Matt Kenseth stands alone on one very short list in Coca-Cola 600 lore. It’s the one titled “Rookie Winners In The Coca-Cola 600.”
Only Kenseth’s name exists on that list, after his surprise first win in 2000. Many rookies have tried to conquer NASCAR’s longest race before and since, and all have come up short.
Could this be the year that changes? Though unlikely, there’s a chance.
Austin Dillon, who returns the No. 3 to the Coca-Cola 600 this weekend, could do it. This’ll be his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start at Charlotte, but he has enjoyed some success in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series there. Last October, he scored a runner-up finish in the Nationwide Series race.
The No. 3, by the way, has won five times in the 600-mile race at Charlotte – three times with Dale Earnhardt driving, and one each with David Pearson and Buddy Baker.
Kyle Larson has the credentials for a headline-making win. The NASCAR Drive for Diversity product has one start, and it wasn’t good – he finished 37th in last year’s Charlotte fall race. He did, however, score a fourth-place finish in last year’s May NASCAR Nationwide Series race. And he holds a hefty 19-points lead in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings, thanks in large part to top-10 finishes in three of the last five races – including a fifth at Texas, like Charlotte a 1.5-mile track.