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NASCAR’S Longest Race is Sunday on WBKR – A Preview of the Action by Blake Smith and Moon Mullins

Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images

Racing Broadcast Day Sunday on WBKR and wbkr.com

After the Indianapolis 500 finishes Sunday afternoon, WBKR will bring you the NASCAR Cup Race – the Coca Cola 600, the longest race of the season at 4:00 p.m.

Earlier This Week

On Wednesday, the 2014 inductees into the NASCAR Hall of Fame were announced. Those inductees include driver Tim Flock, Jack Ingram, Dale Jarrett, Maurice Petty and Fireball Roberts. The inductees were decided by a 54-member voting panel which met behind closed doors in Charlotte. The induction ceremony is scheduled for January 29, 2014 in Charlotte.

Thursday was the first of three practices and qualifying for the race. Denny Hamlin (Pictured above with his #11 FedEx Office Toyota and team posing for photos in Victory Lane) was the fastest of the 44 qualifiers. Hamlin, who ran a speed of 195.624 MPH, was the first of 9 drivers to break the former track record. The rest of the top 10 are as follows Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle, Kyle Busch, Jamie McMurray and Ryan Newman rounding out the top 10. Mike Bliss was the 44th driver and the only driver to miss this weekend’s race.

 

This week kicks off NASCAR’s 6-week fundraising campaign known as “NASCAR: An American Salute.” The initiative is an industry-wide effort to honor and celebrate the service of members of the United States Armed Forces, veterans and their families. Beginning with the upcoming Memorial Day Weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and culminating with the Independence Day Weekend’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway, this year’s campaign aspires to reach one million “salutes” to U.S. military members during the next six weeks. In addition to being able to track the progress against one million salutes, NASCAR fans, partners, drivers, teams and tracks can salute the military by sending messages of gratitude.Use #NASCARSalutes on Instagram and Twitter. “The tradition of honoring our military is part of the fiber of our sport,” said Mike Helton, NASCAR president. “Everyone at NASCAR is proud of the NASCAR: An American Salute initiative. It enables us to collectively express our gratitude to the millions of American members of the armed forces, both currently serving and those who have served, for the sacrifices they make in defending our nation.” Beginning this weekend in Charlotte, drivers in all 3 of NASCAR’s Top 3 Divisions will be running a special Goodyear “Support your Troops” tires.

Paint Scheme Changes

If you’re a fan of Roush-Fenway drivers Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle or Ricky Stenhouse; you could be faced with a challenge of trying to find your favorite driver on the track. This weekend in Charlotte, all three Roush drivers will be running the Fastenal paint scheme. These three cars, known as the Fastenal Tribute Cars, will feature the names of current Fastenal employees who served in the military. David MacFadden (First Sergeant, U.S. Army) will be displayed on the hood of the #99, and Brian Ashbee (Chief Quartermaster, U.S. Navy) and Anthony Phillips (Private First Class, U.S. Army) will see their names on the hood of the #17. The displays are part of Fastenal’s “Heroes Hired Here” campaign honoring employees who are active or retired military members. MacFadden, Ashbee and Phillips were the top three finishers in a Fastenal employee essay contest. As the contest winner, MacFadden will also receive a trip for two to the Bank of America 500 in Charlotte on October 12th. This is the second year in a row that all three Roush-Fenway cars have raced the Fastenal paint scheme at Charlotte.

Saturday’s Action and Events

Sprint Cup Series cars will take to the track at 9am this morning for their second practice of the weekend with final practice scheduled for 12 PM. The crew chiefs will have to build a lot of adjustments into their car’s setup as the race will begin under sunlight at 74 degrees but finish the race in the lower 60’s. Expect to see a lot of comers and goers on Sunday night as some cars will be better fit for day time racing conditions and some better setup for the end of the race at night.

Carl Edwards, currently #2 in this season’s cup points, says, ”It’s mentally as well as physically demanding. Mentally,  all of us have to prepare a little extra  because it is a grueling event”. Owensboro native Michael Waltrip’s three cars in the race this weekend will have Feed the Children logos on them. That is an Oklahoma-based organization that is providing food and help to that state’s tornado victims. Sitting in 4th place in cup points, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is back this weekend after being absent last fall because of a concussion. Brad Keslowski will be without his crew chief Paul Wolfe one more time as he serves his recent suspension. Without Wolfe, Brad was 32nd at Darlington and last in the All-Star race. He told media this week because they believe they were in the right, his crew as a group are stronger than ever.

Chassis Selections for this weekend’s Coca-Cola 600:

#2: Brad Keselowski: Primary Chassis for the Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte is PRS-843, which last raced at Auto Club Speedway and finished 23rd. The backup chassis is PRS-847 which has never been raced but has been a backup at several races.

#5 Kasey Kahne: Crew chief Kenny Francis will unload Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 5-793 for Sunday’s 600-mile event at Charlotte. Kahne drove this car to a second-place finish at Kansas Speedway in April.

Moon’s Favorite, #10 Danica Patrick: will pilot chassis 10-794 which is a new car that has not been on-track previously. It was tested in the wind tunnel May 1. (* Moon here, see my prediction below)

#14 Tony Stewart: chassis No. 14-735, which debuted in the 2012 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway where Stewart qualified 28th and rallied to score a top-10 finish.

 Dale Earnhardt Jr #88: Crew chief Steve Letarte and the #88 crew will unload Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-726. Earnhardt most recently raced this chassis in April at Texas Motor Speedway, where he was the second-fastest Chevrolet SS to qualify. He started the event sixth.

Going into this weekend, Matt Kenseth has a driver rating of 94.4 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Kenseth has always enjoyed racing at Charlotte. “The 600 has always been unique,” said Kenseth. “We have our first win here so maybe that’s part of it. This is the first track that I made my first Nationwide start at and have more miles here at this track than any other on the circuit. You only race a 600-mile race once a year — Memorial Day weekend. Just a lot of different things.”

Moon’s prediction for the winner this week?

Well, of course — her!

John Harrelson/NASCAR via Getty Images

Blake’s Pick

For this weekend, I’m going to go with a patient driver who always seems to take care of his equipment and be there at the end of the race – a driver who has 3 wins this season, all at mile and a half tracks (like Charlotte). After last weekend, you may be thinking of course he is going to pick Jimmie Johnson…WRONG! My pick for this weekend is the #20 Toyota of Matt Kenseth!

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Remember, tune into WBKR’s coverage of the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday beginning at 4PM right after the Indy 500 on WBKR & WBKR.com!

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