Podium Preview: Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte

Can David Ragan and his No. 38 team conquer Sunday's Coca-Cola 600? (Photo Credit: Andrew Fuller/TPF)

Can David Ragan and his No. 38 team conquer Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600? (Photo Credit: Andrew Fuller/TPF)

Motorsports May wraps up with Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte concluding an amazing day of racing around the world.  As the “closer” of the greatest day for a motorsports enthusiast, NASCAR’s crown jewel is a marvel of its own.

Essentially, the test between driver and machine kicks into high gear with at least 400 laps or 600 miles of racing.  On top of that, Charlotte Motor Speedway’s not exactly a Sunday evening drive.  And oh yes, this is about the hottest it’ll be to date for a 2019 race.

Some of NASCAR’s finest have taken honors in this race.  Drivers like Dale Earnhardt, Darrell Waltrip, Rusty Wallace, Jeff Gordon, and Jimmie Johnson made their mark in the 600.  On some occasions, underdogs like Casey Mears and David Reutimann triumphed over stock car racing’s elite stars.

Certainly, our columnists, Amanda ShoopmanAshley HobbsChristina BowmanCody ShoppeJose Acero JrKathleen CassidyKobe LambethMatt Sisoler, Stephen Conley, and yours truly make our thoughts known on Kyle Larson’s All-Star Race win and the “Greatest Day in Motorsports!”

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Question 1
Indeed, Kyle Larson finally beat the Legend of Zelda. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Indeed, Kyle Larson finally beat the Legend of Zelda. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Kyle Larson finally returned to Victory Lane, albeit in a non-points race, with his win in the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte.  How much of a confidence booster is this for him and his No. 42 team?

Bowman :  Oh man did Larson need that morale booster! There is much to be said for momentum, especially with a huge paycheck to boot, and this could be just what he needed to get out of the slump that the 42 teams has been in.

Lambeth :  Kyle Larson’s victory in the All-Star race provided a huge confidence booster for him, the 42 team, and Chip Ganassi Racing as a whole. Larson got off to a rough start, but it appears that his season is finally trending in the right direction.

Shoopman : I would hope that it provided a huge confidence boost for the team. They’ve been struggling this season, and they truly deserved that win.

Shoppe :  This is a great boost for Larson and the 42 team! Just look at what one good run did for Alex Bowman! I expect a turn-around for Kyle Larson now! I’m not sure whether he was kidding or not when he asked if the All-Star win would count towards the playoffs but I am sure he will be contending for a points paying win soon!

Sisoler :  This should be a big boost for him, even if it was in a slightly different configuration of the car than he’ll run on Saturday night. He’d had a rough year up until he won his way into the All-Star Race, and then won the All-Star Race.

It should also be a boost, albeit a bit less so because that driver didn’t win, to Larson’s Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Kurt Busch, who is winless in races, points paying or otherwise, in 2019, because it shows the fact that all Chevrolets are getting faster, not just the Chase Elliott’s…er, Hendrick machines.

Tiongson :   While Larson’s win took place in a non-points race with a package that’s different from this year’s configurations, I see this 42 team having more strong performances ahead.  When I spoke with Larson at Texas a few months ago, he understood that he and his team needed to adjust to the package and it showed.

Sure, some of his not so stellar results in April were due to bad luck, but the team needed time to get a handle on the high downforce, low horsepower package.  I look at how he got a solid third at Dover and a decent eighth at Kansas, after starting towards the rear of the field, and there’s promising signs with this team.

Can they contend for the Coca-Cola 600 win?  Longer races haven’t always favored the Californian.  However, that All-Star Race win has to be like gaining at least 25 or so horsepower for Larson and company, so I at least expect a top-10 from this bunch.

Question 2
By all means, the Coca-Cola 600 brings out a sense of remembrance. (Photo Credit: Andrew Fuller/TPF)

By all means, the Coca-Cola 600 brings out a sense of remembrance. (Photo Credit: Andrew Fuller/TPF)

Sunday marks the true culmination of Motorsports May with Formula 1’s Monaco Grand Prix, IndyCar’s Indianapolis 500, and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600. Which of these races provides the most prestige after all of these years and do you plan to watch all three?

Acero :  I wouldn’t call it prestige but tradition, and only one race on Memorial Day weekend provides such; the Indy 500. Yes, Monaco is top of the line auto racing but to have Alonso get bumped out of the field for the Indy 500 tells you that IndyCar is in fact a tough series to compete in. Do I plan on watching all three, ABSOLUTELY! Christmas in May for us race fans!

Cassidy :  It is hard to compete with the Indy 500! This race gets so much traction around the world, from viewers who are not even race fans. That being said, I don’t believe the other races are less important, but could benefit from being a different weekend.

Conley :  For prestige it’s without question the Indianapolis 500. Even non-motorsports fans know about that event. It’s got heritage, it’s got great memories and has given many drivers their place in history, but when it comes to current day race fans, what they want out of an event and competition. I think the Coke 600 edges just slightly ahead of the 500.

Hobbs :  You’d almost be a fool not to say the Indy 500 is THE race of the weekend. To be honest, you mention Indy 500, Coca-Cola 600, or the Monaco Grand Prix to the average person, they’d probably only know about the Indy 500.

As every year, I watch the 500 and 600. Monaco starts too early for me.

