Coca-Cola 600: Denny Hamlin Ready To Lead The Field In NASCAR’s Longest Race

The Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, one of the signature races on the NASCAR Cup Series Calendar, is set for a green flag start time of 6:18 p.m. ET Sunday on Fox.

The longest race on the schedule at 600 miles will take place the day before Memorial Day and promises to feature tributes during the pre-race festivities. On the track, however, it’s a points race with massive implications.

Kurt Busch, who won the last points race in the AdventHealth 400 at Kansas Speedway two weeks ago, will start alongside pole-sitter Denny Hamlin on the front row. Hamlin has yet to win the Coca-Cola 600, but has been close on many occasions.

Hamlin finished second in 2012, third in 2018 and fourth in 2013 and 2016. It’s the biggest race Hamlin has yet to win in his career, which he said this week has been frustrating. Perhaps this is the year for Hamlin, who is looking to get his 48th Cup Series win, which would move him into a tie with Herb Thomas for 16th most all-time.

“You talk about the long relationship I’ve had with Coca-Cola that I’ve had for 17 or 18 years now, being part of the Coke family and not winning this race has been pretty frustrating,” Hamlin said. “Certainly, in the resume column, this is at the top of the list by far and the team knows how badly I want it. Anytime we can start with a head start on the field like we will on Sunday, that’s a good thing.”

NASCAR’s Next Gen car promised parity and thus far has delivered, as the sport has seen 11 different winners in 13 races. Eight drivers who won last year remain winless heading into Sunday, including former champions Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr., as well as Ryan Blaney, who won last weekend’s non-points All-Star Race.

It’s a good track historically for the two aforementioned champions, as they each have two Coca-Cola 600 wins in their career, most among active drivers.

Last season’s race saw Kyle Larson, the eventual series champion, outclass the field, leading 327 of 400 laps to take the checkered flag. Larson hopes to join teammate William Byron and Ross Chastain as drivers to win multiple races this season. Larson will have to do so from the rear of the field after being penalized for unapproved adjustments.

Follow Nick Geddes on Twitter @NickGeddesNews and on Instagram @nick.geddes.  

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Written by Nick Geddes

Nick is a 2021 graduate of the University of Central Florida with a bachelor's degree in journalism and a minor in political science. Nick is a life-long sports fan who is proud to say he suffered through 15 years of Bucs futility to witness a Super Bowl victory in 2020. Nick has a passion for writing and is proud to represent OutKick. Follow me on Twitter @NickGeddesNews and on Instagram @nick.geddes.

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