NASCAR had its All-Star Weekend seven days ago, the preliminary Open event showcasing success by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chris Buescher, Daniel Suarez, and support from the fans for Erik Jones. The All-Star Race was far less predictable, huge issues for Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, Ross Chastain, and Chase Elliott. Four of the favorites to Win, they each finished in the garage. Ryan Blaney led every lap of the final stage, and even sidestepped some drama with an ultra-late caution. Can any of last week’s success translate tonight, and for those four favorites, can they shake the monkeys off their backs on NASCAR’s longest night?
Here’s what to look for:
–Denny Hamlin as visibly joyed after winning the Pole for tonight’s race. Typically, we see drivers overtaken by others later int he session, but he held on for a bit and dodged some heavy bullets. His employee Kurt Busch won at Kansas, so now Hamlin is more than ready to dominate at Charlotte.
–Kyle Larson won last year’s race, but he’ll have a deep hole to climb out of. He was fastest in Practice, but tagged the wall shortly after and didn’t get a chance to qualify. By virtue of the rules, he’ll start this race from the back of the field (along with Corey LaJoie, who also spun out in Practice and didn’t qualify). He is the defending Cup Champion, but 2022 hasn’t looked like 2021 ended yet. Could tonight be the start of something great? Coming from the back in the most demanding event of the year will take talent, luck, and reliable equipment.
–Martin Truex Jr. has three Wins at Charlotte in the last ten attempts, and in 2016 led 392 laps! Last year he finished 29th, but before that had a string of six Top 10s on Charlotte’s primary configuration. Today, he’ll roll off 14th.
–Tyler Reddick has found himself on another one of these lists, still chasing his first Cup Win. Can it happen at the 600? Absolutely. Plenty of talented drivers have secured their first victory in this very race, and Reddick could simply be the next. He’s had a lot of “maybe next week” throughout this season, including last week in the Open, but could tonight be the night? He’s got the 2nd best average among active drivers over the last ten races, all three for him are Coca-Cola 600‘s. He’s finished 14th or better in each of them, and will start 8th today.
–Chase Elliott has our fourth best average at Charlotte in nine attempts, and was our 2020 winner. He’s got a string of really good runs going, too. Two races in 2016 and 2017 didn’t go so hot, but since then he’s finished 2-11-4-2-1-2 at Charlotte. Chase will start outside of any of those finishes: 13th.
We’ve had a bunch of meat lately, but we’re back to the desserts today…
THIS is an Icebox Cake! Homemade whipped cream, surrounded by Lady Fingers with chocolate wafers and German Sweet Chocolate nestled inside. (That’s “nestled,” not “Nestle’d.”) After constructing it, it has to be frozen for hours upon hours and you just have to trust the process. (And being a Buffalo Bills fan, I definitely do!) We’re taking this somewhere so haven’t had the luxury of tasting it yet, but it looks darn good and should be very rich. Nice job, Leese!
Coverage of the race today starts on FOX at 6:00pm, green flag scheduled for 6:18pm.