Charlotte: Kyle Petty preview

Picking winner of Coca-Cola 600 This weekend, Kyle Petty and the ...

Picking winner of Coca-Cola 600

This weekend, Kyle Petty and the #45 Georgia-Pacific/Brawny Dodge team head to the 1.5-mile Lowe's Motor Speedway located in Concord, N.C., for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600. The Memorial Day weekend tradition is the longest race on the NASCAR Nextel Cup schedule. The race begins in the afternoon and ends at night. The speedway has recently undergone a process that has smoothed the pavement and helped eliminate bumps on the track. The process has resulted in faster lap times during test sessions.

Petty, 44, will be making his 725th career start this weekend. He is 10th on the all-time list in NASCAR Cup career starts, and fourth among active drivers. His eight career victories place him 45th on NASCAR's all-time list in Cup wins. One of the most recognizable names in international motorsports, as is his sponsor, Georgia-Pacific, Petty's driving career began with a five-race season in 1979. The native of Level Cross, N.C., has won over $21 million.

The thoughts of Georgia-Pacific/Brawny Dodge driver Kyle Petty heading into Lowe's:

"I don't know if you can ever pick a sure-fire winner for this race. That's tough. You've got to look at Jimmie Johnson. He's been unbelievable there the last two years or so. That team has really taken to the track and found something that works for them. You get a team like that, one that has been on a roll at a certain track, and you've got to keep an eye on them. They might be the early favorites, but hey, this is a long race and anything can happen. That's why this race is special.

"That's also what makes this race so unpredictable. Anything can happen. If anything can happen in 500 miles, you just never know what can happen in 600 miles. That's too unpredictable, and Nextel Cup races are too unpredictable to begin with. The guy who looks to be the favorite early in the race might not be the same guy who's there at the end. There is a lot of change in the Coca-Cola 600.

"And who knows now? The track is different. Lowe's has always been weather sensitive, but now it might be worse or it might be more consistent. We haven't raced on it since they smoothed it out. The track got some 'laser surgery' and everyone is different after that. It's a whole new complexion. We know that it's faster because it's smoother, but how is it during the day compared to the night? We just don't know yet, and it's going to be different every time too. If the Coca-Cola 600 was easy to win shouldn't everyone have a trophy? That's just not the way it is, and it's why only the greats have won this race.

"You survive 600 miles at Charlotte. I don't think you can conquer this race or dominate it -- about all you can do is survive it. You have to be there at the end to win the race. That's the most important thing. You have to have a car that's capable of winning. The guy that's killing the field during the day might not be the guy that's killing them at night. That's the difference. It comes down to who can have the best car when it counts, but you have to be there when it counts too.

"That's why I say the greats have won this race. They knew what they had to do to be there at the end. A few years ago when a guy like Mark Martin, a veteran who knew what he needed from the car at the end of the race, won because of his experience, and that's what tends to count in this race. A good crew chief too, one that really understands the track conditions and how it changes, is vital. I think Paul (Andrew, crew chief) really helps us there. He's a veteran and this sure isn't his first Coca-Cola 600. That's a big advantage for us.

"It's just hard to pick a winner, but you want to win it. It's a tradition in our sport and one that's still around. It has changed throughout the years, but it's still a race you want to win. This Georgia-Pacific/Brawny Dodge team is going to do everything we can this Sunday to do just that."

-cwc-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Kyle Petty , Jimmie Johnson , Mark Martin