With NASCAR switching from the fabled 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval to the far less legendary IMS road course for the sport’s annual visit to the Hoosier State, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway is now once again the clear-cut No. 2 race on the NASCAR Cup Series calendar — coming in a distant second to the Daytona 500 and just ahead of the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway in terms of notoriety and prestige.
But even if this wasn’t the case and Charlotte was behind the Brickyard in race pecking order, winning the 600 would still be a bucket-list item for almost every driver. Among the most prominent drivers still in search of their first triumph in the 600 are reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliott, 2018 champ Joey Logano and three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin. The fact that none of these three drivers have gone to Victory Lane in the sport’s longest race might not be shocking, but it is surprising in light of their overall success in the sport and the fact that they’ve all prevailed at Charlotte in a Cup race that wasn’t the 600.
Look for Elliott, Logano and especially Hamlin — who is still searching for his first victory of 2021 — to go for broke this weekend in their efforts to join an elite club of 600 winners. Of the three, Elliott probably has the best shot based on the fact that he’s fresh off a win last weekend in Austin and came home second to Brad Keselowski in last year’s running of the 600.