CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY (1.5-MILE OVAL)
LOCATION: CONCORD, NORTH CAROLINA
EVENT: NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES (RACE 13 OF 36)
TUNE IN: 6 P.M. ET, SUNDAY, MAY 29 (FOX/MRN/SIRIUSXM)
No. 5 LiftMaster Chevrolet SS / Kasey Kahne
Driver Kasey Kahne Hometown Enumclaw, Washington
Age 36 Resides Mooresville, North Carolina
20th in standings
0 pole positions
2 top-five finishes
4 top-10 finishes
0 laps led
27 pole positions
88 top-five finishes
160 top-10 finishes
4,607 laps led
0 pole positions
9 top-five finishes
13 top-10 finishes
1,106 laps led
LIFTMASTER GARAGE BAND WINNERS: Hillbilly Vegas, winners of LiftMaster’s 2016 Garage Band program via fan vote, will get to showcase their talent on Sunday afternoon before the 600-mile race. Kahne will introduce the country-influenced rockers at 2:55 p.m. ET at the soundstage located on Charlotte’s frontstretch. One lucky fan voter will also meet Kahne on Sunday for their participation in the program.
LIFTMASTER 9/11 MEMORIAL STAIR CLIMB: On Thursday, May 26, LiftMaster will once again host the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Onsite registration runs from 2 to 5:30 p.m. ET followed by the climb starting at 5:30 p.m. ET. The climb is a way to honor and remember the FDNY firefighters who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. Each participant pays tribute to an FDNY firefighter by climbing the equivalent of the 110 stories of the World Trade Center. In an effort to grow participation and awareness of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, LiftMaster will provide a donation that will cover the cost of registration for the event. Kahne will appear at 4:45 p.m. ET for pictures and autographs with the firefighters, followed by a Q&A with fans in attendance. Learn more here.
COMING HOME: Several of the No. 5 team members hail from North Carolina – Crew Chief Keith Rodden (Denver, North Carolina); Interior Mechanic John Oehler (Mooresville, North Carolina); Engineer and Front-Tire Carrier Michael Oxendine (Lumberton, North Carolina); Pit Crew Coach Wes Everhart (Salisbury, North Carolina); Rear-Tire Carrier Allen Stallings (Manteo, North Carolina); Jackman Eric Ludwig (Burlington, North Carolina); and Fueler Landon Walker (North Wilkesboro, North Carolina).
BLAZE AND THE MONSTER MACHINES: Nickelodeon’s popular animated pre-school series ‘Blaze and the Monster Machines’ will feature Kahne in upcoming race car themed episodes, along with Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott, and Danica Patrick. The first episode featuring Kahne as Fender, a car that rules the raceway, will premiere on Monday, May 30, at 1:30 p.m. on Nickelodeon. The second episode will premiere on Thursday, June 2, at 1:30 p.m. on Nickelodeon.
600 MILES OF REMEMBRANCE: Marine Lance Corporal Eric Levi Ward from Redmond, Washington will be honored on the windshield of the No. 5 Chevrolet SS this weekend at the Charlotte. Born Aug. 17, 1990, Ward decided to join the Marines in 10th grade. After high school graduation he left for Parris Island, South Carolina, to attend boot camp in July 2008. Based out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Ward was part of the 2nd Marine 2nd Battalion as a top gunner and left for Afghanistan in October 2009. Unfortunately, Ward was killed Feb. 21, 2010, when he needed to get out of his vehicle and help secure the area, he stepped on an IED and was killed instantly.
LOOKING FOR A LIFT AT CHARLOTTE: There is no better place for Kahne to visit this weekend than Charlotte Motor Speedway. Kahne has amassed four wins (twice in 2006, 2008 and 2012) at the 1.5-mile track, which ranks second among active drivers. Three of the four wins came in the strenuous 600-mile race. In addition to taking the checkered flag several times at Charlotte, Kahne also has three runner-up finishes at the Concord, North Carolina, track. While the Enumclaw, Washington, native still looks to notch his first pole position start at Charlotte, he’s come close several times with nine top five starts, including three from the outside pole position. Kahne has led the second most laps at Charlotte with 1,106, and is second in wins among active drivers, both behind Johnson.
