Things to watch during Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte

CONCORD, N.C. — Cup teams take on Charlotte Motor Speedway for the first time this season while competing in NASCAR's longest race — the Coca-Cola 600.

This is the only race of the season on the Charlotte oval. Ryan Blaney and Denny Hamlin are the last two drivers to win the Coca-Cola 600.

Here are three things to watch on Sunday (outside of Kyle Larson’s attempt at “The Double”):

1. A variety of winners

NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 - Practice
NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 - Practice

Starting lineup for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte

Sunday’s 600-mile race will take place at 6 p.m. ET.

The Charlotte oval, the site of NASCAR's only race featuring four stages, has been the home of variety in recent seasons.

All three manufacturers have celebrated wins at Charlotte in recent years. Ford and Chevrolet have each won twice on the Charlotte oval since the 2020 season. Toyota only has one Charlotte oval win since 2020 — Hamlin in 2022 — but Toyota won three straight in 2017-19.

Similarly, there have been seven different winners in the last seven races. Blaney and Hamlin have won the Next Gen races at the Charlotte oval. Larson won the 2021 Coca-Cola 600.

Chase Elliott and Brad Keselowski split the Charlotte oval races in 2020 after COVID altered the season's schedule. Martin Truex Jr. won the 2019 Coca-Cola 600. Kyle Busch won the 2018 Coca-Cola 600.

"This race is so long, it is hard to execute 400 laps and I think that's why we have so many different winners," Christopher Bell told NBC Sports. "Certainly, it's anyone's ballgame come [Sunday] night."

Truex, one of Bell's teammates, is the only driver with a repeat win at the Charlotte oval in the last 11 races. He won the 2016 Coca-Cola 600, the 2017 playoff race at Charlotte and the 2019 Coca-Cola 600 while driving for two different teams.

Truex knows why he has enjoyed sustained success on the Charlotte oval. He said he had essentially the same team surrounding him at Furniture Row Racing that he did at Joe Gibbs Racing. The names on the car just changed.

Truex sees another reason why there have been more winners in recent races at the Charlotte oval.

"It's gotten more competitive, I feel like, every year," Truex said. "And there's more cars that can win today than there was five years ago. There's more today that could have won two years ago. So I don't know. I just think it's parity and a lot more guys having opportunities than they used to."

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2. Hendrick Motorsports scores stage points

The Coca-Cola 600 is the race that pays the most points this season. The maximum available is 70, provided the driver sweeps all three stages and wins the race. Larson accomplished this during the 2021 season.

Larson is far from the only Hendrick Motorsports driver to lock up playoff points in the Coca-Cola 600. A Hendrick Motorsports driver has won at least one stage in each of the last five oval races at Charlotte.

Alex Bowman won two stages during the 2020 Coca-Cola 600. He then won another stage four days later on the Charlotte oval. Larson swept every stage in '21 and then Chase Elliott won Stage 1 in 2022. William Byron joined his teammates by winning Stage 1 of last season's Coca-Cola 600.

"I think, for me, in particular, 2020 we probably should have won here twice," Bowman said. "Kind of gave those away. We had really strong race cars.

"Since then, we haven't been quite as strong, but I feel like everywhere with Hendrick Motorsports, there's just a lot of depth and we've had some really strong runs."

Hendrick Motorsports has won all three of the races on non-drafting 1.5-mile tracks this season and five of the last six. It's possible that at least one Hendrick Motorsports driver will contend for more stage wins during Sunday night's race, especially as all four Hendrick drivers will start inside the top 10.


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3. Back-to-back Brad

Brad Keselowski scored his first Cup win with RFK Racing at Darlington Raceway two weeks ago. This was also his first win since April 2021.

Now, the 2012 Cup champion has his sights set on his second win of the season, one that would secure another crown jewel for his collection.

"I'm just ecstatic about the Coke 600," Keselowski said after his win at Darlington. "We have worked so hard to have fast cars. Hope that carries over to that race. The Coke 600 is a special race as well."

Keselowski struggled early this season. He finished 33rd at Daytona and Atlanta and then finished 33rd at Circuit of the Americas four weeks later. Since the trip to Texas, however, Keselowski has finished runner-up twice and won once. One of these second-place finishes was at Texas, another 1.5-mile track.

"I thought we were really good at Dover and I screwed the race up," Keselowski said. "I thought we were really good at Kansas and we kept catching bad breaks. And now finally [at Darlington] we didn't catch any bad breaks and we ran competitively the whole time. Just curious to see how the Coke 600 is going to be."

Keselowski has two previous wins at Charlotte in his career. He won the 2013 playoff race and then he won the 2020 Coca-Cola 600.