Drivers Debate Pros/Cons Of Racing 600 Miles

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 26 2019
Driving 600 miles at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Memorial Day weekend is a long tradition in more ways than one. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Brian Cleary)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

CONCORD, N.C. – Discussions constantly swirl as to whether NASCAR Cup races should be shortened, but several series champions cite the  Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway as one that should keep its traditional distance.

“There are definitely traditions that need to stay and I think that’s one of them,” said Kevin Harvick, the 2014 series champion. “I think as you look at the Coke 600 and you look at the Daytona 500 and the Southern 500, anything past that I would probably say you need to shorten the race.”

Kyle Busch, the 2015 series title holder, added the Brickyard 400 to the list.

Harvick described the Coca-Cola 600 as a “crown jewel race.”

“There’s only three or four races that everybody in the garage is going to say those are three or four races we can agree on as being our crown jewel races,” Harvick said.

Before the Winston Million bonus program was implemented by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. in 1985, the Daytona 500, the Coca-Cola 600 and the Southern 500 were known as stock car racing’s triple crown. The three superspeedway races each presented a unique challenge and were considered the most prestigious to win. The first Southern 500 was held in 1950, the inaugural Daytona 500 in 1959 and the first Coca-Cola 600 in 1960.

Brad Keselowski, the 2012 Cup champion, likes the tradition of the Coca-Cola 600 and its “unique challenges.”

“The biggest thing this sport needs is to stay fresh and this race is a different challenge than anything else we have by a good bit,” Keselowski said. “I appreciate that so much about this race.

“I appreciate that you’re going to go through the daytime and you’re gonna be burning hot and the car is gonna be out of control. Then we’re gonna transition to night time and the cars are going to be just crazy fast. You’re gonna see a lot of great side-by-side action as we get into night time. I think that’s tremendous. That’s only possible because of the 600 miles.”

Keselowski also noted he liked some of the attrition in the Coca-Cola 600 that wasn’t evident in other events.

“I think … a big part of being a race car driver is managing the systems that make up a car and with that in mind having 600 miles to do it means more opportunities for that to go wrong,” Keselowski said. “I like that about it, but I really like the history of this race in general. It seems like for whatever reason over the last few years that question keeps coming up more and more and more and I resist it so much because of how much respect I have for this race that I’d hate to see it ever change.”  

Denny Hamlin disagrees with his peers.

“Tradition, shmadition,” Hamlin said. “All sports adapt and change. I hate it when people say, ‘Well, that’s the way it always was.’ Things are different. I’d be just as happy with a Coke 300 trophy as a Coke 600 to be honest with you.

“I certainly know that from my friends, they choose to come All-Star week and not 600 week because it’s just too long. They don’t want to sit here for five hours.”

Last year’s Coca-Cola 600 won by Busch took 4 hours 23 minutes and 22 seconds to complete. It hasn’t taken five hours to complete the event since 2005 when Jimmie Johnson won it in 5 hours 13 minutes 52 seconds. The quickest Coca-Cola 600 occurred in 2016 when Martin Truex Jr. dominated the event and competed the distance in 3 hours 44 minutes and five seconds.  

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 26 2019
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