Drivers to watch in Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte


The NASCAR industry is ready for a race in its backyard at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Hendrick Motorsports reigned supreme in the 2021 running of the sport’s longest race. Will that translate to more success with the Next Gen car?


Kyle Larson

  • Points position: 9th
  • Last three races: 6th  Dover; 36th — Darlington; 2nd — Kansas
  • Recent at Charlotte: Won this race last year

As part of his electric 2021, Larson dominated last year’s Coca-Cola 600. The eventual Cup champion led 327 of 400 laps en route to his first Charlotte victory, leading Hendrick Motorsports’ incredible night running 1-2 for 356 laps.

Larson’s only win this season came at the abrasive 2-mile oval at Auto Club Speedway back in February, but he was runner-up two weeks ago at Kansas, a 1.5-mile oval similar to Charlotte. The No. 5 Chevrolet might be in position to score win No. 2 of the year Sunday night.

Chase Elliott

  • Points position: 1st
  • Last three races: WIN Dover; 5th — Darlington; 29th — Kansas
  • Recent at Charlotte: Three straight top-two finishes

Elliott is still looking for his first Coca-Cola 600 victory, but his recent results at Charlotte make the 2020 champion a favorite this weekend. Elliott has finished second in each of the past two 600-milers and won on the Charlotte oval in 2020 when NASCAR held a second event there returning from the COVID pandemic.

The series points leader had a six-race top-10 streak come to an end at Kansas after a flat tire derailed a solid day for the No. 9 team. Without issues this weekend, Elliott should be in the mix Sunday.

Kyle Busch

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Last three races: 7th  Dover; 33rd — Darlington; 3rd — Kansas
  • Recent at Charlotte: Five straight top-four finishes

Few, if any, are better than Busch at Charlotte right now. The 2018 Coca-Cola 600 winner has finished inside the top-four in each of the past five races, including a third-place finish a season ago, coupled with seven top 10s in his last 10 600-mile starts.

His recent stats have been encouraging, scoring six top 10s in his last seven starts, a stretch that includes his Bristol dirt win and two other third-place finishes. As the rest of his Toyota companions find their rhythm — all six Toyotas finished inside the top 10 at Kansas — Busch looks to remain the manufacturer’s top dog.


Ryan Blaney

  • Points position: 2nd
  • Last three races: 26th  Dover; 17th — Darlington; 12th — Kansas
  • Recent at Charlotte: Finished 13th last year

The No. 12 Ford leads the field in average running position this season, but its results have been less than encouraging. Blaney has yet to score a top-10 finish in each of the past four races, his best result in that span an 11th-place effort at Talladega.

His numbers at Charlotte aren’t the best either. In seven starts in the Coca-Cola 600, Blaney has finished 13th or worse six times. The exception was a third-place finish in 2020. But the team gained some — if slight — momentum in last weekend’s All-Star Race at Texas, where he led 84 of 140 laps on his way to winning $1 million. The team could use those good vibes heading into Charlotte.

Tyler Reddick

  • Points position: 15th
  • Last three races: 30th Dover; 2nd — Darlington; 30th — Kansas
  • Recent at Charlotte: Two top-10 finishes in three starts

The sample size is small, but the results are strong for Tyler Reddick around the 1.5-mile oval in Charlotte. The two-time Xfinity Series champion has finished eighth (2020) and ninth (2021) in his two starts in the Coca-Cola 600. Sandwiched between those is a 14th-place finish in the second Charlotte race of 2020.

Reddick is in need of consistent, good finishes. He had two runner-up finishes in the past five races, but the other three results are 30th or worse. The speed is there. Perhaps he gets back on track Sunday night.

Chris Buescher

  • Points position: 21st
  • Last three races: 8th Dover; 16th — Darlington; 27th — Kansas
  • Recent at Charlotte: Three straight top 10s in Coke 600

Buescher often flies under the radar, but the 2015 Xfinity Series champion has done particularly well in the sport’s longest event of the season. Buescher has three straight top-10 results in the 600, including a sixth-place finish in 2019 and eighth last season.

His 2022 season is a little more difficult to decipher. He has six top-15 finishes in the year’s first 13 races, including an eighth-place finish at Dover where he won his first career NASCAR pole. The No. 17 Ford didn’t show much speed at Kansas, placing 26th. But his recent success on the Charlotte oval makes him an interesting watch this weekend.

