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Coca-Cola 600 preview

5/20/2008

Background

• This is the 12th race of 36 for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2008.

• It is the fifth of 17 intermediate track races.

• This is the 99th time the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has competed at Lowe's Motor Speedway since 1960.

• Lowe's is a 1.5-mile oval with 24-degree banking in the turns and 5-degree banking on the straightaways.

• 48 drivers are on the pre-entry list to compete for one of the 43 starting slots in Sunday's 400-lap, 600-mile race. Of those 48 entrants, 13 must get into Sunday's field based on qualifying times. They are: J.J. Yeley, Patrick Carpentier, Dave Blaney, Kyle Petty, Jon Wood, Tony Raines, Sterling Marlin, A.J. Allmendinger, Stanton Barrett, Jeff Green, Ken Schrader and Joe Nemechek.

• Of the go-or-go-home drivers, no drivers are eligible for a champions' provisional.

• The drivers who are on the bubble for the top 35 in owners' points are:

30. Michael McDowell/Waltrip Racing 878 +72
31. David Reutimann/Waltrip Racing 873 +67
32. Reed Sorenson/Ganassi Racing 872 +66
33. Michael Waltrip/Waltrip Racing 851 +45
34. Regan Smith/Dale Earnhardt Inc. 835 +29
35. Dave Blaney/Bill Davis 824, 18 points ahead of 36th

These teams/drivers must qualify by speed:

36. Sam Hornish/Penske Racing 806, 18 points out of 35th
37. J.J. Yeley/Hall of Fame Racing 730 -94
38. Dario Franchitti/Ganassi Racing 690 -134
39. Johnny Sauter/Haas CNC Racing 679 -145
40. A.J. Allmendinger/Red Bull Racing 654 -170

• Johnny Sauter is driving the No. 70 car again this weekend. No full-time driver has been named for this car since Jeremy Mayfield was released.

• Sterling Marlin is substituting for the injured Dario Franchitti in the No. 40 Dodge this weekend at Charlotte.

• Ken Schrader is driving the No. 33, a fourth car for Richard Childress Racing.

Jimmie Johnson owns Lowe's Motor Speedway. From 2003 to 2005, Jimmie won five of six races including four straight, three of which were Coke 600s. In 13 starts, his average finish here is 6.8 and he has finished outside the top 10 only twice, and all but once has finished on the lead lap. He is tied with teammate Jeff Gordon for most wins by an active driver (five). Finally, his average finish is 10 places higher than the next closest driver (Gordon, average finish: 16.8).

• Speaking of Hendrick Motorsports, the team swept both races here last year with Jeff Gordon winning the fall race and Casey Mears winning this event.

Kasey Kahne, Saturday's All-Star race winner, swept the events at Lowe's in 2006, leading 158 laps en route to the win in the 600.

Mark Martin has led more laps here than any active driver (1,168), as well more top-10s (21) and top-5s (17).

Ryan Newman has 14 starts here, starting on the pole for seven of them. He has the best average start of all active drivers with 10 or more starts (4.0). However, his average finish is only 22.0 and he has only six lead-lap finishes.

• Of the go-or-go-home drivers with 10 or more starts, Kyle Petty has the best average finish (18.6). Jeff Green has the worst (24.4). Of the drivers guaranteed entry into Sunday's race, Robby Gordon has the worst average finish (28.3). Gordon also has the worst average finish of any active driver with 10 or more starts.

• Joe Gibbs Racing has tested its own engines at Lowe's and intends to use them during the 600 rather than the motors that have been supplied to date by Toyota. It should be noted with some concern, the All-Star race was the first time the Gibbs gang used its own engines in competition and all three drivers, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart had engine trouble that took them out of contention.

Lowe's previous winners

• There are 13 previous Lowe's winners entered this weekend with 27 victories among them.

Last four races at Lowe's

2008 Sprint Cup Series top-10 recap

  1. Kyle Busch (1690) was the winner in Darlington and remains first in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points standings. Busch has eight starts at Lowe's with two top-10s, a top-5 and an average finish of 25.9.

  2. Jeff Burton (-79) was the 10th-place finisher at Darlington and remains second in the Cup Series points. In 28 starts here, Burton has 13 top-10s, seven top-5s, two wins and an average finish of 15.2.

  3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-134) finished fourth at Darlington and maintains his Cup Series points position of third. Earnhardt has 17 starts here with eight top-10s, four top-5s and an average finish of 16.9.

  4. Denny Hamlin (-190) was the seventh-place finisher at Darlington and moves up two spots in the Cup Series standings to fourth. Hamlin has five starts with three top-10s and an average finish of 14.8.

  5. Clint Bowyer (-200) was the 15th-place finisher at Darlington and falls one spot to fifth in the Cup Series standings. In four starts here, Bowyer has one top-5 and an average finish of 18.2.

  6. Jimmie Johnson (-248) finished 13th two weeks ago, moving up one spot in the Cup Series standings to sixth. Johnson has 13 starts here with 11 top-10s, eight top-5s, five wins and an average finish of 6.8.

  7. Carl Edwards (-290) was the runner-up at Darlington and moves up three spots to seventh in the Cup Series standings. Edwards has six starts here with five top-10s, three top-5s and an average finish of 7.3.

  8. Tony Stewart (-293) finished 21st at Darlington and remains eighth in the Cup Series standings. In 18 starts here, Stewart has 11 top-10s, six top-5s, a win and an average finish of 12.9.

  9. Kevin Harvick (-294) was the 39th-place finisher at Darlington and falls four spots in the Cup Series standings to ninth. Harvick has 14 starts here with three top-10s, a top-5 and an average finish of 21.1.

  10. Jeff Gordon (-364) finished third at Darlington and moves three spots to 10th in the Cup Series standings. Gordon has 30 starts here with 16 top-10s, 14 top-5s, five wins and an average finish of 16.8.

Mark Garrow covers fantasy racing for ESPN.com.