CHARLOTTE LOOP DATA: According to NASCAR’s loop data for this weekend’s 600 miler, Kahne ranks third in the driver rating category with an average rating of 97.4. He’s first when it comes to fastest restarts with 194.243. The 36-year-old also sits third in green flag passes with 1,786, green-flag speed at 176.647 mph, and laps led with 894.
No. 24 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet SS / Chase Elliott
Driver Chase Elliott Hometown Dawsonville, Georgia
Age 20 Resides Mooresville, North Carolina
7th in standings
2 pole positions
4 top-five finishes
8 top-10 finishes
32 laps led
2 pole positions
4 top-five finishes
8 top-10 finishes
32 laps led
0 pole positions
0 top-five finishes
0 top-10 finishes
0 laps led
NAPA ON THE NO. 24 CHEVROLET SS: NAPA AUTO PARTS will be the primary partner on board Rookie of the Year contender Elliott’s No. 24 Chevrolet SS this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway. This time last year, Elliott piloted the No. 25 NAPA Chevrolet SS as he raced in his first 600 at the 1.5-mile track. The up-and-coming driver had two Cup races under his belt and raced his way to a top-20 finish in NASCAR’s longest race. This time around, Elliott is coming off of a third-place finish and is looking for his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory.
SEASON STANDINGS: Elliott currently sits seventh in the points standings. The rookie trails points leader Kevin Harvick by 77 markers. The 20-year-old driver is younger than any driver currently inside the top 16 – the amount of drivers NASCAR takes into its playoffs – while also being the highest ranked rookie.
LOOKING FOR A WIN: Consistency continues for Elliott as he has earned four top-five finishes in the past six races, accumulating eight top-10 finishes through the first 12 races. Only three drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series have more top-10 finishes this year (Harvick, Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch — all Sprint Cup champions). The Dawsonville, Georgia, native secured his first top-10 finish of 2016 at his home track, Atlanta Motor Speedway. He earned his career-best finish, third, at Dover International Speedway earlier this month.
600 MILES OF REMEMBRANCE: In 1993, Justin Robert Martone, a Virginia native, joined the Marines, fulfilling his lifelong dream. He quickly worked his way up through the ranks driven by his determination to serve our country. In 1998 he reported to explosive ordinance disposal school and in turn became a member of an elite team of Marines whose job it was to dismantle explosives leading a team of seven. Martone died on March 7, 2006, in a roadside bomb explosion in Iraq. This weekend, Elliott will ride with his name on board the No. 24 Chevrolet while also hosting the Martone family. Justin Martone and Elliott likely would have had a lot to talk about as they both shared a love of flying – each having earned their private pilot’s license – among other shared outdoor interests.
TOP-RANKED ROOKIE: Elliott leads the 2016 Rookie of the Year standings heading into Charlotte by 28 points over second-place Ryan Blaney and 57 points over third-place Brian Scott. Elliott has accumulated a total of 164 rookie points this year through the first 12 races. Among active drivers, his eight top-10 finishes are tied with teammate Johnson for the most top-10 finishes through the first 12 races of a rookie season.
DARLINGTON PAINT SCHEME PREVIEW: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year Contender Elliott is set to give fans an exclusive tour of his retro NAPA AUTO PARTS design for Darlington Raceway’s Southern 500 this Friday. Fans are encouraged to get a sneak peek of the actual NAPA car at 4:50 p.m. ET via Hendrick Motorsports’ Facebook Live account followed by the official reveal on FS1 at 5 p.m. ET, when Elliott will explain the design alongside on-air talent Kenny Wallace. The design is part of an overall throwback weekend at one of NASCAR’s oldest venues. Built in 1949 by Harold Brasington, Darlington has hosted Sprint Cup races since 1950. The very first Southern 500 at Darlington took place on Labor Day in 1950 courtesy of a deal made between Brasington and NASCAR founder Bill France Sr.