COTA Xfinity starting lineup: AJ Allmendinger takes pole


AJ Allmendinger, who won this race a year ago, will start on the pole for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Circuit of the Americas.

Allmendinger earned the pole with a lap of 92.173 mph Friday on the 20-turn, 3.41-mile road course.

MORE: COTA Xfinity starting lineup

He will be joined on the front row Sammy Smith (91.827 mph).
Ty Gibbs (91.665) will start third. Sheldon Creed (91.652) qualified fourth. Parker Kligerman (91.195) will start fifth.

Cup driver William Byron will start ninth. Byron’s time was disallowed for cutting the esses. Cole Custer, who will start 10th, didn’t make a lap in the final round of qualifying.

Cup driver Aric Almirola (91.269) qualified 13th. Truck Series racer Carson Hocevar (90.669) will start 17th. Alex Labbe (90.476) will start 23rd. He’s filling in for Josh Williams, who is serving a one-race suspension for parking his car at the start/finish line of last weekend’s race at Atlanta.

COTA Truck starting lineup: Ross Chastain wins pole


Ross Chastain will start on the pole for Saturday’s Craftsman Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas.

Chastain earned the top starting spot in Friday’s qualifying with a lap of 91.877 mph. He’ll be joined on the front row by Kyle Busch (91.490 mph).

More: COTA Truck starting lineup

Ty Majeski qualified third with a lap of 91.225 mph. Rookie Nick Sanchez (90.993) will start fourth, and Christian Eckes (90.937) will complete the top five.

Alex Bowman failed to make the race. Bowman had a flat right front on his qualifying lap.

Tyler Reddick leads Cup practice at COTA


Tyler Reddick posted the fastest lap in Friday’s Cup practice at Circuit of the Americas.

Reddick, who won two road course races last season, topped the field in his 23XI Racing Toyota with a lap of 92.989 mph. Kyle Larson was next, posting a lap of 92.618 mph around the 3.41-mile road course.

MORE: COTA Cup practice results

Ross Chastain, who won this race a year ago, was third on the speed chart in practice with a lap of 92.520 mph. He was followed by Kyle Busch (92.498 mph) and Daniel Suarez (92.461 mph).

Jordan Taylor, subbing for the injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports, was 10th on the speed chart in practice after a lap of 92.404 mph.

Former world champion Jenson Button, driving for Rick Ware Racing, was 28th in practice with a lap of 91.759 mph. Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen, driving the Project 91 car for Trackhouse Racing, was 32nd in practice after a lap of 91.413 mph.

Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, driving in his first race for Legacy Motor Club since the Daytona 500, was 36th in practice after a lap of 91.072 mph. IndyCar driver Conor Daly was last among the 39 cars in practice with a lap of 90.095 mph.

Cup qualifying is Saturday. The series races Sunday.


Saturday COTA Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather


Austin Hill, the dominant driver in the NASCAR Xfinity Series through the early weeks of the season, will be looking for his first Xfinity road course win Saturday.

Hill has won three of the season’s first five races, scoring victories at Daytona, Las Vegas and Atlanta.

Hill has been close in previous road course runs. He has a second at COTA, a third at Portland, a fourth at Road America and a ninth at Indianapolis.

MORE: Dr. Diandra takes a look at top Cup road course drivers

Kyle Busch and AJ Allmendinger own wins in the previous Xfinity races at COTA.

Allmendinger and three other Cup Series regulars — Aric Almirola, William Byron and Ty Gibbs — are scheduled to race in the Xfinity event.

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Circuit of the Americas

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 5:08 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled at 5:19 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 2 p.m. … The invocation will be given by Jordan Thiessen of Pit Boss Grills at 5 p.m. … The national anthem will be performed by recording artist Payton Keller at 5:01 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 46 laps (156 miles) on the 3.41-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 14. Stage 2 ends at Lap 30.

TV/RADIO: FS1 will broadcast the race at 5 p.m. … NASCAR RaceDay airs at 4 p.m. on FS1. … Performance Racing Network coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. and can be heard at …SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Mainly sunny. Temperature of 82 at race time. No chance of rain.

LAST TIME: AJ Allmendinger won last March’s Xfinity race at COTA. Austin Hill was two seconds behind in second place. Cole Custer finished third.