2018 NASCAR Preview: Week 13 – Charlotte

A Crown Jewel sparkles under the lights..

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While Memorial Day weekend features maybe the most famous race in motorsports — the Indianapolis 500 — stock car fans are readying themselves for the longest race on the NASCAR schedule, the Coca-Cola 600.  Traditionally run in the evening, those brave enough can race (and have tried) “Double Duty” / the Memorial Day Double: 500 miles at Indy, and then a quick plane ride to Charlotte, NC for another four and a half hours of racing.  (Watching both is a test, I can’t imagine driving both!)

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A detailed view of a Goodyear Racing Eagle tire displaying “Support Our Troops” as it sits in the garage area during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Thursday. (Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka | Getty Images)

The track at Charlotte 1.5-mile quad-oval (like Atlanta or Texas), and usually has two dates on the schedule..but this year they’re trying to mix things up a little bit, and Week 29 will see this track like we never have before: as a road course?  A “roval,” they’re calling it, a mixture of both.  But we’ll get into that then, we’ve got 600 miles to contend with first.

Here’s what to look for:

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Kyle Busch points out the similarities between his name and the Busch Pole Award that he won Thursday. (Photo Credit: Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

Kyle Busch got the Pole for tonight’s race, the last active track on the Cup schedule that he doesn’t yet have a win yet.  He nearly punched that out last year but had to settle for 2nd.  He’s got M&M’s on the car, of course, and a red, white, and blue rocket launching from the front.

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Joey Logano and the No. 22 car honor and congratulate team owner Roger “The Captain” Penske for being selected for the NASCAR Hall of Fame. (Photo Credit: Allie Davison | NASCAR Digital Media)

Joey Logano will start 2nd next to Kyle Busch, missing the Pole by a tenth of a second.  Logano sports a record of 1 win, 5 Top 5s, and an average finish of 12.6.  He was very aggressive in the All-Star Race last weekend, one which paid zero points; look for more of that in a race that has an extra Stage, and a chance at 10 more points.

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Kevin Harvick: 2018 All-Star Race winner (Getty Images)

Kevin Harvick won that race last week, and the proper victor based on how the season has been so far.  He’s got 5 under his belt so far, on pace for 15, and looking to hammer down another tonight.  Granted, the setup on these cars was a little different last week, but he’s proven he can win whatever template they throw at him.  Ironically, that template; Harvick failed to take a qualifying lap after inspection woes, and will start 39th.  Silver lining: he’s got plenty of time to get up front.

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Austin Dillon takes a victory drink of Coca-Cola after climbing from the No. 3 Dow Chevrolet in Victory Lane at Charlotte Motor Speedway. (Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Austin Dillon didn’t have a great 2017: just 12 laps led, 3 Top 5s, 4 Top 10s.  But 2 of those laps came at this track, and the conclusion of the Coca-Cola 600 for his first career win.  He carried the pressure of that Crown Jewel win to another one, the 2018 Daytona 500.  An average finish of 18.6 on the season last year, but ranks 7th among active drivers at Charlotte with a 14.1 — his 3rd best.  (And he’s got a Coca-Cola paint scheme this week; that’s always a fun time, driving the race sponsor colors.  Makes you feel like it’s your race.  At least that’s what I think it feels like, I haven’t done it myself, haha.)

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President Donald Trump greets 2017 NASCAR Cup champion Martin Truex Jr., and is presented with a helmet as Sherry Pollex watches on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, May 21, 2018. (AP Photo / Andrew Harnik)

Martin Truex Jr. did pretty well last year on this track, settling for a 3rd in the 600 and bouncing back for a win in the Fall.  Between the two races he led 324 laps and earned himself 107 points.  While he doesn’t appear to be knockin’ ’em dead this year as he did in 2017, a return to a track where you just dominated seems to get things cooking.  The highlight of his week to this point (pictured above) was a visit to President Trump in Washington, D.C.  With a prestigious race and one of the most patriotic holidays, where would you rather be?

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Jimmie Johnson’s helmet for the Coca-Cola 600 is a tribute and work of art. (Photo Credit: @JimmieJohnson | Twitter)

-Patriotism.  Just mentioned briefly, but there is a whole lot of red, white, and blue tonight, as well as stars and stripes and honors paid to our troops, past and present.  A solemn holiday, and NASCAR is one of the best organizations when it comes to remembering those who came before us and fought for our freedoms.

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In this photo taken with a fisheye lens the field takes the green flag for the start of the NASCAR Cup series auto race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., Sunday, May 28, 2017. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

Coverage of the race starts on FOX at 6:00pm, green flag scheduled for 6:18pm.

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