown and went on to win at Dover two weeks later). It seemed to just give us that confidence in each other and (helped us) know that we can get it done. Hopefully it will do the same thing this time around."
Kasey Kahne Kahne has three wins and seven top-10 finishes in 12 starts at Charlotte, including five in a row. He has not finished worse than eighth in the last five races at CMS. "When you've been successful at a track like we have here at Charlotte, you gain a sense of confidence because you understand what you need to be successful on the race track," said Kahne.
Jimmie Johnson Johnson, who has dropped 131 points out of the lead of the standings, has a whopping six wins at Charlotte, including the last Cup race there in October. His first Charlotte win was in the 2003 600. After finishing third that October, he began a streak of four straight Charlotte wins beginning with the 2004 Coke 600. He was 13th last May. He has two top-10 finishes in his last three Charlotte starts. "I'm definitely excited for the weeks here in Charlotte," Johnson said. "This track has been really good to our race team over the years and also to Hendrick Motorsports. ... For whatever reason, Dover seems to correlate to this track so our run in Dover was really strong. Based on history and how we ran at Dover, we should have a good weekend. I'm excited for it. As far as recent Coke 600 races, I can't really remember each event and what had gone on to lead to that, but if I was to say anything I guess it's just that it's earlier in the year and we're still trying to refine packages and things like that. But I still have a feeling that we come here and we're competitive, so I'm not sure why those results aren't any better. In my head I thought we were in the top five a bunch, but it must be the fall race."
David Reutimann Reutimann won last year's rain-shortened 600 when crew chief Rodney Childers decided not to pit after it started raining on lap 222 of the scheduled 400-lap event. Reutimann led five laps before the race was stopped and later called. "I wish we would have won the race without the rain because no one wants their first win to come in a rain-shortened race," said Reutimann. "But it was a huge deal for everyone at Michael Waltrip Racing since it was our first win as an organization."
Denny Hamlin Hamlin is 150 points back of first place. He has never won at Charlotte and has never even finished in the top five; his record is three top-10 finishes in nine starts. He was 11th in the 600 last year and 42nd in the 500-mile race last October, increasing his Charlotte streak to five straight finishes out of the top 10. "I think, truthfully, there are only about five guys that know they can win every single week," Hamlin said. "And anybody who says they know they can -- all the guys you talk to who probably don't -- are probably lying to you. Truthfully, it's very hard. Some guys have better race tracks than others. For me, it's the same way. When I reach my good race tracks -- I knew I could win at those tracks. I didn't necessarily have the confidence when I went to Texas or Darlington or Homestead. Now it seems like every race track I go to, I really do feel like we can win. So that's a big boost for myself, and it feels like we are on the right track."
Joey Logano Logano finished in the top 10 in both of the Charlotte races in 2009, his rookie season on the Sprint Cup Series. "I think the Home Depot Toyota should be pretty good this weekend, and I'm really looking forward to it," said Logano, who turned 20 on Monday. "We practiced last week during the day and raced at night, so it gives you plenty of notes to go off of for Sunday."
Kyle Busch Busch is another driver hoping to get his first Cup win at Charlotte, where he has three top-five and six top-10 finishes in 12 starts. He was sixth last year in the 600 and eighth in the BankofAmerica 500. He has a streak of five straight top-10s and seven top-10s in his last eight races at Charlotte. "You want to win this race," Busch said. "I've been close last year, leading all the laps and then getting the thing called by rain just after we had pitted and didn't stay out. The year before that, we were really fast here. I think we ran third or something. I'd like to win this race. ... It's one of the races on my list before I'm done. Being the longest race of the year, it is a grueling event, it is a tiresome race, but for me, racing everything I can every weekend, I seem to knock that out of there. Four hundred laps around here might seem like a long time, but when you're in the seat and you have a good driving race car, it's not that long."
Clint Bowyer Bowyer, who will turn 31 on Sunday, has only two top-10 finishes in eight starts at Charlotte and said he seems to run better in the fall race there. "We've always struggled in the spring, learning what not to do," he said. "Hopefully this season we can have two strong runs there. Our cars are running better (this year), so I think we can have a good showing there this weekend."
