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Charlotte race weekend means more for NASCAR Cup teams, drivers

Wins mean everything in NASCAR, yet a win at Charlotte Motor Speedway just means more for many Cup Series drivers and teams.

There are multiple reasons for the added importance. The Coca-Cola 600 is one of NASCAR’s crown jewel races. Winning it enhances a driver’s resume.

Multiple Charlotte winners will pursue another crown jewel for their collections.

The race also is the longest of the season. The race honors military members who gave their lives in service of the country in what is billed as 600 Miles of Remembrance.

Sunday’s race at Charlotte is also a home event for the majority of teams. It’s a rare opportunity to break up the seemingly never-ending time on the road. There are more loved ones in the grandstands and in the garage area than there would be at Las Vegas, Michigan or Indianapolis.

“You get a lot of family members of your crew guys that are gone all year long,” Ricky Stenhouse Jr. said about racing at the Concord, North Carolina, track. “A lot of them come out to the race track. You want to do well for them.”

JTG Daugherty Racing, the team that fields Stenhouse’s No. 47 Chevrolet, has its shop in Harrisburg. The distance from the shop to Charlotte Motor Speedway is a mere 4.1 miles.

The distance is even shorter to Hendrick Motorsports, which has its sprawling campus set up only 1.9 miles from the track. Instead of hopping on a plane to travel to the track, drivers such as Alex Bowman say that they can just “go across the street.”

It can be easy for those outside of the teams to overlook little things like sleeping in your own bed or driving to the track in your own car. There is no reason to get Hertz or Enterprise involved.

Those things can be important to team members considering that the NASCAR schedule can be grueling once it begins in earnest.

Cup teams, for example, made an early-February trip to Los Angeles for the Busch Light Clash, but this season officially began less than two weeks later with multiple days of on-track action at Daytona.

The schedule continued with trips to Atlanta, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Bristol, Circuit of the Americas and Richmond. The first race where teams could drive back and forth in one day was Martinsville on April 7.

After that, it was back on the road with trips to Texas, Talladega, Dover and Kansas.

Ryan Blaney seeks his second consecutive Coca-Cola 600 win, while teammate Joey Logano is coming off his victory at the All-Star Race.

The month of May provided a break in the action. There was a race weekend at Darlington and then the All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro. The home race at Charlotte closes out the month and sets up the teams for another summer stretch in which they will travel eight consecutive weeks before the two-week Olympic break.

“For the people on our team that have kids and they’re trying to be involved, these weekends close to home allow them to get to the Saturday morning baseball game before practice or maybe church Sunday morning,” Ross Chastain said.

“So that’s different and that’s awesome. And I love that for them because you see them have a little different smile when they do get to the track because they had a morning that really filled their cup up.”

Chastain is someone who has delivered a home win in his career. He won the 2022 Truck race at Charlotte while driving for Niece Motorsports. Joey Logano also saw last weekend how having loved ones in attendance enhanced the celebration, albeit at a track an hour north of Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Logano won the All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway after leading 199 of 200 laps. The race wasn’t in NASCAR’s backyard like the Coca-Cola 600 is, but it was near enough for Logano’s son Hudson and his father to attend.

“It’s just the coolest moment to see them running at you, sitting there after we won,” Logano said Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Behind the Wheel.” "... To see (Hudson) come running at you, it was a tearjerker moment for me.”

There isn’t much downtime in the sport with the longest schedule, so teams embrace the opportunities to be at home when possible.

They fit in a lunch with friends that wouldn’t necessarily be possible every other week of the season. They welcome visitors to their homes.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is fined $75,000 and his father is indefinitely suspended. Kyle Busch is not penalized.

“It’s pretty nice to not be in a plane on a weekly basis,” Daniel Suarez said at Darlington. "... It’s also super fun for me because I get to have my family in my house. I don’t get to see my family very often.”

This time at home and with family is essential and it helps provide a little refresh before the real push toward the playoffs begin.

This opportunity to be at home could be doubly important in 2025.

While there are two weeks off this season for the Olympics, it is possible that the 2025 season will only have one off-week. NASCAR has not revealed the full schedule yet but has made multiple race announcements. The Daytona 500 will be Feb. 16, the All-Star Race will be May 18, the Coca-Cola 600 will be May 25, Atlanta’s second race will be June 28, the Chicago Street Race will be July 6 and the championship race at Phoenix will be Nov. 2.

As Dustin Long noted in his Friday 5, reports indicate the off-week will be Easter Sunday (April 20). This means that there could potentially be 28 consecutive weeks of racing to close out the season, provided there isn’t a midweek race.