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Coca Cola 600

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Corporate sponsor  Coca-Cola
Distance  600 miles (970 km)
First race  1959
Coca-Cola 600
Venue  Charlotte Motor Speedway
Location  Concord, North Carolina, United States
Laps  400 (Stage 1: 115 Stage 2: 115 Stage 3: 170)

The Coca-Cola 600 is an annual 600-mile (970 km) Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points race held at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina during Memorial Day weekend. The event, when first held in 1960, became the first race to be held at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Run since 1960, it is the longest race on NASCAR's schedule at 600 miles (970 km). It is also unique for the fact that the race changes drastically from start to finish. It starts around 6:20 PM and the track is bathed in sunlight for the first third of the race. The second third happens at dusk, and the final third under the lights.

Contents

Race origins

In the spring of 1959, Curtis Turner returned to Charlotte, North Carolina after viewing Bill France, Sr.'s Daytona International Speedway and had an idea of building a race track in the surrounding area. Turner thought he could borrow enough money to build a $750,000 track with 45,000 permanent seats on his property in Cabarrus County, North Carolina. Afterward, he learned that a group led by Bruton Smith had a similar idea to build a track near Pineville.

Smith and Turner formed an alliance to build the track, and they signed a contract with NASCAR to run a 600-mile event on Memorial Day. Once the construction crew broke ground, they found a layer of granite under the topsoil, making the construction costly. The area for the first turn alone used $70,000 worth of dynamite, making Turner's $750,000 construction plan near two million dollars. In the spring of 1960, Turner begged for a six-week postponement for the race after a snow storm delayed the pouring on concrete.

With two weeks remaining until the inaugural race, the paving subcontractor threatened to leave the job site for lack of payment. To solve the problem, Turner and one of his friends threatened the paving subcontractor with a shotgun and a revolver to make sure the track's backstretch would be completed. The first event at the recently completed Charlotte Motor Speedway was held on June 19, 1960.

History

The event was started as an attempt by NASCAR to stage a Memorial Day weekend event to compete with the open-wheel Indianapolis 500. It was not until 1974, however, that both races competed head-to-head on the same day. Before 1974, the two races were held on different days of the week, and on a few occasions, some drivers drove in both; this continued even after the Coca-Cola 600 was moved to the same day, albeit to a smaller degree. In fact, the first World 600 was not held on the Memorial Day weekend; it was held on June 16 due to snowstorms that delayed the completion of Charlotte Motor Speedway. The 2009 race, postponed by rain from its original May 24 date, was the first race to have run on Memorial Day itself.

With the installation of lights in 1992, fans complained to circuit management to have the race start later in the day because of the notorious North Carolina heat and humidity. They wanted to follow The Winston's popularity the previous week and switch the race to a nighttime finish to create cooler temperatures for spectators. The start time was moved back several times throughout the 1990s, and finally settled at 5:30 pm in 2001, to attempt to have the race finished by 10 pm ET, in time for local news on Fox affiliates.

With the new starting time came new challenges. Not only do race teams have to deal with the blistering Carolina heat, but the considerable temperature change at night make track conditions completely different.

The nighttime portion of the race is lit with a system that uses parabolic reflectors so that dangerous glare that would otherwise be in the drivers' eyes is minimized. The move of the race to the early evening made it possible for drivers to do Double Duty - run the Indianapolis 500, then immediately fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, and participate in the Coca-Cola 600. Experts disagreed over whether, for health and safety reasons, anyone should be allowed to race 1100 miles in one day, but no regulation has been passed yet by any governing body to prevent it. From 2005 to 2010, the issue became moot when the state of Indiana finally decided to go to daylight saving time. This resulted in only an approximately one-hour long span between the end of the Indianapolis 500 and the start of the Coca-Cola 600. The Indianapolis 500 start time was moved back to noon Eastern in 2011, but only one attempt — by Kurt Busch in 2014 has been done since then.

Until the Ferko lawsuit settlement took effect, the race was considered the third leg of the grand slam, and was once part of the Winston Million. It is considered one of the top five annual NASCAR races.

Name changes

From 1960 to 1984 the race was known as the World 600. In 1985, the race's name was changed to the Coca-Cola World 600. In 1986 the name was shortened to the Coca-Cola 600, or Coke 600 which it was referred to at the time. The name changed again in 2002 to the Coca-Cola Racing Family 600 referring to the Coca-Cola family of drivers who are sponsored by Coca-Cola. In 2003, the name returned to the Coca-Cola 600.

