Column By: REID SPENCER / NASCAR – DAYTONA BEACH, FL – From a marathon to a sprint. From NASCAR’s longest race to the shortest ever at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s 1.5-mile oval. From four 100-lap stages to three stages of 55, 60 and 93 laps, respectively.
After a grueling 607.5 miles on Sunday (including a five-lap overtime), NASCAR Cup Series drivers will compete in a dash on Wednesday night in the Alsco Uniforms 500 at CMS (8 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). That’s 500 kilometers, by the way; the event measures 312 miles (208 laps), barely more than the first two stages of the Coke 600.
The shortest distance previously run in a Charlotte Cup race—other than two 100-mile qualifying events in 1961—was 341 miles in the 2009 Coca-Cola 600, when David Reutimann picked up the first of his two career wins in a rain-shortened race.
Racing on Wednesday nights has become the new normal, as NASCAR remains committed to running a full schedule of 36 points-paying events.
“It has been really interesting and fun to have these midweek races,” said Tyler Reddick, who parlayed seventh- and 13th-place finishes in the two Darlington races and a ninth in the 600 into a 43-point lead over Cole Custer in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings.
“They keep us on our toes, even though it’s the same track being raced so close together. Both Darlington and Charlotte are tracks affected by temperature and day-versus-night conditions, so it almost comes off as two different places.”
Brad Keselowski won the Coca-Cola 600 after midnight on Monday, thanks to a rain delay of more than an hour that interrupted the first stage of the race. It wasn’t until almost 2 a.m. that runner-up Jimmie Johnson was disqualified and placed 40th after inspectors found that the rear alignment of his No. 48 Chevrolet exceeded post-race tolerances.
Johnson will be particularly motivated on Wednesday night. So will Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott, who had victory in his sights at Darlington and at Charlotte, only to see winning chances in both races disappear—at Darlington thanks to Kyle Busch’s bumper and at Charlotte thanks to a late, ill-timed caution.
KYLE BUSCH GOES FOR EIGHT STRAIGHT IN CHARLOTTE TRUCK RACE
Owner/driver Kyle Busch brings an air of invincibility to Tuesday night’s North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch has won the last seven NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series races he has entered, including his entire allotment of five races last year. Because of schedule shifts necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic, Busch is able to race at Charlotte, where he has won in eight of his 13 starts, the first two with owner Billy Ballew, the last six in his own Kyle Busch Motorsports equipment.
Busch has finished either first or second in the last nine Charlotte races. His average result at the track is an enviable 2.5.
“With the Truck Series Triple Truck Challenge originally including this race, I was ineligible, so I had to pick another race this year,” Busch said. “Now that everything has gotten flipped upside down with the pandemic, they are rearranging the Triple Truck Challenge, and now I’m able to race at Charlotte.
“Obviously, it’s going to be different not having all the extra support from KBM employees and their families out at the track, but hopefully I can reward everyone at KBM that has done everything that they can the last couple of months to be ready for this race by putting the Cessna Tundra in Victory Lane on Tuesday.”
The Gander Trucks ran two races before the hiatus for the pandemic, with Grant Enfinger winning the season opener at Daytona and Busch taking the second event at Las Vegas.
Enfinger, three-time and reigning series champion Matt Crafton and ThorSport Racing teammates Johnny Sauter and Ben Rhodes will try to score a breakthrough win for Ford at the 1.5-mile track. Ford is winless in the 17 previous Gander Trucks events held at Charlotte.
Rhodes will start from the pole on Tuesday night, with Crafton fourth, Sauter eighth and Enfinger ninth. Absent qualifying for the event, Busch will start 16th based on a draw for position.
