Since the race’s inaugural running in 1960, the Coca-Cola 600 has been known as one of the most grueling events on the NASCAR Cup Series calendar, a notion that certainly hasn’t changed over the years, as competitors strap into their cars for four-plus hours of racing.
This season, with the implementation of the NextGen car, the NASCAR Cup Series has seen a fairly dramatic increase in cautious this season, something that could potentially draw out an already time-consuming event, to be even longer.
Throughout the Coca-Cola 600’s 63-year history, only on three occasions has the event exceeded a race time of five hours, but could Sunday’s edition of the crown jewel become the fourth?
That seems to match the sentiment of numerous drivers in the field for the event, including 2018 NASCAR Cup Series champion, Joey Logano, who spoke to the media on Saturday about his preparation for the longest event of the season.
“You manage the race knowing that it’s 100 miles longer than normal,” Logano said. “I think it has the possibility of being maybe the longest Coke 600 we’ve ever had, just considering how many more cautions we’ve had recently compared to the last few years, so I could see that changing some and being longer than normal.”
In 1960, the Coca-Cola 600 featured a race time of 5:34:06, the longest in the history of the event. Despite a rather conservative eight caution flags, the race time can be attributed to a pole speed that was 50mph slower than that of Sunday’s race.
Twenty years later, 1980, the event exceeded the five-hour mark for the only the second time, eclipsing the mark by just under two minutes. This time, the extended race time, can be attributed to a mix of a slower pace, as well as 14 caution flags.
Finally, one of the most recognized events in NASCAR Cup Series history, the 2005 Coca-Cola 600, was the third edition of the crown jewel event to exceed five hours, as a result of a massive 22 caution flags, a record in the recorded history of NASCAR’s top-level.
With an incredible nine of the first 14 events this season featuring more than eight caution flags, the NASCAR Cup Series boasts the largest average number of cautions entering the Coca-Cola 600 since 2009.
For Logano, and presumably many others on the grid, the preparation for Sunday’s incredibly long event seems to be carried out in the same manner, as the longest event of the year, regardless of the time it takes to complete, promises to take a substantial toll on the field.
“But, to me, you’ve got to prep for 700 miles, and that way you’re still fresh at 600,” Logano explained. “You’ve got to think through that and, at this point, I’ve run quite a few of these Coke 600s, so you kind of know what’s coming.
“You know it’s long,” Logano continued. “You know it is, but it’s also what makes this race so special. It makes it a crown jewel event because it’s 600 miles. It’s different. It stands out. Everybody wants to say they’ve won it before and hopefully, this is the year for us.”
With an increased number of caution flags being the lasting trend in the NASCAR Cup Series this season, it’s quite possible that Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 ventures into unmarked territory, as one of the longest 600-mile events in NASCAR’s history.
It will, without a doubt, be a battle of the fittest, when it comes down to the drivers, pit crews, teams, and the cars, as some of the United States’ best drivers tackle Charlotte Motor Speedway in the third part of an epic day of motorsports action.