Mark Martin Martin has four wins, 17 top-five and 22 top-10 finishes in 50 starts at Charlotte. "The All-Star Race can't prepare you for all 600 miles," said Martin. "There's just a completely different strategy and outlook for 600 miles. But the All-Star Race definitely gave us a chance to try out a few things as far as setup, where to run on the track, lane choices and those kind of things. We're pretty optimistic heading into this weekend."
Jeff Burton Burton, 199 points out of first place, has three Charlotte wins, most recently in October 2008. He also has eight top-five and 15 top-10 finishes in 32 starts there and was 25th in the 600 and 14th in the 500 last year. Before that, Burton had three straight top-10 finishes at Charlotte and five top-10s in the previous six races. "Running the Coca-Cola 600 is a long day's work," Burton said. "It's the longest race of the year and it starts late in the day, so those two things makes it harder. Waiting to start the race is emotionally hard. With so many different race-day schedules -- East Coast, West Coast, night race, afternoon race -- it's hard for your body to adjust to what it needs to be doing. The late afternoon start throws a wrench at you because you're eating and sleep schedules change. Then you add 600 miles of racing on top of that. It's a perfect storm of stuff going on that makes this race a challenge. Don't get me wrong -- there are no excuses. You have to be physically ready no matter what. The last 100 miles has a major influence on the race. If you look back on previous races, drivers leading at the 400- or 500-mile mark don't win the race. It's not because of mechanical failures. The added distance gives the drivers in second, third and fourth a chance to make his car better. It gives the driver leading a chance to make a mistake. So the extra 100 miles is definitely a factor."
Jeff Gordon Gordon hopes to make up a 163-point deficit to first place in the Cup points race. He is a five-time Charlotte winner, including his first Cup win in the 1994 Coca-Cola 600. His last Charlotte win came in October 2007. He has has 16 top-five and 19 top-10 finishes in 34 starts, including four top-10s in his last five starts. He was 14th last May and fourth last October. "The 600 is tough because it's long," Gordon said. "This is a great track. It's a fun and exciting track to drive. There aren't many drivers who don't like this track. From that standpoint, it makes it a little easier to go run 600 miles. But still, 600 miles is a long way, especially when you go from day to night and you've got a lot of things that you've got to overcome. Cars are not going to be perfect. If you're perfect during the day, you've got to make some big adjustments to be ready to go at night. And to be perfect at night, you're going to have to be a little off or way off during the day. There are so many challenges, and that's what I think makes it such a tough event -- the length of it, and the day to night. Charlotte Motor Speedway, being a track that everybody likes, means that a lot of guys run well here. Usually, no matter what race it is, I don't really ask how many laps there are to go until I feel like we start coming down to win. Everything starts to really play a role in winning the race. When you get down to the last 150 laps or 150 miles, that's when the race is going to be won and lost. And we work on trying to position ourselves throughout the time prior to that, but at that point is usually when I say, 'OK, how many laps to go and where are we at?' And that's when things start to heat up in a big way."
Matt Kenseth Kenseth, 126 points out of the points lead, was the 2000 Coca-Cola 600 winner, but that's his only victory at Charlotte. He has six top-five and 10 top-10 finishes in 21 starts there and was 10th last May and second in October. "The 600 is the longest race of the season, and it definitely presents challenges when you race that many miles," Kenseth said. "It's important to have a setup in the car that you can adjust as the track conditions change throughout this race since we start during daylight and race into the night. Racing in the All-Star race last weekend allowed us some added track time, which I think we really needed since we didn't have our car handling the best we could have. I'm hopeful that after everyone has reviewed the data from last week that we'll have a car fast enough to stay up front and be able to compete for a win at the end."
AJ Allmendinger Allmendinger is another driver looking for his first top-10 finish at Charlotte. His best finish in six starts at the track is 15th. Allmendinger has high hopes for this weekend. "We had a really fast car last weekend in the Sprint Showdown, and that race gives us a sense of what's ahead this weekend," said Allmendinger.