NASCAR Cup Series
The Race: Alsco Uniforms 500
The Place: Charlotte Motor Speedway
The Date: Wednesday, May 25
The Time: 8 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 7 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 312 miles (208 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 55),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 115), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 208)
Most Recent Winner at Charlotte: Brad Keselowski (Sunday, May 24, 2020)
What To Watch For: There have been 121 NASCAR Cup Series points races at Charlotte Motor Speedway, two races per year from when the track opened in 1960 until 2017. Starting in 2018, Charlotte Motor Speedway hosted just one race on the oval configuration. … A total of 46 different NASCAR Cup Series drivers have won the Busch Pole Award at Charlotte Motor Speedway; nine of the 46 are active this weekend. … NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson leads the NASCAR Cup Series in poles at Charlotte Motor Speedway with 14 poles (1961, 1972, 1973, 1974 sweep, 1975 sweep, 1976 sweep, 1977 sweep, 1978 sweep, 1982). Ryan Newman leads all active drivers in poles at Charlotte Motor Speedway with nine (2001, 2003 sweep, 2004, 2005, 2007 sweep, 2009 and 2010). … Fireball Roberts won the inaugural Busch Pole Award at Charlotte Motor Speedway (World 600) in 1960 with a speed of 133.904 mph. … The youngest series Charlotte pole winner is William Byron (May 26, 2019 – 21 years, 4 months, 27 days) and the oldest series Charlotte pole winner is Bobby Allison (October 11, 1987 – 49 years, 10 months, 8 days). … A total of 51 different NASCAR Cup Series drivers have won at Charlotte Motor Speedway; 10 of the 51 are active this weekend. Jimmie Johnson leads the series in wins at Charlotte Motor Speedway with eight victories – 2003 summer, 2004 sweep, 2005 sweep, 2009 Playoffs, 2014 summer, 2016 Playoffs. … The youngest series Charlotte winner is Jeff Gordon (May 29, 1994 – 22 years, 9 months, 25 days) and the oldest series Charlotte winner is Cale Yarborough (October 6, 1985 – 46 years, 6 months, 9 days). … 10 drivers have posted their first career NASCAR Cup Series win at Charlotte: David Pearson (5/28/1961), Buddy Baker (10/15/1967), Charlie Glotzbach (10/20/1968), Jeff Gordon (5/29/1994), Bobby Labonte (5/28/1995), Matt Kenseth (5/28/2000), Jamie McMurray (10/13/2002), Casey Mears (5/27/2007), David Reutimann (5/25/2009) and Austin Dillon (5/28/2017). … 17 of the 121 (14.05%) NASCAR Cup Series races at Charlotte have been won from the Busch Pole; the most recent was Kyle Busch in the 2018 (Coca-Cola 600). The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Charlotte is 37th, by Jimmie Johnson in the Coca-Cola 600 of 2003. … A total of 179 different drivers have led at least one lap in the NASCAR Cup Series at Charlotte. NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison leads the series in laps led at Charlotte Motor Speedway with 2,339 laps led in 43 starts. Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers in the series in laps led at Charlotte with 1,936 laps led 36 starts. Martin Truex Jr. holds the record for the most laps led in in a single NASCAR Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway after he led 392 of the scheduled 400 laps (98%) in the 2016 Coca-Cola 600 – he started from the pole. Alex Bowman led the field with 164 laps led on Sunday in the Coca-Cola 600.
NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series
The Race: North Carolina Education Lottery 200
The Place: Charlotte Motor Speedway
The Date: Tuesday, May 26
The Time: 8 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 7:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 201 miles (134 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 30),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 60), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 134)
Most Recent Winner at Charlotte: Kyle Busch (May 17, 2019)
What To Watch For: Charlotte Motor Speedway has hosted 17 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series races dating back to 2003. The first Gander Trucks race at Charlotte was held on May 16, 2003, and won by Ted Musgrave in a Dodge. The 17 Gander Trucks races at Charlotte Motor Speedway have produced 10 different pole winners, led by Kyle Busch and Mike Skinner with three each. … The youngest Gander Trucks pole winner at Charlotte is Ty Dillon (5/18/2012 – 20 years, 2 months, 21 days) and the oldest is Mike Skinner (05/18/2007 – 49 years, 10 months, 20 days). … Kyle Busch leads all Gander Trucks drivers with eight series wins at the track, Matt Crafton and Ron Hornaday Jr. are next with two apiece. … The youngest Gander Trucks winner at Charlotte is Kyle Busch (05/20/2005 – 20 years, 0 months, 18 days) and the oldest is Ron Hornaday Jr. (05/15/2009 – 50 years, 10 months, 25 days). … A total of 61 different Gander Trucks drivers have led at least one lap at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Kyle Busch leads the series in laps led at Charlotte with 764 laps led in 13 starts. The most laps led by the race winner in a single Gander Trucks race at Charlotte was 130 of the scheduled 134 laps (97%) by Kyle Busch on May 16, 2013, he started from the pole and won.