MARK, SET, GET ANIMATED: Nickelodeon shifts into high gear with a series of six all-new race car-themed episodes of the hit animated preschool series Blaze and the Monster Machines featuring Blaze as a high-octane race car and guest voice appearances from superstar race car drivers including Johnson, Elliott and Kahne. The first special, “Race Car Superstar,” premieres this Monday, May 30, at 1:30 p.m. (ET/PT), followed by “Race to Eagle Rock” on Thursday, June 2, at 1:30 p.m. (ET/PT) on Nickelodeon. The remaining four race car episodes will roll out this fall. Elliott voices the race car character Mark Set-Go – a sensational race starter who kicks off each racing adventure with rock-star style and a signature rhyme.
No. 48 Lowe’s Patriotic Chevrolet SS / Jimmie Johnson
Driver Jimmie Johnson Hometown El Cajon, California
Age 40 Resides Charlotte, North Carolina
5th in standings
0 pole positions
5 top-five finishes
6 top-10 finishes
219 laps led
34 pole positions
212 top-five finishes
320 top-10 finishes
17,928 laps led
4 pole positions
13 top-five finishes
17 top-10 finishes
1,735 laps led
IN REMEMBRANCE: Instead of Johnson’s name on the windshield for the 600-mile Memorial Day weekend event, his name has been replaced with Army Sergeant First Class Kyle B. Wehrly. Werhly served in the Illinois National Guard from 1995 until his untimely death in Ashraf, Iraq, on Nov. 3, 2005. He was the recipient of the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Army Achievement Medal and the Army Good Conduct Medal among many others. During his time in the military he also worked at Lowe’s Store No. 92 in Galesburg, Illinois. Werhly is survived by his wife Janet, his daughter Kylee and his parents, who will all be in attendance this weekend.
RED, WHITE AND LOWE’S BLUE: For the first time this season, Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet SS will be patriotic themed. Longtime sponsor Lowe’s has a lengthy history of supporting the military. Currently, Lowe’s has more than 14,000 veterans, active military and Guard/Reserve employees.
WINNING FROM THE POLE AT CHARLOTTE: Twice in his career, Johnson has won the 600-mile event from the pole position at Charlotte. The first was in 2004 when Johnson started first and led 334 out of 400 laps en route to victory. The second time was in May 2014 when Johnson won the pole and led 164 laps on his way to the win.
ALL-TIME AT CHARLOTTE: Johnson has a total of seven Sprint Cup wins at Charlotte Motor Speedway with four coming in the 600-mile event. His victory in 2014 broke a tie with NASCAR Hall of Famers Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip, making Johnson the all-time series points-paying win leader at Charlotte.
LET’S BLAZE!: For the second time in his career, Johnson will lend his voice to an animated cartoon series. Nickelodeon’s popular animated pre-school and STEM-based series ‘Blaze and the Monster Machines’ will feature Johnson in upcoming race car themed episodes, along with Hendrick Motorsports teammates Kahne and Elliott and Danica Patrick. Johnson is featured as “Dash”, a car that is fun, friendly, fast and the ultimate racing buddy for Blaze. The first special, “Race Car Superstar,” premieres Monday, May 30, at 1:30 p.m. ET, followed by “Race to Eagle Rock” on Thursday, June 2, at 1:30 p.m. ET on Nickelodeon. The remaining race car episodes will roll out this fall.
