Posted By: David Morgan – Follow at @damorgan86
May 27, 2016
Memorial Day weekend for many is a time to reflect on the sacrifices given by the servicemen and women in our nation’s military and to celebrate the unofficial beginning of summer. But for race fans, the weekend means more than just that. Memorial Day weekend means that the greatest weekend in all of motorsports is upon us, with three different styles of racing taking place in three locations all in one day. This Sunday begins with Formula 1 at Monaco, followed by the Indianapolis 500, and concludes with NASCAR’s longest race of the season, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
While some races may seem like a quick knockout, Sunday’s daylight to dusk to darkness marathon is more of a 10 round slugfest, with the driver’s toughness and endurance being put to the test over the duration of the 400 lap event.
What began as the World 600 back in 1960 and was then truly a race of attrition where only the strongest survived has transformed over the years, but one thing remains: to win this race, you must be able to outlast your competitors and place yourself in the right place to make the move to the front of the field when it counts. While drivers have become more fit and equipment has gotten better over the years, the chances of equipment failure aren’t nearly as high as they were when this race began, but with the cars getting ever faster this season and the teams pushing the envelope more and more, the risk is still there.
Sunday’s race also marks the second year of the “600 Miles of Remembrance” program, which will pay tribute to those that have bravely served and died in the line of duty defending our country. All 40 teams will replace the driver’s name on the windshield with that of a fallen service member.
“Each of the names proudly displayed on these race cars tells a story of honor and sacrifice,” said Brent Dewar, NASCAR chief operating officer. “As the NASCAR industry reflects on Memorial Day Weekend, we’re proud to honor these and all fallen service members in a way that helps ensure their stories and lives are never forgotten.”
From the Driver’s Seat
“The Coke 600 is very tough on both the drivers and the cars. It’s a long race, so it’ll be important to maintain hydration throughout the week in preparation for the four or five hours in the car. It looks like the weather will be pretty warm, which will make it hot inside the car. The race certainly will test the drivers’ physical fitness. From a handling standpoint, you have to build a lot of adjustability in the car. The race starts during the afternoon and goes into the night, so the track will see big changes in terms of grip and handling. The first half of the race, you just try to keep enough speed to stay on the lead lap during the long green flag runs, knowing that you want your car to be at its best when the sun goes down for those last 100 or 150 laps,” said Denny Hamlin.
Last Year’s Results
NASCAR’s longest race has been known for turning into a fuel mileage gamble from time to time and that is exactly what happened in the 2015 edition of the Coca-Cola 600.
Carl Edwards had yet to win in 2015 with his new team at Joe Gibbs Racing when the series rolled into Charlotte and for the majority of the race, it looked like it wouldn’t happen in the Coca-Cola 600 either. Martin Truex, Jr. and Kurt Busch led the lion’s share of the race with 131 and 118 laps out front, respectively, but a late race caution changed everything.
Edwards and his No. 19 team gambled with a pit stop with 62 laps remaining and hoped they could make it to the end on that final tank of fuel. They were right, as they streaked to the win 4.785 seconds ahead of Greg Biffle, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Matt Kenseth, who all gambled on fuel as well. Truex rounded out the top-five finishers.
“It does not feel like one of 24 wins. This one feels pretty big to me. I just cannot thank Joe Gibbs and everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing enough. Everyone took a big chance. Darian took a chance. All these crew guys came over here and took a chance. Our sponsors took a chance on making this fourth team happen. Up to this point in the year, we have just basically done a good job holding it all together and staying focused, but we’ve not delivered the results that we all planned on. To get this win and to put ourselves in a position to be in the Chase and to be able to now take a deep breath and step back and work on all the little things that we know we need to work on to be a championship-level team, this is just a huge opportunity. I mean, it’s great,” said Edwards.