The Coca-Cola 600 is a race where sometimes the strangest things can happen. You could be dominating the race at one point, and then you are fighting with everything you got just to stay on the lead lap. It could be that you’re cutting off the motor, trying desperately to conserve precious fuel, and you run out. That’s what the great races in any series will do to you. And it is no different in NASCAR’s longest race.
Kevin Harvick only led two laps in the 52nd Coca-Cola 600, but that didn’t matter. Harvick was able to get by the fan favorite, Dale Earnhardt Jr., after Earnhardt ran out of gas going down the backstretch on the final lap. Harvick, who coming into the race had only one top ten finish at Charlotte, said that this was his worst race track on the Sprint Cup Series schedule.
David Ragan was able to stay up towards the front of the field all night long and finished a career high second. Many people, including myself, thought this would be a prime opportunity for Ragan to pick up his first Cup win, but it just wasn’t meant to be for the Georgia native.
Carl Edwards appeared as though he was going to run away with another Charlotte race as he dominated the first one hundred miles of the race; however, when the night time struck the Charlotte Motor Speedway, the Scott’s Ford fell through the field and ended the night 16th. When the track turned to dusk and dark, Matt Kenseth looked like the driver that was able to keep his car handling well through the day to night transition. Kenseth was the leader two-thirds through the300 mile race, until a late race “splash and dash” forced Matt to go a lap down. He would later get a lucky dog to return to the lead lap group of cars, but finished a disappointing 14th.
Jimmie Johnson’s streak of leading at least one lap in eighteen straight races at Charlotte came to an end Sunday night when his Lowe’s Chevrolet blew an engine with just four laps remaining. Johnson joined Jamie McMurray and Michael McDowell as drivers to suffer engine woes in the marathon race. Other notable drivers to be caught up in trouble were Ryan Newman, Mark Martin, Kyle Busch, Paul Menard, Martin Truex Jr. and Jeff Burton.
After all the bad luck in the Indianapolis 500 earlier in the day for Roger Penske, Sunday night more than made up for it.
Brad Keselowski started on the pole and lead early. Brad stayed up near the front of the pack all night long and looked poised for a top five, or even a win. That was until Kasey Kahne ran out of fuel right in front of Keselowski on the final restart of the night.
Kurt Busch must have ignored what he said earlier in the week about not talking on the radio as his car seemed to get better as the race went on. For the first time in a while, Busch’s car looked like it had speed to it which proved beneficial as he finished fourth.
You never know what you will get when you get to Coke 600 time. Sometimes you get a wreck fest. Sometimes the race really does feel like you’re watching 600 miles. Sunday we saw a little bit of both. But in the end, we saw a finish for the ages.
And that folks is why you never leave a NASCAR race until the checkered flag falls.
Next up: STP 400 at Kansas