Patience and hydration: Veteran advice for Coca-Cola 600 rookies

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CONCORD, N.C. — There is one indisputable fact about the Coca-Cola 600.

As Kyle Busch put it on Thursday, “It’s a long-ass race.”

At 400 laps around Charlotte Motor Speedway, today’s 600-mile race is the longest event on the NASCAR schedule.

Cup drivers will attempt to survive its marathon length starting just after 6 p.m. ET, with the sun still up and temperatures hovering in the mid-90s. Unlike other races, there are three guaranteed cautions for stage breaks instead of two.

There are a handful of drivers in the field – including rookies Ryan Preece, Daniel Hemric and Matt Tifft – who will be navigating the 600 for the first time.

MORE: Friday 5: Daniel Hemric gets help from Olympic athlete to sharpen mental edge

But the field is also full of veterans who have endured and conquered the 600. What advice would they give the newcomers to the 600?

“This race, for whatever reason, you just feel like you lose the most amount of weight and you get the most dehydrated from of any race during the year,” said Brad Keselowski, who will make his 10th start in the Coca-Cola 600. “It’s a very grueling challenge. It’s real easy to lose sight of the fact that there are so many laps to go. Don’t look at the scoreboard. … Because when you look up at the scoreboard and it’s Lap 100 and you see there are still 300 to go that can drag you down a little bit. So don’t look at that and stay hydrated and do the best you can.”

Kyle Larson put it in TL;DR terms: “Hydrate and don’t ask what lap you’re on.”

Busch, the defending 600 winner, focused more on strategy and when to drop the hammer for the final run to the finish.

“You can’t necessarily focus on your car handling for the first 300 miles and then you can kind of start to pay attention to it at mile marker 400 to 500 and then 500 on is where it all comes to play,” said Busch, who will make his 16th start in the 600. “That’s when business picks up. That’s when you need to be in position in order to put yourself in position for a final pit stop or the final couple of pit stops that’ll gain you track position and get you up in the position that you need to be in.”

Busch also had advice for a driver who finds himself mired in the middle of the pack early on.

“There’s really nothing to worry about,” Busch said. “You just try to stay on the lead lap. If you do go a lap down, you just try to stay one lap down because there may be an opportunity for you to get a wave-around or something with the stage breaks and stuff like that. You can’t get impatient and try to overdo it.”

When it comes to the early stages of the race, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. reiterated Busch’s advice, saying drivers “got to be patient” as the lap numbers rise and the sun sets.

“I think this race I’ve been good during the day and struggled at night, and then I’ve had cars where you kind of stayed the same throughout the whole night,” said Stenhouse, who made his Cup debut in the 600 in 2011. “I do think that with this package you’re gonna have a lot of comers and goers when the temperature changes, the sun goes down. … Don’t flip out too early.”

Tifft, who drives Front Row Motorsports’ No. 36 Ford, is going to take his first Coca-Cola 600 “one stage at a time.”

He’ll also be playing the “lap game” when it comes to keeping pace with the field, echoing Busch’s advise.

“You’ve got to make sure you’re on the lead lap or just one lap down at the end of that second stage (Lap 200),” Tifft said. “If you’re one lap down at the end of Stage 2, more than likely you’re gonna get a top-25 finish, so you just kind of play that game. … You just have to be able to go as hard as you can at the beginning of those stages and those restarts are so important that you focus on that and the good thing is once you’re kind of done with the job you have to do there, then you’re on the next segment of the race and you do it again. So that’s the easiest thing is just trying to focus on the short-term of where you’re at.”

Tifft admits the prospect of a 600-mile race is “daunting” but he’s been preparing with driver coach Blake Koch while also consulting active drivers about their preparation, including “hydration schedules.”

“They say to start hydrating a day earlier than what you normally would, especially with how hot it is, but the thing I keep hearing is people are wanting a snack during the middle of this race,” Tifft said. “So I’ll try to figure out a protein bar or something like that in the middle of the race to keep you going because it is so long.”

The 22-year-old driver said he’ll try not to get “wrapped up too much” in the length of the race.

“It’s just like the first 500-miler for the Daytona 500 that I did,” Tifft said. “You go and you go and you don’t stop until they tell you to.”

Bristol Truck race results, driver points

Bristol Truck race results
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Sam Mayer scored his first career NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series win Thursday night. The 17-year-old finished ahead of GMS Racing teammate Brett Moffitt.

Mayer is the youngest driver to win a Truck race at Bristol.

Tanner Gray placed third and was followed by Parker Kligerman and Chandler Smith.

Gray’s finished tied a career high. Kligerman’s finish was his best this season.

Trevor Bayne crossed the finish line fifth but his truck was disqualified for failing post-race heights in inspection.

The next race in the playoffs is Sept. 25 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Click here for race results

POINTS

Brett Moffitt leads the points after the opening race in the first round of the playoffs. He leads Sheldon Creed by nine points. Zane Smith trails Moffitt by 12 points.

