Born as NASCAR’s answer to the Indianapolis 500, the World 600, as it was called, was more endurance race than stock-car race back in NASCAR’s early days.
Today, it’s one of NASCAR’s “crown jewels,” and it's become a game of strategy and patience.
David Caraviello of NASCAR.com makes the case that last week's Sprint All-Sar Race is indication of what to expect this weekend in Charlotte, noting that Sprint All-Star Race winner Jamie McMurray is riding a wave of momentum and as a result is the favorite Sunday.
The All-Star race was a series of short runs. The Coca-Cola 600 is comprised of long runs. Much longer runs. That plays into the hands of the veteran driver who knows how to take care of his car and the seasoned crew chief who knows what critical adjustment needs to be made to the car toward the end of the race.
It also takes both strength and stamina to win. At four-plus hours, it is the longest time behind the wheel that these drivers will experience all year long. And it’s a dozen trips over the wall for the pit crew.
“When you really think about it, it’s probably one of the longest professional racing stints for a single driver in the world,” said Brian Vickers, who drives the No. 55 for Michael Waltrip Racing and has driven in several 24 hour sports car events.
“Nowhere in those 24 hour races do you see one driver in a car for four or more hours straight. Typically, they’re only in the car for one hour. To that extent, even though the race is not as long as say the 24 hour races, the time you are in the car continuously is longer.”
Strategy and patience. Remember that. It’s often that these long races can come down to fuel mileage. So after nearly 400 laps around Charlotte Motor Speedway, it all could come down to who had the lighter touch to his right foot.
Or it could end up in a green-white-checkered finish, as NASCAR has been fond of engineering in recent years.
Settle in for a long night of racing. But be sure you’re awake for the finish, because people will be talking about it come Monday.