The Coca-Cola 600 should be renamed The 600 Hours of Charlotte, because that’s how long it took to complete it.
Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but the point is clear: the race lasted five hours and fourteen minutes. But I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.
A staple in our sport, this prelude to Memorial Day is one of the four famous races within our sport, joining the Daytona 500, Southern 500, and Brickyard 400. People mark this day on their calendars, cancel family gatherings, settle their pets down for the night.
It’s a big deal. And tonight reminded us why.
At one point in the night, only sixteen cars were on the lead lap. Some may think that’s pitiful, yet I see it as black and white; it’s how it was back in the 70s, no? It’s all about perspective, and I find that positivity is better in this case. Trust me, I’m not blind to the fact that it slightly dragged in the middle. However, it was going to be insane the last 150 laps.
That was proven right. But before we get to that, let’s talk about the most bizarre, red flag-resulting event since The Great Jet Dryer Explosion of 2011.
If you’re familiar with NASCAR on FOX’s race coverage, you know about the camera. You know, the camera that slides on cables above the frontstretch to provide that cool aerial view? Yeah, well, that won’t be happening next time; the cable that aids the camera in sliding across the sky broke and swung down in front of the field.
Leader Kyle Busch’s car was damaged, as were a few others’. As the remaining cables sunk lower to the ground, NASCAR threw the red flag and called the cars to pit road. Because we had an freakish rendition of Chicken Little on our hands, NASCAR allowed the teams fifteen minutes to work on their cars.
To even add more confusion, the initial cable flew into the stands before coming down on the track, injuring ten people. Although the severity doesn’t exceed a few cuts to arms and hands, three were sent to a local hospital for further evaluation. More information should be released later this week.
Back to the insanity.
The car to beat at Charlotte is none other than the no. 5, wheeled by Kasey Kahne and directed by Kenny Francis. Chasing his fourth Coca-Cola 600 win, Kahne came alive a fourth into the race and remained that way until the final caution.
The team survived the plethora of yellows that flew, yet the last one put the driver/crew chief duo in a complicated position. To pit, or not to pit?
As they went with the latter, everyone else on the lead lap did the exact opposite. Every Kahne fan’s heart sunk into the earth’s core. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, the no. 5 team was at a loss either way. Sometimes it sucks being the leader.
The car on Kahne’s inside on that final restart with ten to go? Kevin Harvick, who was gone. G-O-N-E, gone. The fresh tires and clean air equaled perfection. He won for the second time this season, Kahne in tow and Kurt Busch a close third.
The Coca-Cola 600 is amazing to watch, even if it lasts well past everyone’s bed time. Cables and close calls highlighted what we’ve always known: this race is, and will forever be, a thrill.
Point Standings after Charlotte
1. Jimmie Johnson (–)
2. Carl Edwards (-32)
3. Matt Kenseth (-51)
4. Clint Bowyer (-60)
5. Kasey Kahne (-75)
6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-81)
7. Kevin Harvick (-83)
8. Paul Menard (-98)
9. Martin Truex Jr. (-109)
10. Brad Keselowski (-110)
11. Kyle Busch (-113)
12. Aric Almirola (-117)