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Coca-Cola 600 Stories To Watch: Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart, Ricky Stenhouse, And More

With the Indianapolis 500 in the books, it has already been a thrilling day of auto racing - and a heartbreaking one for those of us who were pulling for young American J.R. Hildebrand in the final laps - but now the time has come to turn our attention towards Charlotte Motor Speedway and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600, the longest oval race in the world.

Here are some potential stories to watch:

Can Carl Edwards make it a clean sweep? Two of the last three Sprint All-Star Race winners - Kasey Kahne in 2008 and Kurt Busch last year - have gone to victory lane eight days later in the Coca-Cola 600. Carl Edwards dominated last Saturday, winning three of the four segments for his first All-Star win, and his Roush-Fenway Racing team is on a roll with victories in every Sprint Cup or Nationwide Series event since Regan Smith's win at Darlington Raceway.

Can Tony Stewart finally win on Memorial Day Weekend? Growing up in Indiana, the two-time Sprint Cup champ's dreams revolved around winning the Indy 500. He ran the 500 five times, finishing no better than fifth in 1997 thanks in large part to rotten luck. His Coca-Cola 600exploits haven't been much better, as he had both the 2007 and 2008 races well in hand before being denied both times, first by a late stop for gas in '07 and a flat tire as he completed the 398th lap of 400 in '08.

Could Ricky Stenhouse be the next Cindarella Story? The first two "Crown Jewel" races this year ended with surprising winners - Trevor Bayne in the Daytona 500 and Regan Smith's aforementioned Southern 500 victory. Could Ricky Stenhouse, making his first Sprint Cup start for the Wood Brothers in place of Bayne, be the third driver to have the glass slipper fit?

Does Jimmie Johnson get back in victory lane at "his house?" When Lowes Home Improvement held the naming rights for the Charlotte track, no driver was as dominant as Jimmie Johnson. He recorded six points-paying wins at Lowes Motor Speedway in his Lowes Chevrolet, prompting him to declare the track "my house." In addition, he is a two-time champion of the Sprint All-Star race.

Can Joplin, MO's Jamie McMurray lift spirts with a win? McMurray said earlier this weekend that he hasn't visited his tornado-ravaged hometown in a few years, but he still races with a heavy heart after the events of this past week. He won his first Sprint Cup race in 2002 - in just his second-career start - and claimed the victory last October after finishing second to Kurt Busch in the 600. Already a likeable competitor for his genuine emotion after wins, it's unlikely anyone would begrudge McMurray winning tonight.

Does the leader at the white flag make it to the checkered flag? Hildebrand's stunning accident as he exited the final corner in the Indianapolis 500 begs the question: will the same drama repeat itself in the 600? Will the driver who takes the white flag in front be there when the checkered flag flies? Or will another driver find himself in Dan Wheldon's shoes, entering the final turn in second place and then find himself in first place after misfortune befalls the leader?

As with every race, SB Nation Atlanta will have coverage of all the stories in tonight's Coca-Cola 600, with the green flag set to fly at 6:12 p.m.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.