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What to Watch: Full guide for 2021 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway

Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (⏰ 6 p.m. ET | 📺 FOX | 📻 PRN, SiriusXM)

Everything you need to know for Sunday’s race, the 15th points-paying NASCAR Cup Series event of the 2021 season. 

Where: Charlotte Motor Speedway, 1.5-mile oval located in Concord, North Carolina
Practice: 7 p.m. ET (Friday, FS1) | Results
Qualifying: 11:05 a.m. ET (Saturday, FS1) | Lineup
Green flag: 6:23 p.m. ET
TV/Radio: FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Forecast: Sunday night is predicted to be partly cloudy, with a low around 52, according to NOAA.gov.
Grand Marshal: Kevin Eubanks and Jay Leno
Race Distance: 400 laps, 600 miles
Stages: 100 | 200 | 300 | 400
Pit-road speed: 45 mph
Caution car speed: 55 mph
Charlotte 101: Get the full lowdown
Entry list: See who’s in the field
Pit-stall assignments: See who is pitting where | Expert breaks down pit selections

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Five to watch

Here are five big story lines we’ll be following at Circuit of The Americas.

1. Through 14 races, there are only two repeat winners — Alex Bowman (two wins) and Martin Truex Jr. (three wins). Chase Elliott is the most recent driver to join the rather large group of one-race winners, after being proclaimed victor of the rain-shortened race at Circuit of The Americas. Kevin Harvick, last season’s winningest driver, and Denny Hamlin, the series’ points leader, both have yet to reach Victory Lane.

2. Three of the last five Coca-Cola 600 races have been won by current Joe Gibbs Racing drivers. Truex won in 2016 and 2019. Kyle Busch won in 2018. To complete the team’s four-car garage, neither Hamlin (in 29 career starts) nor Christopher Bell (in two career starts) have won at Charlotte in the NASCAR Cup Series.

3. Sunday’s race will be the fifth of nine races on a 1.5-mile track this season — and it’ll be the last until July at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The four others were won by four different drivers — William Byron at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Kyle Larson at Last Vegas Motor Speedway, Ryan Blaney at Atlanta and Kyle Busch at Kansas Speedway. It is worth noting: Larson led the most laps in the last three 1.5-mile races and was passed for the final lead change in the two he did not win.

4. Ten drivers scored their first career win at Charlotte, and seven of those first-time winners did so in the Coca-Cola 600. Those crown-jewel winners were David Pearson (1961), Jeff Gordon (1994), Bobby Labonte (1995), Matt Kenseth (2000), Casey Mears (2007), David Reutimann (2009) and Austin Dillon (2017). There are still plenty active drivers looking for their first win, such as Tyler ReddickMatt DiBenedetto, Ross ChastainBubba WallaceDaniel Suarez and Chase Briscoe.

5. No one has been able to win both the Coca-Cola 600 and the NASCAR Cup Series title in the same year since Gordon in 1998. He did so in 1997, too. Byron now pilots that same No. 24 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. BetMGM has Bryon at 16-1 odds to win Sunday and 12-1 odds to with the championship in November.

Race-day staples

Our biggest pieces of the week — get covered for race day from all angles.

 Com Powerrankings HeroPower Rankings: Hendrick dominates top five | Scope the ranks
Paint Scheme Preview: Check out the patriotic designs for Memorial Day weekend | See the schemes
Fantasy Fastlane: See which drivers to use, avoid | Full Fantasy advice | Set your roster
Preview Show: Jonathan Merryman and Alex Weaver preview the race | Watch the show

Get in on the action

Think you know NASCAR? Put your mettle to the test with gaming, fantasy.

Betting odds for Coca-Cola 600 race | See the odds
Rare to win Coca-Cola 600, title in same year | Analyze the stats
Which driver is most likely to score first Coca-Cola 600 | Judge the debate
Take a shot at winning cash prizes with the free-to-play Jackpot Races app | Hit the jackpot
Full guide to 2021 NASCAR Fantasy Live game | Get the FAQ

Crown-jewel gems

Learn all about the history of the Coca-Cola 600 — one of NASCAR’s four crown-jewel events. 

