Originally posted on Race Review Online  |  Last updated 5/26/12

Racing's biggest weekend is crowned by NASCAR's own cherry on top (of the ice cream...the racing ice cream...okay, nevermind).

After Formula One's Grand Prix of Monaco and IndyCar's Indianpolis 500, NASCAR's Coca Cola 600 caps things off with four and a half hours of a speeding chess match.  The drivers have to survive 600 miles, the cars have to remain in one piece, and the crew chiefs need to remind the drivers that there are always at least 100 laps to go.  Or so it seems.

Here are the fellas to watch.

Row 1

Pole: Jimmie Johnson

The man is starting to convert early-season performance to mid-season wins.  Such things are always the most foreboding of all signs to the competition.  This is Team 48 after all.  

Outside pole: Matt Kenseth

Kenseth continues to find it hard to race outside of the top 10.  He's been typically strong on the 1.5-mile tracks this year, and Sunday night should see him in strong, constant contention.

Row 2

Position 3: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Many are looking at the Sprint Showdown and All-Star race segment four winner as one of the favorites entering Sunday evening.  He still sits a superb in the points standings, and signs point to speed and strength for the 600.

Position 4: Brad Keselowski

He already has two wins on the season and enters Sunday night as the All-Star race runner-up to victor Jimmie Johnson.  He's an excellent choice for a win after one looks at Johnson and the Roush stable.

Row 3

Position 5: Greg Biffle

Points leader Biffle still hasn't succumbed to gravity's grip in the points, remaining fast and consistent as NASCAR's current points pied piper.  Look for top-five contention on Sunday.

Position 6: Kasey Kahne

Kahne is in process of erasing early-season ills, finishing good runs with good finishes.  He has several Charlotte wins in his past, and he tends to excel at the 1.5-mile venues.  He should be at least top-10 material.

Row 4

Position 7: Tony Stewart

One never knows when Stewart will up and win a race at the moment, which fact makes him a must-have in the power rankings top ten.  He was mediocre in the All-Star race, but often such performances aren't indicative of Coke 600 potential.  Don't be surprised if he busts a move.

Position 8: Kyle Busch

The hotness and coldness of KyBusch marches on, but he's been more hot than cold of late.  With a recent win at Richmond and a pole at the All-Star race, Kyle could well make this weekend a hot turn of events for Team 18.

Row 5

Position 9: Martin Truex Jr.

All past statistics aside, the fact remains that Truex is a must on this list until further notice.  Like Stewart, one never knows these days when a near-win will transpire for the fellow.  

Position 10: Mark Martin

The veteran of much success is finding speed and comfort in his Michael Waltrip Racing machines this year.  He's a champ at Charlotte, with four wins and heap of other stats festooning his resume.  Look for pole and race contention.

Row 6

Position 11: Denny Hamlin

Hamlin, like his Joe Gibbs Racing stablemates, has been hot, cold, and lukewarm this year, but he has the pardon of having two race wins already.  He has a mildly decent past at Charlotte (one top-five, six top-10’s), but a current uptrend in performance has him in this week's rankings.

Position 12: Joey Logano

Charlotte is one of Logano's best tracks, a venue where he has two top fives and four top tens in a very short career.  He's on a Nationwide series tear at the moment, having won three out of the past five events.  If he can merge Nationwide momentum and general Charlotte strength, he has a chance at top-10 contention, perhaps more.

Lucky Dog: Jeff Gordon

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