NASCAR Pre-Race Media: 5 burning questions for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN)

What Are The Crown Jewels?

The debate is getting brought up because we’ve reached what should be the second crown jewel of the NASCAR schedule. We know the Daytona 500 is one of them. We know the Brickyard 400 used to be but due to the move to the road course, probably falls off the list.

So, what rounds out the crown jewels on the schedule since NASCAR overhauled for the start of last season? Is it four races or does it shrink to three? I mean, who said you have to have four crown jewels?

The Coca-Cola 600 is surely in consideration. So is the Southern 500. I think you have to have each on this list. So, do we stop there or add a fourth again?

Is the fourth Bristol dirt? Is it the Bristol night race? Is it one of the two Talladega races? That’s all up for debate. But, what’s not debatable is the ‘600. The thing is, did the ‘600 now the second biggest race of the season?

CONCORD, NORTH CAROLINA – MAY 30: A general view of cars on track as the sun sets during the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 30, 2021 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Will New Car Help The Show Or Will There Be More Dominance On Sunday?

The Coca-Cola 600 may be the longest race of the season, but lately, we’ve seen the show dominated by one singular driver too. It’s made a lot of folks wonder if we need 600 miles of racing to get to the same end product.

Martin Truex Jr. led 392 of 400 laps in his 2016 win. Kyle Busch followed that up with leading 377 of 400 laps in 2018 only for Truex to lead 116 laps in his win in 2019. Alex Bowman led 164 laps in 2020 but didn’t win. His teammate, Kyle Larson, did reach victory lane last year after leading 327 of 400 laps a year ago.

Over the last 12 Charlotte oval races, the eventual race winner led at least 91 laps in 9 of them with 7 of those 9 leading at least 115 laps.

So, will we see more domination this weekend or will the new car help the activity out?

This season, the Next Gen has produced some vastly better racing, especially on intermediate tracks. So there’s hope that this new car can help improve the show on Sunday night too.

Was 2020 The Start Of Toyota’s Charlotte Fall?

The Toyota’s have bar none been the best at Charlotte in recent years. They’ve won 4 of the last 7 Coke 600’s. The question is however, was 2020 the start of their fall on the 1.5-mile North Carolina race track?

A Ford in Brad Keselowski won the ‘600 that May while a Chevrolet in Chase Elliott won the second oval race a few days later. The Toyota’s paled in comparison from 2020 to years prior.

Last year, Chevy dominated again with taking 5 of the top 6 spots in the finishing order. The thing is, Toyota’s were right there second in class with having 2 cars in the top 7 too.

Now, can they get back to victory lane this weekend? They looked improved in the two points paying races this month.

Denny Hamlin has four top fives in his last seven Charlotte oval starts and was 7th last year. Kyle Busch has 6 top six results in his last 8 Charlotte oval tries including a 3rd place result last May. Martin Truex Jr. has the best stats among the Toyota camp in Charlotte.

The thing is, they were 4-6-29 in the 2020 ‘600 with all 87 combined laps led by Truex Jr. and 2-9-29 in the second race.

Last year, they went 3-7-24-29 with 7 total laps led.

Are they still the ones to beat?

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – MAY 26: Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #19 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER/USO Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 26, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

How Many More Winners Will We Get?

We’re now at the halfway point of the regular season. 13 races down with 13 races-to-go into the 2022 Cup Series season with 11 different winners. The main question now is, will we reach 16 different winners by time the checkered flag drops on the regular season this August at Daytona?

It was a legitimate question a few weeks ago. However, in the last 9 weeks, we’ve seen two drivers win multiple times. With 5 playoff spots left and 13 races left in the 26 race regular season, do you think we’ll see more first time winners this season?

The thing is, there is some star power that’s left winless. Names like Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick each are still shutout. 3 of those 4 have won championships.

Harvick has won 58 times in his career. Keselowski has won 35 times. Truex Jr. 31.

What leads you to believe that they are left winless in 2022?

Well, Harvick has 1 top 5 all season and hasn’t won since 2020.

Keselowski, is with a new team that hasn’t won a race since July 2017.

Truex has 2 top five finishes all season.

So, while on paper it looks like you can make a case for all 4 to win, the stats recently tell a different story.

Still, we have 4 road course races this regular season so maybe Chase Elliott can still find a win on one of these tracks too.

Aric Almirola and Christopher Bell each won last year and have the capability of winning this time around too. The Richard Childress Racing duo of Austin Dillon and Tyler Reddick are getting closer and closer. 4 of the last 5 races have seen at least one of them finish in the top 3. Daniel Suarez is coming along too.

Does Charlotte Turn Tide Back To NASCAR Again

The Month of May has really seen NASCAR move to a backburner in comparison to other motorsports competition. F1 started the month off in Miami at the same start time as Darlington. INDYCAR has been at IMS the last 2 weeks including this Sunday’s Indianapolis 500. However, does the tide turn back NASCAR’s way on Sunday night?

The Coca-Cola 600 is a crown jewel on the schedule and runs after the Indy 500 so there’s no conflict. Then next week, you get a new event on the schedule for World Wide Technology Raceway which looks like a sell out. That race is met with a ton of anticipation.

Sonoma is a week after that followed by the only week off of the season then a 2nd stop at Nashville to close the month of June with what will also likely be a sell out again too.

Road America and Atlanta lead off July which has NASCAR at the midway mark with a lot of attention back.

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