• How the Coca-Cola 600 rose to storied status | Learn the path
• All-time Coca-Cola 600 winners | See the drivers
• Who has crown-jewel wins among active drivers? | See the drivers
• 600 Miles of Remembrance honors the fallen | Learn their stories
• Jeff Gordon won his first Coca-Cola 600 in 1994 | Relive the race

Fast facts

Hard-hitting, race-relevant statistics, brought to you by the experts at Racing Insights.

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Matt Sullivan | Getty Images

• The eventual race winner did not lead until after halfway in both Charlotte races last year.
• The driver who led the most laps won only twice in the last six Charlotte races.
• The final lead change came with five laps to go in two of the last three races at Charlotte.
• Nine different drivers won the last 10 races on 1.5-mile tracks; Kyle Busch is the only repeat winner.
• Brad Keselowski won the 2020 Coca-Cola 600; it was the first Coca-Cola 600 win for Ford since Mark Martin in 2002.

Catch the pack

Read up on all the headlines from the week leading up to Sunday’s race.

No. 9 team: NASCAR suspends spotter Eddie D’Hondt indefinitely | Read more
• Pick your favorite:
Top five drivers in All-Star Race Fan Vote revealed | Read more
• Gaming world:
eNASCAR, ASUS renew partnership for 2021 | Read more
• More races:
TrackPass to broadcast U.S. Legend Car Series live | Read more
• ‘Tiniest Gator:’
Allgaiers welcome second baby girl, Willow |Read more
• ‘The car doesn’t know gender:’
Toni Breidinger joins ‘I Am Athlete’ podcast | Read more
• Venue change: NASCAR shifts Camping World Trucks playoff race to Darlington | Read more

Say what?

Notable quotes from the stars of the sport heading into Sunday’s race.

“It would mean a lot to be the driver who breaks the all-time Cup Series win record for Hendrick Motorsports, especially if it happened at Charlotte. Not only is this race huge for me being my hometown, but it’s really where I became a fan of Hendrick Motorsports. I used to watch Jeff (Gordon) and Jimmie (Johnson) be so successful at Charlotte. To then be able to get win No. 269 would be historic for everyone involved but just a whole extra meaning at my hometown track. Charlotte is what gave me my love of racing and Hendrick Motorsports.” — William Byron, No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

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Chris Graythen | Getty Images

“Love-hate (relationship), I guess. I haven’t won it yet, so I think I’d love it more if we were able to win. I’ve been able to run really well at Charlotte over the years. It’s been a really good racetrack for us, whether it’s been the Roval or the All-Star Race, BOA 500. Whatever it is, those have been some good ones. I just haven’t won the Coke 600 yet, which is the one that stands out for me. Every time I look at a bucket list race, probably Southern 500 and Coca-Cola 600 and Brickyard are the ones that stand out that I really want next.” — Joey Logano, No. 22 Team Penske Ford

“This is always a big weekend for our sport and what the industry does as a whole to recognize Memorial Day. We’re excited about the opportunity to honor the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and to learn their stories. For us, we’re also looking forward to the race because Charlotte has been a great track for us the last few years and we’ve been fortunate to have had some strong runs and a few wins going back to the 78 days. I approach this as another opportunity to win and hopefully work our way back up the points standings after last week.” — Martin Truex Jr., No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

“Your neck is tired, your lower back is tired, legs are tired and you’re just fatigued. You definitely feel it the next morning after a 600-mile race. You feel like you worked out a lot the day before, and you did inside the car. Two-and-a-half of these 600-mile races and I could be home in Monterrey, Mexico. It’s crazy to think of it that way.” — Daniel Suarez, No. 99 Trackhouse Racing Team Chevrolet