The past two winners of the Coca-Cola 600 will have to start the 2022 iteration at a disadvantage. Both Brad Keselowski and Kyle Larson will start from the rear after issues during NASCAR Cup Series practice and qualifying.
Larson, who led 327 of the 400 laps in 2021, dealt with an issue during his practice session. He hit the wall and headed back to pit road so his team could determine the extent of the damage. The No. 5 team did not have to pull the backup car out of the hauler, but they still had to make repairs. Larson was not able to post a qualifying lap, so he will start 36th overall.
Keselowski, for comparison, made it through practice before experiencing issues of his own. He lost control during his qualifying lap, and he spun around before ultimately ending up on the turf. Keselowski was unable to fully complete his lap, but he was able to keep the car out of the wall.
The driver of the No. 6, who won the 2020 Coca-Cola 600, will have to join Larson at the rear of the field for the start of the Crown Jewel race. He will line up 35th overall as he prepares to pursue his third career win at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
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Both Drivers Will Attempt To Rebound & Capture Another Crown Jewel
Starting from the rear will not be ideal for either Keselowski or Larson, but they will have plenty of time to rebound. They will have four stages and 400 laps around the 1.5-mile North Carolina track to move through the field and avoid incidents.
The race at Charlotte Motor Speedway will be important for both drivers as they try to add another Crown Jewel to their respective collections. Larson captured his first during the 2021 season, and he has an opportunity to join a prestigious list of drivers that have gone back-to-back in the Coca-Cola 600.
Keselowski has three Crown Jewel wins in his Cup Series career, which puts him in a tie with Martin Truex Jr. for the third-most among active drivers. His first was the 2018 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. Keselowski then added his second a week later by capturing the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The 2020 Coca-Cola 600 was his third.
If Keselowski wins the Coca-Cola 600, he will break the tie with Truex and move into a tie with another fellow champion. Kyle Busch has four career Crown Jewel wins split between the Coca-Cola 600, the Southern 500, and two Brickyard 400s.
Another Driver Had To Rely on a Backup Car
Prior to the incidents involving Larson and Keselowski, another driver experienced a problem of his own. Corey LaJoie brought out the red flag early in Group A practice after hitting the wall hard and sliding backwards down the track.
The No. 7 USO Chevrolet Camaro spun suddenly early in practice and slammed into the wall. LaJoie revealed after exiting the infield care center that his left rear tire had gone down, which has been a common issue for Cup Series teams. LaJoie also confirmed that Spire Motorsports would need to pull the backup car out of the hauler, which meant that he would start 37th overall.
“It definitely sucked,” LaJoie told PRN after his spin and collision. “Top of the board in terms of hardest hits I’ve had. We had a left rear go down, not sure how low we had it, but we had a left rear go down. Not the exact place you want to be.”