NASCAR Preview: Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte
The Coca-Cola 600 is NASCAR's longest race of the season – Charlotte's Lowe's Motor Speedway is the home race of nearly all Sprint Cup teams
(Motorsports-Total.Com) – Although everyone says and writes for simplicity's sake that Lowe's Motor Speedway is located in Charlotte, that's still not quite right. Strictly speaking, the 1.5-mile oval built in 1959 is located a few miles northeast of Charlotte in the small town of Concord, which has since become a quasiincorporated suburb of North Carolina's metropolis of millions.
Lowe's Motor Speedway is home to almost all NASCAR teams
The site is still considered a model facility for numerous intermediate ovals that were later built in the U.S. The speedway has a curve banking of 24 degrees and accommodates 165.000 spectators – including the infield, the weekend will again see well over 200.000 NASCAR fans expected.#w1#
In Germany, the Speedway is best known as the setting and filming location for the racing scenes in the blockbuster movie "Days of Thunder", which was filmed in 1990 starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. While the two main characters grew closer during filming under the hot and humid sun of the American South, Hendrick provided the cars needed to film the race scenes.
Hendrick headquarters is just a stone's throw away, the crews of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon could just as easily push their cars up a hill through an intersection and park the Chevrolets in the pit area of Lowe's Motor Speedway without breaking a sweat. By the way, the original car of Cole Trickle alias Tom Cruise can be admired in full life size in the attached Hendrick Museum.
Charlotte is NASCAR Headquarters
Charlotte is widely considered the NASCAR capital par excellence, with nearly all teams headquartered in the area surrounding North Carolina's largest metropolis, named after Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg, wife of then-British King George the Third.
It is said that nearly 75 percent of all people employed in motorsports in the U.S. Live in the greater Charlotte metropolitan area. That alone illustrates the region's place on the U.S. Motorsports map. That's why the almost unanimous motto of the crew members is: "We'll be able to sleep in our own beds."
Chip Ganassi and Jack Roush also have their offices in the immediate vicinity of the speedway, and the NASCAR Research and Development Center, where large parts of the Car of Tomorrows were developed, is just around the corner. A little further away is the Earnhardt clan's estate, while Roger Penske has pulled up his new factory west of the speedway, toward Mooresville.
The blockbuster "Days of Thunder" was filmed in Concord in 1990 Zoom
Lowe's Motor Speedway hosts two Cup races each year in addition to the All-Star race won last weekend by Kasey Kahne (Evernham-Dodge): the Coca-Cola 600 in the spring and the Bank of America 500 in the fall, with the Coca-Cola 600 being the longest Cup race of the year and considered one of the top four events on the calendar.
Gordon, Mears, Kahne and Johnson
"It's a marathon, not a sprint", is the perfect description for the Coca-Cola 600. 600 miles is the equivalent of 965.6 kilometers and 400 long laps, during which the teams not only can, but even must, optimize their cars.
The starting flag drops at dusk and the race finishes in the middle of the night when temperatures have dropped and the surface has much more grip. Perfect pit strategy is also a crucial key to success, as it's not uncommon for the 600 to turn into a real fuel poker match.
Casey Mears, who enters the Coca-Cola 600 as the defending champion, proved that, as the Hendrick driver won on the last drop of fuel in 2007. Kasey Kahne won a double at Charlotte in 2006, but before that the dominant driver was Jimmie Johnson: The Californian won five of the six races in the southern metropolis between 2003 and 2005, with only Tony Stewart breaking the streak in October 2003.
Incidentally, Johnson's winning streak didn't last in the fall of 2007, as the October race was won by teammate Jeff Gordon. It was the 81. And the last Cup win to date for the four-time NASCAR champion, who also won his first ever Cup race at Charlotte in 1994.
Earnhardt drives at home
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Grew up very close to the track Zoom
Of course, the Cup drivers all live in the area, but one among them really grew up just a stone's throw away: Dale Earnhardt Jr. His story is now an almost endless one, as it is now over two years since the crowd favorite last won a points race.
"It's true when they say this is my home race. I can remember watching my dad from turn one for so many years. When I was a little boy, I wanted to go to as many races as I could so I could watch him race. And this is where I've always been because it's so close to home.", so "Junior".
A strong Red Bull team may also be something to look forward to. Brian Vickers finished fifth a year ago. Led no fewer than 76 of the 400 laps in the event. Teammate A.J. Allmendinger, on the other hand, celebrated the first race win for the Bulls in the All-Star preliminary race just under a week ago.
Qualifying for the Coca-Cola 600 will take place Thursday night, and the starting flag for the longest Sprint Cup race of the season will drop just after midnight on Sunday night. In addition to the Sprint Cup, the Nationwide Series will also race at Charlotte, hosting its Carquest Auto Parts 300 on Saturday night.
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