Facts & Stats Friday: NASCAR Cup Series Coke 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway

Bob Francis - Go Full Throttle
7 min readMay 27, 2023

26 May 2023
By Bob Francis, Managing Editor
Go Full Throttle Racing News

CONCORD, NC — The Coke 600 is NASCAR’s longest race taking place on one of motorsports most epic weekends where in one day fans are treated to the F1 Monaco Grand Prix, the Indy500, and the Coke 600. For NASCAR, its also a “home race” and salute to America’s military on Memorial Day Weekend.

NASCAR & Coca-Cola salute the military and their families

As it has each year for nearly a decade, the NASCAR community will come together to formally honor and recognize the United States Armed Forces during Military Appreciation Month through the annual NASCAR Salutes Together with Coca-Cola program.

This marks the ninth season of NASCAR Salutes Together with Coca-Cola celebrating the service and sacrifice of U.S. military members and their families through a multitude of at track integrations, original content features and fan engagement opportunities.

“The NASCAR industry and our fans relish the opportunity to rally around NASCAR Salutes Together with Coca-Cola to recognize the immeasurable sacrifice United States service members and their families make to protect our freedom,” said Michelle Byron, Senior Vice President of Partnership Marketing, NASCAR. “Especially as we continue celebrating NASCAR’s 75th anniversary and recalling so many memories made along the way, it’s important to reflect on the bravery and selflessness of countless individuals who provide us this great privilege.”

Tributes began at Dover Motor Speedway (May 1), where the U.S. Naval Academy Drum and Bugle Corps performed prior to the NASCAR Cup Series race.

New to the celebration this year, inside the NASCAR Experience fan zone footprint at Kansas and Darlington was a №75 show car draped in a NASCAR Salutes Together with Coca-Cola livery that featured white space for fans to write thank-you messages to military members.

To conclude NASCAR Salutes Together with Coca-Cola, NASCAR and Coca-Cola will again host Gold Star Families during Memorial Day weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where the show car with fan messages will be on display. Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 will continue the tradition of all 40 NASCAR Cup Series cars featuring the name of a fallen service member on the windshield.

“In partnership with NASCAR, Speedway Motorsports and the racing community, Coca-Cola North America is proud to honor our country’s service members and their families at the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend,” said Chris Bigda, Director of Sports Marketing at Coca-Cola North America. “During this year’s Coca-Cola 600, we are honored to recognize recipients of The Gold Star — paying tribute to the military members and their families who have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom.”

Charlotte Motor Speedway is all set for Memorial Day Weekend racing

Charlotte Motor Speedway will host the NASCAR Cup Series for the 64th running of the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday, May 28 at 6 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, in a weekend filled with remembrance of the brave men and women who are serving or have served in our military. The annual event takes pride in honoring our service members and their families and this weekend is expected to be another memorable experience for all.

Charlotte Motor Speedway is one of the most historic venues on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule. The famous facility is a 1.5-mile, paved oval with 24 degrees of banking in the turns and is located just outside Charlotte, North Carolina.

Charlotte Motor Speedway (oval) has hosted 124 NASCAR Cup Series races all-time — tied with Darlington Raceway for the fourth-most in series history; behind Daytona (152), Martinsville (149) and Richmond (133). The first NASCAR Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway was on June 19, 1960 and the inaugural event was won by driver Joe Lee Johnson driving a Chevrolet for car owner Paul McDuffie.

Charlotte Motor Speedway’s 124 Cup races have produced 48 different pole winners, led by NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson with 14 poles (1961, 1972, 1973, 1974 sweep, 1975 sweep, 1976 sweep, 1977 sweep, 1978 sweep, 1982) — the NASCAR Cup Series record for the most poles by a driver at a single track.

LEGACY MOTOR CLUB’s Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers in NASCAR Cup Series poles at Charlotte Motor Speedway with four (2002, 2004, 2009, 2014). Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin is the most recent pole winner at Charlotte, winning the pole for last season’s Coca-Cola 600 with a speed of 183.680 MPH.

Nine of the 48 NASCAR Cup Series Charlotte Motor Speedway pole winners are active this weekend.

