Will Chase Elliott seek revenge after being wrecked out of Wednesday’s race by Kyle Busch? Will Jimmie Johnson make history in his final Coca-Cola 600 as a full-time driver? Can Matt Kenseth come out of retirement and take the checkers in the same race where he won 20 years ago? It’s finally race week at America’s Home for Racing, and like the summer temperatures, the story lines are heating up.
Here are six stories to watch as NASCAR Nation turns its attention to the famed Charlotte Motor Speedway:
Chasing Payback?: Perhaps the biggest moment from Darlington came as Kyle Busch made contact with fan-favorite Chase Elliott, sending the Hendrick Motorsports’ driver spinning and eliciting a strong reaction from fans on social media. Elliott showed his displeasure as he exited his damaged car and Busch took responsibility for the incident, saying he misjudged the gap. Is the incident behind them or will Chase seek payback when cars hit the track for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600?
Last Shot at History: At the speedway once dubbed "Jimmie’s House" after a string of seven race wins in less than four years, the seven-time Cup Series champion looks to join NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip as the only drivers to have tasted victory five times at the Coca-Cola 600. Johnson previously won NASCAR’s longest race in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2014.
Back for More: Twenty years after racing as a rookie to his first career win at NASCAR’s premier level, Matt Kenseth has come out of retirement to pilot the No. 42 entry for Chip Ganassi Racing and is looking to rekindle the magic from two decades past. Still the only rookie to win the Coca-Cola 600 in 60 years, Kenseth put others on notice that he hasn’t lost a step on the competition after scoring a top-10 finish Sunday at Darlington in his first race back after retirement.
The Future Is Here: Led by Christopher Bell, Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick, the 2020 Cup Series rookie class is as loaded with talent as any in recent memory. But these drivers have never faced a grueling 600-mile slugfest on Memorial Day Weekend. Can they rise to the challenge like then-rookie Matt Kenseth did 20 years ago? Will one of these rookies become the next first-time Cup Series winner at the Coca-Cola 600, joining the likes of David Pearson, Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte, Kenseth, David Reutiman, Casey Mears and Austin Dillon?
Rocket Man Returns: After Ryan Newman’s Daytona crash sidelined the Roush Fenway Racing driver, it wasn’t immediately clear when he might be back behind the wheel. But a strong showing in the first two races this week at Darlington showed that Rocket Man has returned. With nine pole awards at Charlotte Motor Speedway on his resume – and NASCAR opting to set the field through qualifying before Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 – Newman’s No. 6 machine may, once again, find its way to the front. And what a comeback that would be.
Veterans on the Hunt: Throughout its 60-year history, many of the biggest names in the sport have hoisted the Bruton Smith Trophy in triumph after taming the toughest test NASCAR has to offer. But there are a number of active drivers – Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski among them – who haven’t yet found their way to Victory Lane. Could one of those veterans check the Coca-Cola 600 off their bucket list this week? Time will tell.
Fans can catch pre-race coverage of the Coca-Cola 600 beginning this Sunday at 5:30 p.m. on FOX. NASCAR’s toughest test of man and machine – the only 600-mile race on the schedule – will also be broadcast on Performance Racing Network radio affiliates.
— Charlotte Motor Speedway —