So how to explain why a week after the Sprint All-Star Race was praised for its racing could the Coca-Cola 600 not have similar racing at the front?
Kevin Harvick, who finished second to Martin Truex Jr. in Sunday’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, suggests that one shouldn’t be quick to judgement.
“The All‑Star Race is just so much different,’’ Harvick said. “I don’t know if it’s a fair assessment of was it better or was it worse. I think both nights we’ve seen good racing.
“We were able to pass tonight with our car once we got the handling better and make up ground, so I don’t know what the racing was like with the rest of the pack, but I think as you look at what’s coming down the road, I think that the cars were already sliding around a fair amount. They seemed like they slid around more (Sunday) than they did actually at the All‑Star Race. But my car had some different balance characteristics tonight than it had at the All‑Star Race.
“I think compared to last year, we’re light years ahead of where we were, and I think we’re headed in a great direction with the new package.’’
Two of the next five Sprint Cup races — Michigan on June 12 and Kentucky on July 9 — will feature rule changes NASCAR is looking to incorporate next season. The changes are intended to reduce downforce and sideforce, lowering corner speeds and making it easier for drivers to run closer together.
One of those changes is a rear-toe alignment change that reduces the amount of “skew,” or how much the car can be slanted at speed. That change was in place at the All-Star Race but not in the Coke 600, and some drivers said the return of skew seemed to increase their cars’ stability, making it easier to keep competitors at bay and fend off passes.
Sunday, few got close enough to Truex, who led a record 392 of the 400 laps. Truex and Jimmie Johnson briefly dueled for the lead with less than 60 laps to go, but Truex quickly pulled away.
“He wasn’t going to be denied, there was no way around that,’’ Johnson said.
— Each race, NASCAR takes at least two Sprint Cup cars back to its R&D Center for further inspection.
The winner of each races goes except for the Daytona 500 winner (inspection is completed at the track because the winning car remains in Daytona for a year after that race). The runner-up also goes to the R&D Center. At times, NASCAR selects a random car as well.
Here’s how many times each car has gone to the R&D Center.
Kyle Busch — 5 times (Kansas, Talladega, Richmond, Texas, Martinsville)
Kevin Harvick — 5 times (Coke 600, Kansas, Auto Club, Phoenix, Daytona 500
Joey Logano — 3 times (All-Star, Las Vegas, Daytona 500)
Brad Keselowski — 3 times (All-Star, Talladega, Las Vegas)
Carl Edwards — 3 times (Richmond, Bristol, Phoenix)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. — 3 times (Bristol, Texas, Atlanta)
Martin Truex Jr. — 2 times (Coke 600, Daytona 500)
Jimmie Johnson — 2 times (Auto Club, Atlanta)
Kasey Kahne — 2 times (Dover, Las Vegas)
Greg Biffle — 1 time (Coke 600)
A.J. Allmendinger — 1 time (Martinsville)
Matt Kenseth — 1 time (Dover)
Kyle Larson — 1 time (Dover)
So that’s a tally of 14 Chevrolets, 11 Toyotas and 8 Fords since the Daytona 500.
— All five cars in the Joe Gibbs Racing/Furniture Row Racing alliance now have won a race, all but putting each in the Chase.
— The last Sprint Cup victory by a Chevrolet team was by Jimmie Johnson on March 20 at Auto Club Speedway.