Charlotte Motor Speedway has also produced 54 different NASCAR Cup Series race winners in the 124 races, led by Jimmie Johnson with eight victories (2003 summer, 2004 sweep, 2005 sweep, 2009 Playoffs, 2014 summer, 2016 Playoffs).

A total of 10 of the 54 NASCAR Cup Series Charlotte Motor Speedway race winners are entered this weekend, with five of the 10 still looking for their first victory of the 2023 season — Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott and Austin Dillon.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin is the defending winner of the 2022 Coca-Cola 600 and will look to become the seventh different driver to win back-to-back Coke 600s; joining Buddy Baker (1972-‘73), Darrell Waltrip (twice: 1978-’79 and 1988-’89), Neil Bonnett (1982-’83), Dale Earnhardt (1992-’93), Jeff Gordon (1997-‘98) and Jimmie Johnson (2003, ’04, ’05) — Johnson leads the series in consecutive Coca-Cola 600 wins with three straight.

All of the on-track action for the NASCAR Cup Series will begin with practice and Busch Light Pole Qualifying on Saturday night at 7 p.m. ET, and both events can be viewed on FS1.

Charlotte Motor Speedway is a great place for first-time winners

When it comes to getting your first win in the NASCAR Cup Series, nowhere beats Daytona International Speedway with 22 first-time winners. But when it comes to 1.5-mile tracks, none have produced more first-time winners than Charlotte Motor Speedway with 10 — fourth-most all-time behind Daytona (22), Talladega (13), and Martinsville (12)

The most recent driver to win his first career NASCAR Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway was Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon, who collected his first checkered flag back in 2017. Seven times the Coca-Cola 600 has been the first race a driver has won in the NASCAR Cup Series — 1961, 1994, 1995, 2000, 2007, 2009, 2017.

The 2023 season has yet to see a first-time winner this year, but that could change this weekend. In the Modern Era (1972-Present), the most first-time winners the NASCAR Cup Series has produced in a single season is five and it has occurred three times (2001, 2011 and 2022).

Kyle Larson looks to become first driver to win All-Star and Coke 600 in same season multiple times — Hendrick Motorsport’s Kyle Larson dominated the 2023 NASCAR All-Star Race last weekend at the revitalized North Wilkesboro Speedway and this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway he will attempt to become the first driver to win the NASCAR All-Star Race and the Coc-Cola 600 in the same season multiple times. Nine drivers total have won the All-Star Race and Coke 600 in the same season — Kyle Larson (2021), Kurt Busch (2010), Kasey Kahne (2008), Jimmie Johnson (2003), Jeff Gordon (1997), Dale Earnhardt (1993), Davey Allison (1991) and Darrell Waltrip (1985).

Hendrick Motorsports announces Alex Bowman’s return to racing —

NASCAR officials confirmed Wednesday that Alex Bowman has been given medical clearance to return to competition, and his Hendrick Motorsports team indicated he will make his Cup Series comeback this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway. (Image Credit: nascar.com)

Alex Bowman, driver of the №48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, will return to NASCAR Cup Series competition this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway after recovering from a fractured vertebra.

Bowman, 30, suffered the compression fracture April 25 while competing in a sprint car at 34 Raceway in West Burlington, Iowa. On Tuesday, he drove a Cup Series car 170 laps during a NASCAR-approved medical evaluation test at North Wilkesboro Speedway.

“It’s a boost for all of us to have Alex return to the №48 car this weekend at our home track,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “He’s still 17th in points, which says a lot about how well the team performed at the start of the year. Alex has worked hard to rehab the injury and come back strong, and I look for him to continue having a championship-caliber season.”

Alex Bowman cleared to return to competition in Coca-Cola 600 (Image Credit: nascar.com)

Bowman remains eligible for the 2023 Playoffs after NASCAR granted a medical waiver.

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Bob Francis - Go Full Throttle

Go Full Throttle editors and reporters bring you news & commentary on NASCAR, F1, IndyCar, and World of Outlaws. Member: National Motorsports Press Association