Coke 600 confronts drivers with extraordinary challenge

CHARLOTTE, NC - MAY 27: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M's Red White & Blue Toyota, takes the green flag to start the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 27, 2018 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

Ever since its debut in 1960, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway has been NASCAR’s longest race—and one of its most grueling, taking a heavy toll on drivers and their equipment.

For drivers whose minds and bodies typically are geared to race at a maximum length of 500 miles, the Coke 600 confronts them with an extraordinary challenge.

“You’re mentally programmed to go 500 miles, so your body kind of knows, when you’ve done this for a long time, it kind of knows that, and it’s like, ‘Hey, what are we doing here?’” said Kevin Harvick, winner of NASCAR’s marathon event in 2011 and 2013.

“And you mentally have to tell yourself that, really, when you look at the scoreboard and they tell you you’re halfway done, it’s really not that great of a sign, because you know that you have a long ways to go, and you already feel like you’ve gone a long ways.

“So, for us, it’s a little bit different mental preparation in order to keep yourself from being wore out 400 or 500 miles in and make sure that you’re ready for the last 100 miles that are extra.”

Harvick will try for his third victory in the 600 on Sunday, May 26 (6 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).