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Ford looking for first Coca-Cola 600 win in 14 years

With an average race time of over four hours, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte is one of the most daunting races in NASCAR Sprint Cup. With the race starting during the day and finishing at night, how can drivers prepare?

Greg Biffle is the oldest active driver in the Sprint Cup Series, but he hasn’t been around the longest.

The 46-year-old driver was 32 when he first broke into Sprint Cup racing in 2002 as a part-time driver competing in seven races for Roush Fenway Racing, Petty Enterprises and Andy Petree Racing.

He would start driving full-time for Roush the following season, but in 2002, Jack Roush fielded four full-time drivers in Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth.

That season also marked the end of a four-year streak of Roush and Ford winning NASCAR’s longest race - the Coca-Cola 600.

Martin’s triumph in the 2002 race - his only win in the 600 - stands as the last time a Ford-powered car visited victory lane in the Memorial Day weekend event.

Ford has won three of the last nine Cup races at Charlotte Motor Speedway - one with Roush - but none have come in the May race.

Since Martin’s win, which followed Burton’s victories in 1999 and 2001 and Kenseth’s first-career win in 2000, Ford is 0 - 13.

In those 13 races, the Coke 600 has been won eight times by Chevrolet, three times by Dodge (which left Sprint Cup at the end of 2012) and twice by Toyota.

Toyota claimed win No. 2 last year with Carl Edwards, a former Roush driver. Finishing just behind Edwards was Biffle, who was the runner-up in the 600 for the second time in his career.

Biffle’s result was the best for Ford in the Coke 600 since David Ragan finished second in 2011. Before that, Biffle was runner-up in 2008.

“The Coke 600 is the longest race of the season and gives us an opportunity to work on our car for a long period of time,” Biffle said in a press release. “Charlotte is one of the more temperature sensitive tracks that we race on. Starting in the day and going into evening is a huge factor and why this race is so challenging. Last weekend (in the Sprint Showdown) we had a fast car and were able to race our way into the All-Star race, so I’ve got added confidence going into the Coke 600.”

If Biffle or any Roush driver wins Sunday, it would do a lot for the team.

It would snap a winless streak that stretches back to 2014 at Sonoma Raceway when Edwards won his last race with Roush. A win by Biffle would give him his first win since 2013 at Michigan International Speedway.

And if a Ford not driven by Brad Keselowski or Joey Logano wins, it would be the first by a non-Team Penske Ford since Aric Almirola won the rain-shortened Coke-Zero 400 at Daytona in 2014, a week after Edwards’ Sonoma win.

Follow @DanielMcFadin