By Erica Renee Davis
Special to FOX Sports
"Charlotte Motor Speedway is very fast, it's high-banked, the two ends of the track are slightly different, and it's also temperature-sensitive. So as the race descends from evening into nighttime, and it gets cooler, the track will have more grip and therefore, more speed."
"And that's why it's the biggest torture test on the circuit."
That's how esteemed on-air talent and FOX NASCAR race announcer Mike Joy illustrates Charlotte's difficulty and its uniqueness, which he certainly should know.
Before the green flag drops every weekend and until the last RVs are lingering in the lots, it's Mike Joy's distinguished voice and unforgettable personality that NASCAR faithful have adored for the 23 consecutive seasons he has been with the network. Joy began leading the FOX NASCAR broadcast team back in 2001, so to call him an expert is an understatement. He's one of the sport's foremost authorities.
Mike does predict that this weekend's Coca-Cola 600 race on FOX will be a physically daunting one. Drivers must, after all, compete for 600 non-stop miles.
"It's endurance. This race is going to take four hours. You got cars rocketing off into corners at more than 180 miles an hour and the drivers have to be at peak performance every single lap," he pointed out. "Other than marathon running or maybe soccer, there's no other sport that demands that of the athlete constantly and for that length of time."
But even with all those challenges — the imposing miles, the track that changes its stripes based on the thermostat — it's the Speedway's commitment to celebrating America's troops that makes this race such a grand affair.
"It's Memorial Day Weekend, our most solemn holiday," Joy reflected. "Charlotte Motor Speedway does more than any sporting event in America to honor our armed forces who have given their lives in the service of our country.
"It's a theme that we will carry all the way through the entire broadcast. A great show of patriotism unlike any other in professional sports. You combine all that, and it makes for a really incredible event."
Speaking of incredible, last season, NASCAR turned an extraordinary corner when the new cars rolled out. From crew chiefs to seasoned analysts, everyone anticipated more parity in the sport in 2022 as the new cars took center stage. And that was in fact the case. However, a year later, the best-funded teams with the best available technology and top drivers haven't dominated as effortlessly as some might have projected.
Joy, who moonlights as a vintage race car driver, admits he's surprised.
"We knew that it would level the playing field. We had a record number of race winners, and we had a lot of good teams perform at a great level. This year, though, some of the best teams have gone back to their winning ways, but not all of them."
For example, the veteran broadcaster notes that most fans and pundits didn't forecast William Byron as the driver who would have notched the most wins at this point in the season. And "Kyle Larson," he laughed, "when he doesn't get run into the wall, is winning everything else."
When Mike takes the booth this weekend, he'll be joined by racing royalty Clint Bowyer and Tony Stewart. But in addition to "informing, educating and entertaining," there's another important takeaway Joy wants the audience to appreciate.
"We're all really good friends, and I really hope that comes across during the telecast," he revealed. "And when you have Clint and Tony up there, the entertaining part comes pretty easily."
Speaking of easy, could this be the weekend you cruise to a cool $25,000 playing the FOX Bet Super 6 NASCAR Stage 2 Contest?
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But before you jump into your picks, check out Mike Joy's expert insight below. Let's dive in!
Where will the pole-sitter finish at the end of the race?
1st-2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th-6th, 7th-8th, 9th+
"The pole sitter will be top five. Pole position also gives you the first choice of pit box. And pit box No. 1 is usually very helpful in getting out of the pits quickly. There is an advantage there. If you're the leader, you're in clean air."
Which driver — Chase Briscoe or Ross Chastain — will have a better finish at the end of Stage 2 and what place will they finish?
1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th+
"I'm gonna say Chase. Chase Briscoe has been running better every week. He was the best Ford in the All-Star Race. I think Ross Chastain is likely to dial it back for a few weeks and maybe fly under the radar. Maybe. That's a definite maybe."
Prediction: Chase Briscoe, 9th+
Which driver — Erik Jones or Daniel Suarez — will have a better finish at the end of Stage 2 and what place will they finish?
1st-2nd, 3rd-4th, 5th-6th, 7th-8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th+
"Just comparing performances the last few weeks, I think Trackhouse has more positive momentum right now. And I think Legacy Motor Club just hasn't quite played up to their potential the last few weeks. They need a rebound."
Prediction: Daniel Suarez, 12th
Kyle Larson or William Byron: Who wins more races this year?
The "NASCAR Race Hub" crew go into overdrive and debated over a few hot topics about the season so far.
Which manufacturer — Chevrolet or Ford — will have more cars in the top 10 of Stage 2 and how many will they have?
0-2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10+
"There are more Chevys than any other make, so they have a numerical advantage. And they've been running better than the Fords and about equal to the Toyotas."
Prediction: Chevrolet, 4
Which driver — Martin Truex Jr. or Joey Logano — will have a better finish at the end of Stage 2 and what place will they finish?
1st-2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th+
"You can't forget the Coca-Cola 600 where Martin Truex led 392 out of the 400 laps — including the last lap. Nobody knows how to run up front for most of the race better than Martin."
Prediction: Martin Truex Jr., 3rd
Which driver — Kyle Busch or Chase Elliott — will have the better finish at the end of the race and by how many positions?
1-2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10+
"Chase has momentum, he has recent finishes, and the Hendrick organization is really on its game. With Chase coming back from that injury, I think he's pretty much right back to full form. And I don't think the extra distance in this race is going to bother him."
Prediction: Chase, 8
Biggest takeaways from All-Star weekend at North Wilkesboro
The "NASCAR Race Hub" crew discussed their thoughts on All-Star weekend at North Wilkesboro and if they should keep it there long turn.
While the brilliant broadcaster praises the likes of William Byron and Martin Truex for their recent success, Dan Gurney holds his heart as his all-time favorite NASCAR athlete.
"Dan has the highest winning percentage ever of any NASCAR driver with 10 or more starts. He was the best road-course ringer ever in NASCAR. He won in Indy Car, he won in Trans Am, he won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and he won in Formula 1. And he was always my hero."
Joy recalled how his admiration for the late Gurney blossomed into kinship.
"He wrote me a note one night and said, ‘I’ve been watching the race, and I'm hearing how you're a fan of mine. And I wanted to send you this note before you changed your mind.' But it was all a joke because he had been retired for 30 years. But that led to a really cool friendship."
While you might not be quite as lucky as Mike to have your hero become a friend, your good fortune could very well involve a nice $25K cash prize.
Download the FOX Bet Super 6 app and submit your selections for the NASCAR Stage 2 Contest now. Then be sure to share your picks with us by tagging @FOXSuper6 and @EricaReneeD and using the #EricaSuper6 hashtag across all social media platforms.
Cheers to a safe Memorial Day Weekend!
Download the FOX Super 6 app for your chance to win thousands of dollars on the biggest sporting events each and every week! Just make your picks and you could win the grand prize. Download and play today!
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