The longest race in the history of NASCAR occurred at the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. In order to better understand this event, it is important to describe it, analyze its history, and investigate some of its notable moments and car crashes.
The Coca-Cola 600 occurs every year in late May at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina. This racing event requires participants to complete 400 laps around a 1.5 mile long oval track. This equates to a total driving distance of 600 miles. Traditionally, forty drivers will compete in this race. This is the longest event in the Sprint Cup series. Specifically, the longest race at this venue occurred in 2020. Driver Brad Kesolowski had to drive 607.5 miles in order to come in first place at this event. This race went longer than normal due to a caution flag being flown. With only two laps to go, a competitor spun out due to a flat tire. While this accident was being addressed, all drivers had to drive around the track at a slower speed and keep their position in the race.
The driver in first place decided to go get a new set of tires for their car. As a result, they lost their first place position and driver Brad Kesolowski took the lead. All of the drivers continued to take laps until the damaged car was taken off the track. The actual race resumed when the drivers were on their 404th lap. Keselowski was able to maintain his lead through the final lap, which ended up being the 405th lap around the track. He beat the second place finisher by 0.674 seconds and had a total time of 4:29:55. The race had only gone more than 400 laps one other time in 2011.
This event was originally called the World 600 when it had its inaugural race in 1960. It was the first race to be held at Charlotte Motor Speedway and continues to be held there today. This event is held every Memorial Day Weekend. Besides being the longest race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the Coca-Cola 600 offers another unique feature. Due to the installation of lights and race length, the event is able to happen during daylight, dusk, and nighttime. The event was called the World 600 until 1985 when it was called the Coca-Cola World 600. However, the name changed again in 1986 and became its current title. Due to the brutal North Carolina heat and humidity, spectators demanded the race to be moved closer to night. Lights were installed as a result, which created the opportunity for racers to compete in two different events on the same day.
The Indianapolis 500 is another NASCAR event that occurs earlier than the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day. In order to complete both of these events, a driver must make the trip from Indianapolis, Indiana to Concord, North Carolina. Most recently, driver Kyle Busch participated in both of these events in 2014. In 2017, NASCAR created a stage-racing format where all races would be divided into three different stages. However, the Coca-Cola 600 was divided into four stages due to its large distance. This remains the only event in NASCAR that has four stages.
This racing event has been full of notable moments and crashes throughout its history. The owner of the track, Bruton Smith, fell asleep halfway through the first Coca-Cola 600 due to exhaustion from getting the track ready. In 2009, the event lasted more than 6 ½ hours due to issues related to rain. Competitors had to keep stopping due to extreme amounts of downpour on the track. The race began on a Sunday and wasn't finished until a Monday. On the other hand, driver Martin Truex Jr. won the race in a record time of 3 hours and 44 minutes.
Unfortunately, this event has also been marked by great tragedy. A prominent driver nicknamed Fireball Roberts died after injuries he sustained at the 1964 Coca-Cola 600. He became severely burned in a crash and eventually passed away due to complications with pneumonia. In an unorthodox accident, fans were injured at the event in 2013 by a falling television cable. A cable fell on top of ten people and some race cars. This event is full of history in addition to being the longest race.