Notable races

  • 1960: In the inaugural World 600 in 1960, Don O'Dell's Pontiac smashed the driver's door of Lenny Page's Chevy. Lenny Page, who was lucky to even survive the crash due to the safety systems at that time, was near death afterwards, but reporter Chris Economaki rushed to the scene and aided Page with CPR until safety crews arrived. He was later credited with saving Lenny's life.
  • 1961: The race saw numerous crashes, including a very bad collision involving Reds Kagle, who lost a leg when his Ford smashed through the guardrail in Turn Three.
  • 1964: Fireball Roberts suffered a hard crash in this race, resulting in an inferno. Roberts was severely burned, and would die of related complications on July 2 of that year.
  • 1974: The race was shortened to 540 miles because of the nation's short-lived fuel crisis, was won by David Pearson over Richard Petty. The lead changed 37 times between Pearson, Petty, Cale Yarborough, Buddy Baker, and Donnie Allison, the most lead changes in the event's history to that point.
  • 1976: Bruton Smith reassumed full control of the speedway with the resignation of former track president Richard Howard. In a move to boost promotion of the race, Janet Guthrie was entered in a car wrenched by Ralph Moody. Pearson edged Petty again after a cut tire dropped Yarborough off the lead lap.
  • 1977: Two racing legends win races on the same day. Richard Petty wins his second World 600, while A. J. Foyt was winning his fourth at Indy.
  • 1978: Darrell Waltrip won the first of his record five 600s in 1978 in a race-long six-car shootout; on the final lap Benny Parsons and David Pearson crashed. The lead changed 43 times, the most competitive 600 to that point of its history.
  • 1979: The race saw the most lead changes (54) in the race's history. Darrell Waltrip took the win over Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.
  • 1980: The race lasted seven hours due to 14 caution flags and two lengthy red flags for rain. Multiple tire failures helped lead to an epidemic of wrecks; at Lap 275 Dale Earnhardt blew a tire and his spin caught up Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough, and David Pearson. Waltrip had the lead but in the final 20 laps was challenged by Benny Parsons; the two battled with the lead changing some seven times before Parsons edged Waltrip by a car length.
  • 1982: Neil Bonnett won his first World 600 driving the famous No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford.
  • 1983: Neil Bonnett won his second World 600 driving for the No. 75 Rahmoc-Hodgdon Chevrolet.
  • 1985: Considerable pre-race hype surrounds the race as Bill Elliott enters with a chance to win the Winston Million. Elliott won the pole position and led 81 laps, but faded to 18th at the finish. Darrell Waltrip took the victory, a key victory en route to the championship. Waltrip (who won The Winston a day earlier) nearly missed the race after a car/engine swap controversy with NASCAR Director of Competition Dick Beatty. Elliott went on to win the Winston Million later in the season at Darlington.
  • 1988: The race came a week after multiple tire failures marred The Winston; the failures involved Goodyear tires but in the 600 Hoosier tires began blowing. Darrell Waltrip survived and edged Rusty Wallace for the win.
  • 1989: Darrell Waltrip becomes the only driver to win the event for a record 5th time (1978, 1979, 1985, 1988, 1989). After also winning the season-opening Daytona 500, Waltrip now had won two legs of the Winston Million, setting himself up for a potential $1 million bonus at Darlington. He would not be successful.
  • 1992: The race saw a controversial finish. Dale Earnhardt emerged from late green-flag pitstops with the lead after trailing by some three seconds entering the pits; there were complaints from several teams, notably Morgan-McClure Motorsports whose driver Ernie Irvan finished second, that Earnhardt had broken NASCAR's mandated pit road speed limit.
  • 1994: Second-year driver Jeff Gordon won the first race of his career. His team gambled on the final pit stop, taking on only two tires, giving him better track position.
  • 1995: The race was a dramatic affair as the lead changed 32 times, the most since 1988, and the battle for the lead became a spirited multilap affair between Bobby Labonte, Dale Earnhardt, Rusty Wallace, and Sterling Marlin. Labonte punted Earnhardt out of the lead late in the race and sweated out late green-flag stops for fuel to take the win, his first in Winston Cup.
