CONCORD, N.C. — This Sunday the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series celebrates the Memorial Day weekend with the 58th running of the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The race will be broadcast at 6 p.m. Sunday evening, on the FOX network. The XFINITY Series will be on track Saturday for the Hisense 4K TV 300 on FS1.
The inaugural Coca-Cola 600, originally named the World 600, was held in 1960 and won by Joe Lee Johnson, the 1959 NASCAR Convertible Series champion. It was his second victory and the final win of his Cup career. But did you know he was the first of 32 different drivers to capture what has become one of NASCAR’s most sought-after trophies?
While some drivers would be content with one victory, Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers with four Coca-Cola 600 wins in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2014. His teammate, Kasey Kahne, isn’t far behind with three. Other three-time winners include David Pearson, Buddy Baker, Bobby Allison, Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon. But did you know that Darrell Waltrip has the most all-time victories with five, in 1978, 1979, 1985, 1988 and 1989?
Furniture Row Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. is the defending race and pole winner. But did you know that last year he dominated the Coca-Cola 600, leading 392 of 400 laps? It was the most laps led in any race in the history of NASCAR. Truex enters the event with the 11th-best driver rating (84.5) at Charlotte with one win, three top fives, seven top 10s and one pole.
However, besting Johnson may be his biggest obstacle. He finished third in the All-Star race and has the best overall driver rating (110.6) at Charlotte. But did you know that in addition to his four Coca-Cola 600 wins, he has four Bank of America 500 trophies, along with 15 top fives, 19 top 10s and four poles?
Kyle Bush (104.8) has the second best driver rating with 10 top fives, 15 top 10s and two poles. He also has the advantage of winning last week’s All-Star race. Seven times, seven different drivers, have gone on to win the Coca-Cola 600 the following weekend after winning the All-Star race.
Denny Hamlin (95.6), Matt Kenseth (95.2, two Charlotte wins) and Kasey Kahne (95.1, four Charlotte wins) round out the top five in driver ratings at the 1.5-mile track.
Kahne discussed what it takes to win NASCAR’s longest race, saying, “The 600 is a difficult race. So many things happen and change during a four or five-hour race depending on cautions. It’s tough mentally and physically. It gets really hot in the car and with each pit stop, you need to be able to get better. Being able to keep your momentum up is really one of the keys to the race.”
As the drivers compete on the track, they will also honor those who have served our country by displaying a fallen military service member’s name on each windshield in the 40-car field. This will be the third consecutive year of NASCAR’s ”600 Miles of Remembrance.”
Some of the names chosen have special significance to the teams.
Truex’s car will display the name of 2nd Lt. John C. Yates, a Marine who served three tours of duty during the Vietnam War. He was killed in action while attempting to save the life of a fellow comrade on Oct. 17, 1968, in the Vietnam province of Quang Tri. He was 26 at the time of his death.
“I couldn’t be more proud of my cousin for his love of God, family, country and the Marine Corps,” said Woody Boyd, chief operating officer (COO) at Furniture Row. “His commitment and ultimate sacrifice inspired me to become a Marine six years later.”
The Memorial Day tributes will be an integral part of the weekend. Several drivers, including Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Ryan Reed will have patriotic paint schemes, Goodyear tires will once again have a special sidewall design with “Support Our Troops” messaging and the XFINITY cars will display red, white and blue windshield decals.
The Coca-Cola 600 broadcast begins Sunday, May 28, at 6 p.m. on FOX. In the meantime, please view the gallery below for a look at the service members who are being honored.
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