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Charlotte 101: Story lines, qualifying format, history and more

The NASCAR Cup Series plays a home game this weekend with the Coca-Cola 600.

The longest race of the year is back at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday (6 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Get set for the weekend with all you need to know heading into the 400-lap race around the 1.5-mile oval.

STARTING SPOTS

Practice and qualifying for Sunday’s race begin with a 20-minute practice session for drivers in Group A before Group B hits the track for its session.

Qualifying will follow soon after, with each group running single-car, single-lap efforts in time trials. The fastest five cars from each group will advance to the second round of qualifying, where those 10 teams will vie for the Busch Light Pole Award to lead the field to the green flag on Sunday night.

RELATED: See the qualifying order here | Charlotte schedule | Cup Series standings 

CHARLOTTE HISTORY

– In April 1959, just two months after the inaugural Daytona 500, Bruton Smith and Curtis Turner partnered to announce plans to build the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Initially, both men had separate plans but realized both would fail as separate entities.

– The site and size of Charlotte were determined by Turner’s ideas over Smith’s, whose plan was to build a track in Pinesville. Turner was the president of the facility while Smith was GM.

– That April, the pair took the unusual step of announcing that the first race would be a 600-mile race on May 29, 1960. Initial financing was secured by selling 300,000 shares at $1 each, which was only accomplished after Smith bought radio and newspaper ads to promote the track.

– Due to financial difficulties, winter storms, a faulty drill report that added $500,000 to the cost, problems with the Securities and Exchange Commission and slow ticket sales, the track had no grandstands or track construction complete by the middle of April 1960. They were forced to delay the race by three weeks to June 19.

– Light poles were erected so crews could work two 12-hour shifts.

– As the paving was nearing completion, the contractor ordered work halted until they received overdue payments. They covered the unpaved portion with heavy equipment. Turner got legal advice and had the workers marched away. Then Turner’s brother and driver Bob Welborn jump-started a tractor and pushed the equipment out of the way so the paving could be completed. 

Source: Racing Insights

GOODYEAR TIRES

This weekend at Charlotte, teams will utilize the same tire package seen at Darlington Raceway earlier this month. Additionally, the right-side tire has been used at Fontana, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Kansas Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway.

Flat tires have been a frequent site in recent weeks, an issue Goodyear says stems from higher rear loads on the Next Gen car than what teams saw in previous Cup iterations.

“What we’ve seen play out at recent Cup race weekends is exactly what we saw in testing in preparation for this season with the Next Gen car,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing. “The balance of the Next Gen car is definitely shifted towards the rear of the car. We have been working with the teams, not only at the track over the course of race weekends, but also providing them data in advance that speaks to this, and what the tire needs to operate with regards to both camber and inflation, both of which are critical elements of the set-up. 

“Teams, as they always do, are constantly working on their cars to make them better as the season progresses. We have seen this and worked with them as they try to maximize the use of all corners of the car. Teams will, naturally, strive to make their cars faster and many have found the edge over the past several points races. Our working in conjunction with them will help maintain guidelines on tire set-ups as the Next Gen car continues to evolve.”

CHARLOTTE STORY LINES 

– Hendrick Motorsports dominated the 2021 running of the Coca-Cola 600, with Kyle Larson leading 327 of 400 laps on his way to the win while the organization ran 1-2 for 356 circuits.

– Kevin Harvick, the 2014 Cup champion, is in the midst of a 56-race winless streak, the second-longest span of his career without a win. His last was at Bristol Motor Speedway in September 2020.

– Kyle Busch’s pit crew had the fastest four-tire stop in each of the last five races with live pit stops.

– Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has finished inside the top 10 in each of his last three starts, tying the longest streak of his career and setting a record for JTG Daugherty Racing’s program.

– Kyle Larson hasn’t won since Auto Club Speedway in February, an 11-race stretch that marks his longest without a win since joining Hendrick Motorsports.

Source: Racing Insights

LONG RACE, LONG SHOTS

Last year’s dominator, Kyle Larson is unsurprisingly this week’s favorite at 11-2 odds (+550), according to BetMGM.

With five straight finishes of fourth or better, Kyle Busch (7-1) has the next best odds followed by Chase Elliott (15-2), who has three straight top-two finishes on the Charlotte oval, including a win in 2020.

His results have suffered lately, but Tyler Reddick (14-1) may be one to watch this weekend. The driver of the No. 8 Chevrolet has finished inside the top 10 in both of his Coca-Cola 600 starts and has shown more consistent speed this year. His finishes are inconsistent though — two runner-ups in his last five outings are surrounded by three finishes of 30th or worse.

RELATED: Betting odds for Charlotte

FANTASY LIVE

Want to manage a team and race your way to the top of the leaderboards? Check out NASCAR Fantasy Live, which is open now. The free-to-play game lets you choose your drivers each week and show off your crew-chief instincts by garaging a driver by the end of Stage 3, and there is a $25,000 prize for the winner.

The 2022 Fantasy Live points leaders are Chase Elliott (469), Ryan Blaney (415) and William Byron (415).

How to play: Fantasy Live | Set up a team today!

ALSO ON NASCAR.COM

Get additional camera views by logging on to NASCAR Drive, where each week a select number of in-car cameras will be available — as well as a battle cam and an overhead look.

NASCAR has partnered with LiveLike to add fan engagement in the NASCAR Mobile App. Log in to the mobile app during the race for polls, quizzes, the cheer meter and more — and see instant results from NASCAR fans like you.