  • 2000: Talk this year was of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. trying to be the first rookie to win the race, winning the pole and dominating all of the phases of the race. However, Matt Kenseth became the first rookie to win the race after holding off Bobby Labonte over the final laps. It was Kenseth's first career win.
  • 2001: While Jeff Burton won the race, Tony Stewart stunned the racing world by successfully pulling off the full distances of the Memorial Day Double.
  • 2005: On that race, a new record for the most cautions of any NASCAR Cup Series race was set at 22 cautions. In addition, there was one red flag. On the last lap, Jimmie Johnson slid past Bobby Labonte in turn four, claiming the checkered flag by inches. In doing so he became the first driver to win three consecutive Coca-Cola 600s. He would finish a distant second to Kasey Kahne the following year.
  • 2007: In one of NASCAR's biggest upsets, Casey Mears won. Tony Stewart led with ten laps remaining, hoping to win his first Coca-Cola 600, but had to pit for fuel with 8 laps left, giving the lead to Dale Earnhardt Jr. until he ran out of fuel. Denny Hamlin led with seven laps remaining until he also ran out of fuel. Mears, driving for Hendrick Motorsports in the No. 25, took the lead for six laps remaining to win, running out of fuel just after crossing the finish line. More upsets would happen such as the top ten including underrated drivers including J. J. Yeley (2nd), Kyle Petty (third), Reed Sorenson (4th), and Brian Vickers (5th).
  • 2009: On Monday, although nicknamed by many as the 24 Hours of Charlotte, saw the shortest run of the race in its history. The race was delayed from Sunday to Monday due to a rainstorm, and the following day, more rain forced the race to go only 227 laps, although it took a 6 and a half hour marathon to reach that point, due to frequent interruptions by competition cautions and three red flags, including a two-hour period under the red flag which ended the race and declared David Reutimann the winner, one of few drivers who opted not to pit under the final caution. Reutimann was the second surprise first-time winner in 2009 after Brad Keselowski's win at Talladega the month before.
  • 2011: The 2011 running, at 603 miles, was the longest distance in NASCAR history. Dale Earnhardt Jr., trying to break a long winless drought, ran out of gas coming off of turn 4, and Kevin Harvick scored his third win of 2011.
  • 2013: The 2013 running was red-flagged 126 laps in when a cable that supported a Skycam used by Fox Sports over the front stretch of the race track, snapped and fell onto the racing surface. Several spectators were injured as a result of the failure, and several racecars were also damaged. The race was later red-flagged again on lap 325 for a large wreck entering turn 1. Kevin Harvick won the race for the second time when he took two tires on the final caution and passed Kasey Kahne, who did not pit.
  • 2014: Jimmie Johnson won his fourth Coca-Cola 600, and first since 2005. During the race, the world’s biggest photo was captured. The 348-gigapixel image captured during the race is 70,000 times bigger than a standard self-portrait and allows each and every one of the more than 100,000 fans in the stands who attended the event to zoom in on the 360 degree image and find themselves.
  • 2015: Carl Edwards won his first Coca Cola 600 and first while driving for Joe Gibbs Racing.
  • 2016: Martin Truex Jr led an event record 392 of 400 laps and a series record 588 of 600 miles en route to his first win at the Coca Cola 600. Additionally, the race was the fastest-ran Coca Cola 600 in history at an average speed of 160.655, clocking in at 3 hours, 44 minutes and 5 seconds.
  • First-time winners

    The Coca-Cola 600 has been the site of many drivers' first wins, including future champions David Pearson (1961), Jeff Gordon (1994), Bobby Labonte (1995), and Matt Kenseth (2000). The most recent driver to have the 600 as his first win was David Reutimann, who won a rain-shortened event in 2009. That was the second time in three years that a driver won their first race at the Coca-Cola 600; Casey Mears won his only race to date in the 2007 running.

    Notes

  • 1960: Race postponed three weeks because of construction delays.
  • 1963 and 2009: Race moved from sunday to monday because of rain.
  • 1968, 2003, and 2009: Race shortened due to rain.
  • 1974: Race shortened due to 1973-74 energy crisis.
  • 1997: Race shortened due to a rain delay and a 1 a.m. curfew.
  • 2011: Race extended due to a NASCAR Overtime finish.
  • References

    Coca-Cola 600 Wikipedia


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