Juan Pablo Montoya Montoya finished eighth in last year's rain-shortened 600 for his lone top-10 finish in six starts at the track. "There is no doubt our cars are fast at Charlotte Motor Speedway," said Montoya. "We realized that at the test session earlier this year and with the strong qualifying and practice run last week. We just need to keep the bad luck away from us."
Kevin Harvick Harvick takes a 69-point lead into Sunday night's Coca-Cola 600. Harvick is looking for his first win at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where he has only one top-five and three top-10 finishes in 18 starts. His best finish was second in the 2001 Coke 600. He was 41st in the 600 last year and 18th in the 500-mile race in October. He has not had a top-10 finish there since he was eighth in the 2001 October race -- a streak of 16 straight outside the top 10. "This race has been the Achilles' heel of everything we have done over the last several years at Charlotte, for whatever reason," Harvick said. "We ran a lot better there the last race we went to. I think we ran 13th or 14th, which is like a victory for us, so hopefully we can build on that. Like I said, we had a decent test and hopefully we can move forward. Our goal going there is to run in the top 10 and have a solid day. You obviously want to win, but the history at Charlotte has not been good for us so going there with a top-10 goal is what I think is realistic."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt has nine top-10 finishes in 21 starts at Charlotte. Earnhardt believes the 600 is "not as physically demanding as it is mentally. You to keep yourself focused and the team focused." Crew chief Lance McGrew said a key to running well is "staying ahead of the race track, and that is very difficult."
Tony Stewart Stewart has one win and 11 top-10 finishes in 22 starts at Charlotte. "We improved a lot from start to finish last week," said Stewart, who is 37 points out of the top 12. "We still weren't as good as we needed to be. But we feel good about how we are going to run this weekend after what we learned in the All-Star Race."
Jamie McMurray McMurray won his first Cup race at Charlotte in the fall of 2002 in his first start at CMS. He has five other top-10 finishes in 14 other races at the track and has high hopes for this weekend. "Both of the Earnhardt-Ganassi cars were really fast here for the first spoiler test -- really, I thought we had the best cars out here -- so we'll look to be pretty strong for the 600," said McMurray.
Carl Edwards Edwards, 281 points out of the top spot, is another big-name driver without a Charlotte win. He has four top-fives and seven top-10s in 10 starts there and was fourth last May and 39th in October. He has three top-10 finishes in his last five starts at the 1.5-mile oval. "Thanks to the fans, we got to run in the All Star race and we got a really good feel for what we need to work on for the Coke 600," Edwards said, referring to the fact he got into the All-Star Race as a fan selection. "This race is one of my favorites just because it's grueling and it tests man and machine both. We've been close before and usually run very well at this race. The track changes so much throughout the race that it's really a fun challenge for everybody."
Paul Menard Menard is still looking for his first top-10 finish at Charlotte. His best finish in six starts at the track is 14th. He will be driving the same car he ran last weekend. "Because of the way it ran both at the test and during the Showdown, we feel like this car is the best one for the 600, too," said crew chief Slugger Labbe.
David Ragan Ragan has one top-10 finish in six starts at Charlotte. "We learned a few things last weekend that we can apply to this weekend, but 600 miles is a long race," he said. "The track definitely changes going from day to night, so you need to keep making the right adjustments to keep up with it."
Brad Keselowski Keselowski finished 12th in his Cup debut at Charlotte last fall. "This will be my first 600, but I think we can have a pretty good day based on how well Kurt (Busch, his teammate) ran in the All-Star Race and what we learned in the race," said Keselowski.
Greg Biffle Biffle, 187 points out of first, has never won at Charlotte, where he has two top-five and five top-10 finishes in 14 starts. He was 20th last May and 16th in October. "It takes a lot of patience," Biffle said of the 600. "It's such a long race and it requires a totally different mindset. It's kind of like two races. The first half is survival and the second half is making sure the car will handle well into the night and then making your way to the front if you're not already there. We learned a lot in the Showdown and the All-Star race last weekend, and I think we found a few things that will help us out a lot this weekend. I'm pretty excited about it. We should have a good run in the 600, and I think this team will continue to progress more and more over the next few weeks."