On Sunday NASCAR followers around the world will be tuning in to witness the events as they unfold at Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina. For a change of pace, we’re not going to attempt a prediction or give you betting tips. Instead we’re going to look back at five occasions when the Coca-Cola 600 has left us utterly glued to the action.
Number 5 – 2017 – A lead woman
Okay, so this wasn’t strictly a moment that shocked the world, but boy was it noteworthy. Austin Dillon emerged victorious from the mammoth encounter, however, the name on many people’s lips was that of Danica Patrick who became the first female to lead in the 600 as she led for seven laps.
The moment further cemented her status as the best female driver in American motor sport.
Number 4 – 2018 – Kyle Busch Dominates
Busch went into the event knowing this was the one track he’d raced on without picking up a victory; if he could manage to win he would write himself into the history books as the first person ever to win on every track on which they’d raced – and win it he did.
He ranked first through every stage and led for a whopping 377 of the 400 laps raced. The emotion was too much for him as he declared the moment to be something that he ‘dreamt about as a kid’. We all felt it too, Kyle.
Number 3 – 2007 – Running on Empty
Moving slightly further back in time now to 2007, which saw an upset of epic proportions, as underdog Casey Mears snatched victory.
Tony Stewart had been one of the best drivers, having led for 55 laps and he looked on course to conquer with his lead still intact, heading into the final 10 laps. Unfortunately, for him a poor judgement on fuel meant he had to pit with just eight laps to run – he slipped down the order and failed to recover.
Dale Earnhardt looked to be the lucky one to capitalize, but he couldn’t even make it to a refuel and saw Denny Hamlin take over in first place with next to no distance to cover. His fuel ran out too allowing Mears to sneak in and clinch the win, which he did before sputtering to a stop shortly after the finish line. You couldn’t make it up, an authentic horse race.
Number 2 – 1989 – Five Time Champ
This was a tough one to decide; Darrell Waltrip has some serious history in the 600 and few could argue if we’d gone with his first win in 78, which saw him win following two crashes in the final lap or his second win in 79, which saw record number of 54 lead changes.
Instead though, we’ve chosen to embrace his record – the most wins on the circuit – which was an incredible feat given he was forced to drive ’30, 40 or 50 laps with the sway bar unhooked’. There was also a lot of tension heading into the race that kept fans engaged, as a week earlier Waltrip and fellow driver Rusty Wallace crashed into one another with two laps remaining – Wallace went on to win with Waltrip claiming a ‘fire’ had been lit.
Number 1 – 1960 – The First Ever
No drum roll required. The event was launched with an intention to challenge the Indy 500 – some have even raced both in the same day due to timing – and it took no time at all for us to fall in love; the inaugural 600 race is the one that got us all hooked.
Near on 80,000 punters turned up to witness Joe Lee Johnson steal victory from Jack Smith; Smith was cruising to victory when his gas tank split with 50 laps to go and Johnson capitalized to become the first ever winner of the 600.
The drama didn’t come directly through the racing though; drivers Don O’Dell and Lenny Page collided in an incident that Page was lucky to survive – journalist Chris Economaki raced to his aid and gave CPR until proper medical teams arrived. Economaki is said to have saved Page’s life and we had fallen in love with everything about the race.
There you have it, a quick look back at five epic races to whet your appetite ahead of the upcoming race. It’s safe to say, you won’t be left disappointed.