Lucas :  For the past fifteen years, I’ve watched all three of them with excitement and a full belly! What do I mean by that? Well, a tradition that my mother started a few years ago to get involved and partake in the festivities of the day (she’s not a big fan by any means, but will follow along throughout the season).

For Monaco, we’ve enjoyed waking up to french toast & mimosa’s (before I was 21 we would enjoy orange juice with sparkling grape juice rather than the whimsical adult beverage). The afternoon portion for Indy would bring out the fun fan food, i.e a mix of either hot dogs, hamburgers, and of course a celebratory glass of chilled whole milk, not the bad kind, the good full fledged milk! And to finally, cap of the greatest day in motor racing, a nice cold Coke with some slow roasted pork and baked beans. Ah yes, the wonders of Memorial Day weekend racing.

Monaco is a nice warm up session for the day, sometimes the race is filled with crashes and drama. But for recent history, it’s been a bit dull. The premier race of the day that is always packed with action and excitement is the Indy 500. Everyone who is anyone has somehow heard of the Indy 500 in some shape or form; by far my favorite of the day. The 600 is a race that’s made for endurance, not constant excitement. Once again, recent history has proven that if your the leader, your near unbeatable with clean air. Let’s all make a toast and enjoy this coming Sunday!

By all means, if that wasn’t enough racing talk, you’re in luck!  With that, let’s rewind to a few weeks back and review our race and points reports from Kansas!
Undoubtedly, Bowman felt like Jon Snow with her Kansas win.

Undoubtedly, Bowman felt like Jon Snow with her Kansas win.

Unlike the series finale, Bowman stands tall and strong with the points lead going into the Coca-Cola 600.

Unlike the series finale, Bowman stands tall and strong with the points lead going into the Coca-Cola 600.

Surely, we’ve almost put the finishing touches to our preview!  However, Ashley Hobbs presents her statistics that’ll make you ready to start Crunching the Numbers: Coca-Cola 600 style!
Surprisingly, Chevy teams fare well in the Coca-Cola 600.

Surprisingly, Chevy teams fare well in the Coca-Cola 600.

Since 2004, the race winner's average starting spot is 8.9 while the average number of laps led is 120.9.

Since 2004, the race winner’s average starting spot is 8.9 while the average number of laps led is 120.9.

Logano gives Team Penske hope for Charlotte.

Logano gives Team Penske hope for Charlotte.

Some surprising numbers for the 600 since 2011.

Some surprising numbers for the 600 since 2011.

The pace has quickened in the past five editions of the Coca-Cola 600.

The pace has quickened in the past five editions of the Coca-Cola 600.

Another race, another potential Kyle Busch win?

Another race, another potential Kyle Busch win?

In the words of Captain Picard, “Warp nine, engage!”  Let’s reveal our picks for Sunday evening’s Coca-Cola 060.
By all means, we've got surprises for NASCAR's longest race of the year.

By all means, we’ve got surprises for NASCAR’s longest race of the year.

Acero : I am torn between Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick. But, if I had to choose one I would go with Kyle Larson! He’s feeling like a million bucks and now wants to punch his ticket to the Playoffs!

Bowman :  It would be silly to bet again the momentum; Kyle Larson sweeps the Charlotte Speedweeks.

Cassidy :  Larson.

Sisoler :  Thought about this for a while, and while we’d love a feel-good story and have Bubba Wallace win, the fact is that RPM doesn’t have the pace to win, so I’m gonna pick the driver of the car one down from Bubba’s 43 Chevy, the No. 42 of Kyle Larson.

Conley :  There have been seven instances in which a driver won their first career Cup race in the Coke 600. Make it eight as Alex Bowman as he’ll score career win number one.

Lambeth :  Alex Bowman is tired of second-place finishes. He will get his breakthrough first-career win in the Coca-Cola 600.

Hobbs :  (Starts playing The Proclaimers “I’m Gonna Be” for some strange reason…) I don’t know, but something tells me Denny Hamlin is due for a Coca-Cola 600 victory.

Lucas :  Look out everyone, he’s hot again! Martin Truex Jr for the long 600 mile run.

Shoppe :  Erik Jones.

Tiongson :   Kevin Harvick might’ve not been a happy camper following his runner-up last Saturday night in the All-Star Race. That said, he avenges that not so wonderful loss with a sweet Coca-Cola 600 win in a car that is not targeting millennials.

TPF Stats : He may not be the best at 600 miles, but he has been to victory lane in the Coca-Cola 600; and he has been to victory lane three time already this year. Look for Kyle Busch to find some magic in this 600 mile marathon.

Shoopman :  I’m going to have go with William Byron. #24thewin

Race fans, thanks for joining us for our preview of the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlote!

We’re ready for some racing. How about you? What do you think are the biggest storylines heading into Sunday night’s race and who is your favorite to win?  Tweet us now @ThePodiumFinish and tell us now!

Thanks as always to the TPF team for their amazing efforts this week!  We hope to see you at the races in 2019. 

The opinions and thoughts expressed in Podium Preview are solely of the authors. They do not reflect any organizations affiliated with the participants and author outside of TPF. This weekly feature is strictly for entertainment purposes and are not indicative of TPF, the organization, and its staff.

Rob Tiongson

30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught my eye. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by me or by one of my talented columnists who absolutely have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. I enjoy editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography.

Graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. Proud to be from Massachusetts, just as happy to be a Texan.

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