Click here for points report

17-year-old Sam Mayer wins first NASCAR Truck race

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Sam Mayer passed GMS Racing teammate Brett Moffitt with 30 laps to go and went on to score his first career NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series win Thursday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The victory came in the seventh career Truck start for the 17-year-old Mayer. The win also came a few days after JR Motorsports announced that Mayer would drive for the team in the second half of the 2021 Xfinity Series, once he turns 18.

“I love this place,” Mayer told FS1 after the 200-lap race. “I don’t know what to say.”

Mayer was helped by having tires that were 52 laps fresher than Moffitt’s tires.

MORE: Race results 

Mayer is not competing in the playoffs and does not advance to the second round. He said he has two more Truck races left to run this season.

Mayer followed his Truck win by taking the checkered flag in the ARCA Menards Series race that followed Thursday night.

Moffitt, who is competing in the playoffs, finished second. He was followed by Tanner Gray and Parker Kligerman.

Trevor Bayne finished fifth but his Truck was disqualified after the race for failing inspection. His truck failed post-race heights. Chandler Smith finished fifth after Bayne’s disqualification.

Moffitt was one of only four playoff drivers to finish in the top 10. Grant Enfinger was sixth. Tyler Ankrum placed seventh. Matt Crafton was 10th.

Mayer is the second youngest winner in series history. Cole Custer is the youngest winner in series history. Custer was 16 years, 7 months, 28 days when he won in Sept. 2014 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Mayer becomes the youngest Truck winner at Bristol at 17 years, 2 months, 22 days. Ryan Blaney had held that record, winning a 2015 race there at age 21 years, 4 months, 19 days.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Brett Moffitt

STAGE 2 WINNER: Tyler Ankrum

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Tanner Gray’s third-place finish tied his career best. He finished third at Michigan earlier this season. … Parker Kligerman’s fourth-place finish is his best of the season while running a limited schedule.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Austin Hill finished 26th, worst among the playoff drivers. He had contact on Lap 2 with Stewart Friesen.

NOTABLE: Trevor Bayne said that four weeks ago he didn’t know if he would be racing again at Bristol. He crossed the finish line fifth but his truck failed inspection after the race and was disqualified.

NEXT: The second race of the opening round of the playoffs is at 9 p.m. ET Sept. 25 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Texas Motor Speedway to host polling site for election

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Residents and race fans in parts of North Texas will be able to cast their vote in the upcoming election at their local NASCAR track.

Texas Motor Speedway will be a polling site for the Nov. 3 election.

The track, owned by Speedway Motorsports, will serve as a polling site for the residents of Precinct 4048. That precinct includes a large portion of Denton County and Forth Worth, Texas.

The polling site will be in the Lone Star Tower Condominium Clubhouse just outside Turn 2. It will be open from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. ET on election day.

More: Upcoming Cup playoffs races can fans attend

“In anticipation of a very high voter turnout for the presidential election, we have been working for months to acquire polling sites throughout the county,” Frank Phillips, Denton County Elections Administrator, said in a press release. “We are excited that Texas Motor Speedway has offered the use of the Lone Star Tower Clubhouse as a polling site.”

Local, state and CDC guidelines will be followed to ensure a sanitized, safe and socially distanced voter experience.

TMS is the first track that hosts NASCAR Cup races to announce its plans for use as a polling site. It joins sporting venues for other major sports in doing so.

A number of NBA arenas and practice facilities will be voting locations, as well as select NFL stadiums and NHL arenas.

Travis Pastrana, Conor Daly set for Las Vegas Truck Series race

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Action sports star Travis Pastrana and IndyCar driver Conor Daly are teaming up with Niece Motorsports to compete in the upcoming Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

With the backing of iRacing, who made the announcement Thursday, the duo will drive the No. 42 and No. 45 Chevrolets in the Sept. 25 race.

Pastrana and Daly’s involvement is a continuation of their rivalry in the LCQ League, a private iRacing league featuring motorsports and action sports legends having fun in cars from all disciplines.

For Pastrana, a former Roush Fenway Racing driver, it will be his fifth career Truck start and his second of the year after he competed in the July 25 race at Kansas Speedway. He finished 22nd.

“I’m really looking forward to bringing our rivalry from the LCQ League to the real world,” Pastrana said in a press release. “We’ve been getting lots of advice and iRacing on-track coaching from fellow LCQ member Parker Kligerman. I’m looking forward to seeing how the hours in iRacing pay off on the track, especially for Conor who has never driven a NASCAR truck in real life. He might be the first person in history to jump into a professional racing series and take the green flag without so much as a single practice lap in real life! Conor is a phenomenal IndyCar driver and a quick learner so I think he will surprise a lot of people.”

It will be the first Truck Series start for Daly, who has 61 IndyCar starts since 2013. Daly made his NASCAR debut in 2018 at Road America driving for Roush in the Xfinity Series.

“I could not be more excited to jump in a Gander Outdoor Series truck for the first time ever in Las Vegas!” Daly said in a press release “This will be one of the greatest challenges I’ve ever faced in my career as it will be the first event I’ve ever done where I’ve never driven a single lap in the Chevy Silverado before taking the green flag for the race. Travis and I have been going head to head on iRacing getting as much practice as possible since that’s the best possible form of preparation we have!