Saturday, May 25, 2013

2013 Coca-Cola 600 Practice Notes: Kahne Looks Like the Driver to Beat

Won won Coca-Cola 600 last year
There are several angles to approach when searching for who the winning driver will before the green flag drops for Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. You can look at Saturday’s practice times -- where Kasey Kahne was fastest in both sessions, or stay with what has been the winning formula on the previous three 1.5-mile tracks, and simply ride with a Joe Gibbs driver.

You can also look at some past history in the longest race of the year, because it appears that some drivers and crews seem to have an edge at not only the distance, but also the rapidly changing conditions. This race will start with the sun shining, go to dusk, and then finish up at night. In each of those changes, the temperature will drop, which will drastically change the set-up requirements of the car. Those who make the best and quickest changes on the fly, usually win.

Based on what happened during Saturday’s final two practice sessions, it looks as though Kasey Kahne is the driver to beat. Along with being fastest in both sessions, Kahne also had the best 10-consecutive laps average during happy hour. Although the practices were run in morning, and won’t resemble any condition they’ll see during the race, Kahne’s got a lot of success going for him -- both historical and on similar tracks.

Kahne can’t match the three wins Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch have combined for on 1.5-mile tracks, but he’s close. He finished runner-up to Kenseth at Las Vegas and Kansas. And not so coincidentally, he’s using that same chassis from Kansas this week.

All season long on the horsepower tracks, Gibbs Toyota's have dominated with the Gen-6 car, with everyone else trying to play catch-up. But the Hendrick Motorsports duo of Kahne and Jimmie Johnson seem to be bridging the gap between two of the elite teams in NASCAR. Johnson won the All-Star race at Charlotte last week, and Kahne led once for 11 laps in the non-points race. Although the format of the All-Star race is completely different from what we'll see Sunday, it's still a sign that we could see another manufacturer besides a Toyota winning a 1.5-mile points race soon. Another common ground with the All-Star race is that the conditions for the final 100 laps will be similar.

Kahne’s edge over the Gibbs cars this week is also boosted by history where his is great and the Gibbs organization has traditionally been a little behind. Bobby Labonte’s Coca-Cola 600 win in 1995 still remains Joe Gibbs only win in the marathon race. Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin -- second last season -- have been close several times, but don’t have wins in any Charlotte race.

As for Kahne, he’s won four times at Charlotte, including the Coca-Cola 600 three times. He won last years race as well. Everything seems to be pointing Kahne's way this week.

READ MORE HERE.......Final Top-10 Rated Drivers List

Practice 3 Speeds - Kahne fastest again, also best 10-consecutive lap average

Practice 2 Speeds - Kahne Fastest

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