There is no greater day in all of motorsports than the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend, as three different marquee races around the world all take place within mere hours of each other. Formula 1's Monaco Grand Prix starts the day and leads into the Indianapolis 500 in IndyCar, and those two spectacles of open-wheel racing serve as a preamble to one of the biggest events in all of stock car racing.
The NASCAR Cup Series returns to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR's longest race and the sport's greatest test of both physical and mechanical endurance. Success in this race requires not only the ability to physically and mentally handle 400 laps and 600 miles at high speed, but also the ability to adapt to a day-to-night transition and changing track conditions.
To conquer this race is to win one of NASCAR's crown jewel events and join a wide variety of drivers in doing so, including legends of the sport like Richard Petty, Buddy Baker, Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and more.
How to Watch the Coca-Cola 600
- Date: Sun., May 28
- Location: Charlotte Motor Speedway -- Concord, N.C.
- Time: 6 p.m. ET
- TV: Fox
- Stream: fuboTV (try for free)
What to Watch
- This year's edition of the Coke 600 has an extremely tough act to follow. Last year's race was arguably the greatest Coke 600 in history, as it was action packed from the drop of the green flag until the checkered flag flew well past lap 400. Contenders came and went as they were on the edge of control on Charlotte's surface. The yellow flag flew 18 times, including once for Chris Buescher rolling his car down the front stretch. The race ended up going to double overtime thanks to a four-wide battle for the lead coming to the white flag, and it would end up becoming the longest race in NASCAR history at 619.5 miles.
Some of the attrition level in last year's race may be attributable to the first year of competition for the Next Gen car, as the amount of self-spins by drivers at the front of the field suggested that they were still trying to figure out exactly where the limits of the car were.
With over a year's worth of experience and setup data now to work with, the eye test this season has suggested that drivers have a better grasp of the car and how to stabilize it. That said, the Next Gen car has been at its best on mile and a half tracks like Charlotte, which suggests that the entertainment value of this year's race may be just as high even without a rash of yellow flags to bunch the field up.
- Given that almost all NASCAR race teams are based out of the greater Charlotte area, this weekend amounts to a home game for many throughout the industry, including Hendrick Motorsports. Team owner Rick Hendrick made his fortune as a Chevrolet dealer in the Charlotte area, and the team's campus is less than two miles from Charlotte Motor Speedway -- A mere skip and hop along Bruton Smith Blvd.
While Hendrick has won five points-paying races this season and is coming off of two wins in a row with William Byron at Darlington and Kyle Larson in the All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro, the 2023 season has seen driver injuries and crew suspensions disrupt the company's continuity. But finally, things may be stabilizing. It was announced this week that Alex Bowman will return to the driver's seat of the No. 48 after missing the last three races with a fractured vertebra suffered in a sprint car accident, giving Hendrick its full complement of full-time drivers for just the fifth time this season.
Hendrick Motorsports has built a great legacy in the Coca-Cola 600, as their 12 wins in this race are the most all-time for any one organization. Jimmie Johnson (2003-05, 2014) and Jeff Gordon (1994, 1997-98) combined for seven wins, with the other victories taken by Darrell Waltrip (1988-89), Casey Mears (2007), Kasey Kahne (2012) and Kyle Larson (2021).
- In the leadup to this weekend, NASCAR has announced a series of technical changes to address a major safety flaw in the Next Gen car that was exposed at Talladega when Ryan Preece's car pierced the passenger's side door of Kyle Larson's car, causing extreme and alarming damage to the rollcage's right side door bars.
Teams may now add six door bar gussets to the right side of the chassis, with the goal of strengthening a welded joint and limiting the sort of intrusion that was seen at Talladega. The gussets are being provided by NASCAR at no cost to the race teams. NASCAR has also ordered teams to remove the V-brace from the front clip in order to reduce stiffness in that area.
In a memo, race teams were advised that further changes to the Next Gen chassis may be made pending the results of crash testing being conducted Wednesday and Thursday.
Pick to Win
(Odds via Caesars Sportsbook)
Bubba Wallace (+1500): This is a "finger on the pulse" pick based on Bubba Wallace's recent performance as well as his performance in last year's Coke 600. Wallace had one of the fastest cars in the field and should have been a contender to win had it not been for a botched DVP procedure after he was caught in an accident near the halfway point. Despite suffering little damage to his car, Wallace was ruled to not meet minimum speed after staying behind the lead pack for the final laps of stage two, leading to NASCAR ordering his car to the garage area and ending his night prematurely.
Bubba Wallace has some positive momentum entering the Coke 600, where he's looking for redemption after a DVP SNAFU ended his race despite a fast car— Steven Taranto (@STaranto92) May 22, 2023
Wallace was upbeat about his 600 chances yesterday and again mentioned the strength of 23XI's 1.5-mile program pic.twitter.com/etudO1j6cp
Wallace and his team have since become much better at managing races, and they remain one of the Cup Series' strongest teams on 1.5-mile tracks. But they've started the process of becoming contenders everywhere, as Wallace came a bad block away from potentially winning Talladega and has since had two top five finishes in a row plus a second-place run in last week's All-Star Race. I expect that hot streak to continue, and Wallace should very much be considered a threat to win even with somewhat modest odds at +1500.