CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Monaco Grand Prix has been canceled.
The Indianapolis 500 is being postponed to August.
Only the Coca-Cola 600 is planned as planned.
The most celebrated day in motorsport has been reduced to the third race, 600 miles around Charlotte Motor Speedway in NASCAR’s longest race of the year. What started as the World 600 in 1959 became the nightcap of a spectacular day of car racing cherished annually by fans.
The Sunday before Memorial Day kicks off in the French Riviera as Formula 1 races through the streets of Monaco. The race started in 1929 and has been held every year since 1959 until the coronavirus pandemic wiped out part of the F1 season.
It then continues to Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the corner of Georgetown Road and 16th Street for the Indy 500. It started as the International 500-Mile Sweepstakes Race in 1911, grew into “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” and ran on Memorial Day weekend every year since 1946. Roger Penske delayed the race for two months in his first year as owner due to the pandemic.
It means that NASCAR will be in the spotlight only on Sunday night, much like NASCAR last week. The stock car series, using a tight health plan and aided by its proximity to states with relaxed disabilities. has already driven three races in the past week.
The following is a crown jewel event that doubles as an extended salute to the U.S. military. The dusk-to-dark race is a true Memorial Day celebration, as fallen heroes are honored on every car and Speedway Motorsports prides itself on productions ending with spectacular post-race fireworks.
The race itself is one of the toughest of the season. It is almost always warm, the race is 160 kilometers longer than any other and it is a real battle of attrition. It’s not always the most exciting event, and NASCAR has struggled over the years to find an aerodynamic package that can compete.
Still, drivers love this event, and many teams thrive in the challenge of tackling a 600-miler. They also respect what the Coca-Cola 600 has become over the past 61 years.
“I think for our hardcore fans and those who appreciate NASCAR’s history, the 600 is its own kind of animal and its own show,” said Martin Truex Jr. “It is a big one especially for us in sports and drivers and we all want to win it.”
Here is an overview of the main topics about Charlotte:
KEEP THE MOMENTUM
Even with rain disturbances, NASCAR had a good first week back at Darlington Raceway. Kevin Harvick achieved his first win of the season and 50th of his career in the first race, and Denny Hamlin won for the third time in Darlington in the first Wednesday race in 34 years.
Both races at Darlington were thrilling and the Xfinity Series finish on Thursday amounted to a final lap fight that Chase Briscoe beat Kyle Busch.
Now comes the 600, which often turns into green flag runs where cars are stretched to a long parade lap. Strategy, tire retention and happiness can play a role in a combination that often does not ensure good television. However, that’s the only viewing option because spectators are not allowed, so NASCAR has to hope the casual sports fan stays with the race.
A race snoozer can ruin NASCAR’s current high.
“It’s the Coca-Cola 600 and you can’t change that,” said Joey Logano. “It’s a good track and it will be intense from the first lap. It’s 100% from the first lap. We hammer every lap.”
No one has excelled at Charlotte like Truex, who has two wins, a second place and a third in his last four 600s. Truex completed 625 of the 1,200 laps during that period.
He’s been winless so far this season, his second with Joe Gibbs Racing and the first since crew chef Cole Pearn’s amazing retirement. But Truex heats up and picked up a few top 10 finishes in Darlington.
He is convinced that there is no mistake under the new crew chief James Small.
“I feel like we really picked up where we left off last year,” said Truex about the season with seven wins from last year. “We’re there and James is doing a great job.”
BUSCH VS. ELLIOTT
Chase Elliott knocked over the bird after Busch Elliott raced for Wednesday night’s win.
Elliott has been voted NASCAR’s most popular driver by fans twice, and Busch is notorious for his disgust, so the on-track incident is all about a good old-fashioned feud. Instead, Busch has publicly accepted the blame and called Elliott to apologize.
Elliott accepted that Busch made a mistake, but can’t help but be bitter. Busch finished second in a 1-2 with Hamlin for Joe Gibbs Racing; Elliott finished 38th.
“I get mistakes to happen, it’s part of life and I get it,” said Elliott. “He’s just not a man who makes a lot of mistakes, so for me to be on the bad side of a rare mistake on his side is ultimately unfortunate for me and my team.”
The pre-race party isn’t completely ruined, as speedway officials still manage the NASCAR tradition of a post-anthem overpass.
The invocation, anthem and command with the entry will be made virtually, but the Air Force Heritage Flight will still fly-by to generate some electricity at the otherwise empty event.