NASCAR at Charlotte 2017: Start Time, Ticket Info, Lineup, TV Schedule and More – Bleacher Report
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After a brief hiatus, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series returns on Sunday for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The sport’s biggest names took the track May 20, though the leaderboard didn’t change as Clint Bowyer took a checkered flag in the Monster Energy Open and Kyle Busch did the same at the All-Star race in Charlotte, reeling in a $1 million prize in the process.
Sunday evening marks a return to the races that alter the playoff outlook, where the stage format can produce more automatic bids and shuffle names throughout the top 16.
Given the innovative stage format at the All-Star event, those drivers who came out ahead should have plenty of momentum going into the Coca-Cola 600. Here’s everything to know about one of the year’s biggest events.
Where: Charlotte Motor Speedway
When: Sunday, 6 p.m. ET
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go
2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Standings
Drivers to Watch
Martin Truex Jr.
Chuck Burton/Associated Press
Martin Truex Jr. has quietly become a two-race winner this year and worked his way to the top of the leaderboard.
Always a good story after rising to prominence last year, the Furniture Row Racing driver joins Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson as one of the only drivers with two wins on the season thanks to his triumphs in Las Vegas back in March and Kansas City the week before Busch’s win in Charlotte.
There, Truex finished 12th, meaning he’s finished in the top 10 only four times over his past six events, including the recent win. But it’s not hard to see why he might have plenty of confidence going into the race after he won the same event last year, leading 392 laps in the process.
“I don’t think anybody can do that again,” Truex said, according to Pete Pistone of MRN.com. “It’s amazing to think about what we did. In all the years NASCAR’s been around, the great drivers and the stories, to do that in this day and age was incredible. It’s going to be tough to top that one.”
Here’s the catch for Truex: He doesn’t need to lead all but eight laps to get another win. He simply has to run his race and ride his recent momentum to once again pose a serious threat to the rest of the field.
Randy Holt/Associated Press
Kevin Harvick has put himself in a position to get his long-awaited win this year.
Harvick has yet to take a checkered flag, though he continues to hang in the playoff picture thanks to six top-10 performances and four inside the top five. Counting the recent festivities in Charlotte, he’s sitting on five top-10 outings over his past six events with laps led in five of the six.
In an effort to get over the proverbial hump, Harvick took down the pole at the Coca-Cola 600 qualifying, as NASCAR captured:
Retweet to congratulate @KevinHarvick on his #CocaCola600 pole!
☝️: https://t.co/xdL2JV0bGp https://t.co/Xi5bGxYOJw
“The cars in qualifying were a lot looser than they were in practice, and just based on past experience here, it was a handful through [Turns] 1 and 2,” Harvick said, according to Fox Sports’ Tom Jensen. “I just about lost it the first run, but the car was so good in three and four I didn’t want to over-adjust on it.”
If Harvick has good thoughts about how the track and his car run, it could be a major problem for the rest of the field considering he’s won this particular event twice, most recently in 2013.
This is likely by no means Harvick’s last shot at a checkered flag this year, but he sure wouldn’t mind making himself a three-time winner while getting the much-needed victory out of the way.
Chuck Burton/Associated Press
The globe still awaits the first win of the season for Busch as well.
Busch took down the May 20 event after leading all of 10 laps, looking strong in the process and hinting at big things to come in Sunday’s marathon.
Joe Gibbs Racing captured the celebration:
Joe Gibbs Racing @JoeGibbsRacing
.@KyleBusch wins the #AllStarRace!!! Great job @mmschocolate Caramel crew! #ToyotaNation #NASCAR https://t.co/KMpcGcaPP0
Good times, though a win at Sunday’s event still eludes one of NASCAR’s hottest drivers over the past few years.
Ditto for the season as a whole. Busch has four top-five appearances and five in the top 10, but he’s had batches of inconsistency marring his season. For instance, he went for finishes of 15th, 35th and 16th to close out April before three top-five finishes in a row in May if we count the All-Star race.
Crew chief Adam Stevens hopes the momentum carries over to Sunday, as captured by the Associated Press’ Steve Reed (via the Sentinel Record): “No different than Kansas, some of these other places he’s struggled at in the past. Wouldn’t say here has been a struggle, but it’s just been hard to finish it off. Hopefully [the All-Star race win] is a little bit of momentum, a little bit of wind in our sails, something we can build on.”
Given the up-and-down nature of the season so far, a Busch win to capitalize on this current wave would be a boon for him and the crew, to say the least.
It makes him one of Sunday’s most dangerous drivers, which is great for fans too.
Stats and info courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.