The Coca-Cola 600 at Lowes Motor Speedway in Charlotte prides itself of being the longest race on the Sprint Cup tour, and after this weekend’s 50th Anniversary of the race, how can anybody argue that fact?
With the race start delayed six and a half hours, and a total of four cautions for rain, three red flags, and a over four hours of rain delays accumulated on race day, the longest race of the tour felt like reading a never ending book with no ending in sight.
But for driver David Reutimann and Michael Waltrip Racing, there was an ending, a very happy ending.
Reutimann picked up his first ever Sprint Cup Series win after he and his team opted not to pit after what ended up being the final caution for rain flew, a gamble that paid off big for the Aaron’s Dream Machine.
The green flag dropped for the Coca-Cola 600 at approx. 12:12 PM EST under cloudy, but promising skies.
Pole sitter Ryan Newman led the first two laps before dropping to second behind Kyle Busch. Five laps later, the caution flew for falling rain Turn Two—a true sign of things to come.
The green flag flew on lap 12 and Busch raced out to an early lead. The second caution flew on lap 17 after Kevin Harvick lost a right front tire and hit the wall.
On lap 21, the green flag flew and Busch again raced out to a lead. There were 20 green flag laps run during this run.
Notable chargers included Joey Logano, who ran inside the top 10 for most of the early run, and Juan Pablo Montoya who passed many cars on the outside, motoring his way into the top 10.
On lap 41, rain once again wet the racetrack and caution flew. Jimmie Johnson won the battle off pit road for his first lead of the race. Johnson held off Busch for three laps before relinquishing the lead to the No. 18 Toyota.
On lap 71, caution flew yet again for rain. This time the rain was hard enough to park the race cars for a red flag. The red flag lasted right at an hour before the race re-started.
Busch led from lap 80 to lap 120, before dropping to second after a pass from Brian Vickers. During a green flag pit stop cycle on lap 134, Busch once again re-gained the lead.
On lap 145, Vickers again was able to race past Busch for the lead.
On lap 163, NASCAR flew a caution and parked the cars on pit road for one minute in a tribute to the Veterans who have served this country and made ultimate sacrifices to protect the freedom we all share everyday.
The race resumed at lap 170 and seven laps later the caution flew yet again for rain. NASCAR parked the race cars under red flag conditions for about 20 minutes and at lap 180 the green flag waved with Busch leading the field.
At this point there was a 30-lap green flag run. Busch led Johnson and Kasey Kahne at lap 221 when the sixth yellow of the day flew for rain again.
Three cars—Reutimann, Ryan Newman, and Robby Gordon—on the lead lap opted not to make pit stops for this caution, gambling on the possibility that this was the rain shower that would end the Coca-Cola 600.
NASCAR continued to run the jet dryers for another two hours trying to get the track race ready to re-start the race, but the skies just kept opening up and the rain continued to fall, giving Reutimann, Michael Waltrip Racing, and the Aaron’s Dream Machine it’s first ever win.
Rounding out the top 10 included: Newman, Robby Gordon, Carl Edwards, Vickers, Busch, Kahne, Montoya, Joey Logano, and Matt Kenseth.