CONCORD, N.C. - Several of NASCAR's top Sprint Cup drivers hope to end long winless streaks today in the series' longest race of the season.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and former Cup champions Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth are among those trying to end dry spells - and slow the momentum of Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards - at the grueling Coca-Cola 600.
Busch and Edwards have three wins apiece through the first 11 races of the season, and Busch won the most recent points-paying race at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway two weeks ago.
The 23-year-old Busch hasn't yet won at the 1.5-mile, high-banked Lowe's oval near Charlotte, N.C., the area where his Joe Gibbs Racing and most other Cup teams have their headquarters.
Even so, Busch's breakout year makes him a favorite again in the 400-lap race, along with reigning Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, a five-time winner at Lowe's for Hendrick Motorsports.
And the outlook for driver Kasey Kahne suddenly improved after he won the All-Star race here last Saturday for Gillett Evernham Motorsports.
But Kahne still has gone 52 points races without a victory since his banner season in 2006, when he won six races, including both events at Lowe's that year.
The 600 will be run mostly under the lights after a late-afternoon start. Here's a closer look at several drivers hungry for a win this Memorial Day weekend:
Junior Nation is still waiting for a victory, as Earnhardt's winless streak is now at two years and counting. Earnhardt has never won at Lowe's, but he does have four top-five finishes. Since joining Hendrick this season, Earnhardt's Chevrolet has been competitive in nearly every race.
The last victory for "Smoke" came at Watkins Glen, N.Y., in August, but the Gibbs driver also has kept his Toyota Camry in the hunt much of this season. The two-time Cup champion has four top-five finishes this year. And at Lowe's, he has one victory - in 2003 - and six top-fives overall.
Many are shaking their heads about Kenseth, the 2003 Cup champion who is off to a miserable start this year. The Roush Fenway Racing driver won the season finale in his No. 17 Ford last year at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway and finished fourth in the title chase.
With only one top-five finish this season, he is 20th in points and in serious danger of missing the Chase for the Cup.