No. 88 Nationwide Stars & Stripes Chevrolet SS / Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. Hometown Kannapolis, North Carolina
Age 41 Resides Mooresville, North Carolina
11th in standings
0 pole positions
4 top-five finishes
5 top-10 finishes
49 laps led
13 pole positions
147 top-five finishes
251 top-10 finishes
8,183 laps led
1 pole position
6 top-five finishes
12 top-10 finishes
360 laps led
CHARLOTTE STATS: Dale Earnhardt Jr. has yet to win at the 1.5-mile oval, but if you throw out the DNF for engine trouble in the spring of 2013, the Kannapolis, North Carolina, native has an average finish of 15.2 in the last five years (2012-2016) and a career total of six top-five and 12 top-10 finishes. Charlotte Motor Speedway is also the site of his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start (May 1999) and first Cup pole (May 2000).
LOOP DATA: According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics, Earnhardt ranks sixth among drivers for green-flag passes during the last 10 points races at Charlotte, completing 1,687 of them. In that span, the driver of the No. 88 Nationwide Stars & Stripes Chevrolet SS ranks ninth among drivers in fastest laps run (210), 11th in laps in the top 15 (3,764) and 14th in laps led at the 1.5-mile oval (162).
PATRIOTIC SCHEME: Earnhardt’s No. 88 Chevy will have a special patriotic paint scheme this weekend. The No. 88 Nationwide Stars & Stripes Chevrolet SS features an American Flag themed design and supports the launch of the 5th annual NASCAR: An American Salute initiative. The initiative runs seven weeks (from Memorial Day to Independence Day) and is the industry’s collective expression of reverence, respect and gratitude for those who have served and continue to defend our nation today. Nationwide and Earnhardt worked together to design the paint scheme and unveiled it on Nationwide’s social media accounts on Monday, May 23. Photos of the red, white and blue Nationwide scheme can be seen here.
LCPL AARON REED: Perhaps the most notable feature of the Nationwide Stars & Stripes paint scheme will be seen on the No. 88 Chevy’s windshield, as the space that typically features Earnhardt’s name will be replaced with the name of Lance Corporal Aaron Reed. It is part of NASCAR’s “600 Miles of Remembrance” where all 43 drivers will honor United States Armed Forces members who have fallen in service for their country. Reed, a native of Chillicothe, Ohio, was a member of Lima (LEE-mah) Company and was killed in action on Aug. 3, 2005, in Barwanah, Iraq. Earnhardt and Nationwide have invited Lance Corporal Reed’s mother, aunt and sister to attend the race as their guests. In addition, Travis Williams, the only surviving member of Aaron’s squad will join Nationwide and the Reed family at the race. Lance Corporal Reed’s family has set up a scholarship fund in his honor. Over the last 10 years, 47 $1,000 scholarships have been awarded to students from Aaron’s High School, Southeastern, in Lancaster, Ohio. Donations can be sent to: The LCpl Aaron Reed Memorial Scholarship Fund, c/o Southeastern Local Schools, 2003 Lancaster Rd., Chillicothe, OH 45601.
NATIONWIDE AND VETERANS: Nationwide has a long and rich history of supporting our military. The company recently announced that it has hired 1,000 veterans in the past four years. Nationwide appreciates the values, leadership and unique skills service members bring to the workforce and encourage opportunities to hire Guardsmen, Reservists and Veterans. Also attending the race as a guest of Earnhardt and Nationwide is Jason Dominguez, who was also a member of Lima Company. After his services with the Marines and after serving as the assistant director and chief of staff for the Ohio Department of Veterans Services, Dominguez joined Nationwide. He participates with Nationwide’s Military Associate Resource Group program.
NCH DONATIONS: Some packages have already sold out, but there’s still time to donate to Nationwide Children’s Hospital through the Ride with Dale Jr. To Help Kids Everywhere campaign and have your name featured on the No. 88 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Chevrolet SS and the pit wall banner for the race on July 9 at Kentucky Motor Speedway. For more information or to donate, click here.
HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AT CHARLOTTE: Hendrick Motorsports has 18 wins at Charlotte Motor Speedway, which ranks first all-time among teams at the 1.5-mile oval. Johnson most recently won the 600-mile event there in May 2014 and has an all-time record seven career victories at Charlotte. Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kahne ranks second among active drivers with four wins at Charlotte. The organization has 57 top-five finishes and 90 top-10 finishes and has led 4,725 laps at Charlotte since 1984.
ORGANIZATION STATS: To date, Hendrick Motorsports has totals of 242 victories, 208 pole positions, 995 top-five finishes and 1,660 top-10 finishes in Sprint Cup competition. Its teams have led 65,317 laps since 1984.
“Having a car balance that you can adjust because so much changes from the day when it’s hot and sunny, and then you get into the night when it cools down a little bit without any sun on the track. The track changes for grip. So if you can tighten your car up at the right times and do it the right way to where you don’t lose the attitude that you are looking for throughout the race, that’s key.”
Kasey Kahne on the key to the 600-mile race
“We were fortunate enough to run the 600 last year. I think that’s good experience to have. That place is so temperature sensitive so it was good to get all of that information. I’m excited to get back and hopefully take what we’ve learned and get a little bit better.”
Chase Elliott on racing at Charlotte
“I think it’s a cool honor to have Justin’s family at the race this weekend and to have his name on our car. What guys like him do for our country is far more important than anything we do at the race track each week and it allows us to go and do what we love to do. We certainly appreciate their efforts and sacrifices overseas to fight for our freedom. It means a lot.”
Elliott on the 600 Miles of Remembrance
“I’m so honored to have SFG Werhly’s name on our Lowe’s Chevrolet. It gives us that much more incentive to contend for a win to honor the men and women serving our country. Every time I see a soldier at the track, I thank them for their service. Without their bravery we wouldn’t have the freedom to do what we love.”
Jimmie Johnson on the 600 Miles of Remembrance
“Last weekend’s All-Star event was in essence a ‘test’ for this weekend. We learned some important things about tire fall off even though we didn’t get a ton of practice. The 600-miler is a tough, tough race and it takes a lot of patience and some endurance on everyone’s part to be there at the end.”
No. 48 team crew chief Chad Knaus on the Charlotte 600
“We start ramping up and getting ready right as the Indy 500 is winding down. Sometimes we end up getting to see the very end of the race and the last lap, and sometimes we’re off doing something. It sort of adds some importance and a new element to our race. It makes that day feel unique and singular to other race weekends as you’re watching those races and you know what’s going on and the drama unfolding in the Indy 500 and everybody around the garage is talking about it – it really is ramping up the energy knowing that we’re getting ready to run our 600-mile event and that everybody that’s a motor sports fan is tuning in to everything that’s happening all day long, so there’s a unique layer to that particular weekend that’s unlike any other race weekend.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the Indy 500 and the Charlotte 600
“NASCAR has always had a close relationship with the military of our country, and honors a family weekly who has lost someone. We always have service men and women out to the track as guests. That’s always been an important addition to the weekend. I like that we ramp it up for this particular weekend. It’ll be great to meet Lance Corporal Aaron Reed’s family and the other member of his squad. That’ll be an experience that I probably won’t forget – it will be pretty weighted. I’m looking forward to it.”
Earnhardt on the 600 Miles of Remembrance
“As far as our Mountain Dew and Nationwide Chevy, we got it better (during the All-Star Race). A lot of the setup is new and some stuff we’re trying to find some speed with. We still have some gains to make. We didn’t win the race but we outran a lot of guys who had been outrunning us the last few weeks. We didn’t get to practice much so we worked really hard during the race changing a lot of stuff, and I hope (No. 88 crew chief) Greg (Ives) learned a lot. This weekend we’ll actually get to practice some and make some changes to see if we can’t get our car better for the 600. I’d love to win that race.”
Earnhardt on a new setup for the All-Star Race leading into the 600