The 2014 Coca Cola 600: A Memorial Day Tradition In Charlotte


May 17, 2014; Concord, NC, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Jamie McMurray (1) leads drivers Brad Keselowski (2) and Kevin Harvick (4) on a restart during the Sprint All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

For a US Navy Veteran like myself, I always take time on Memorial Day to remember those who paid the ultimate price for my freedom. The day for me is also filled with ice-cold beer, barbecue and racing. A lot of racing!

As a patriotic self-proclaimed redneck who bleeds 10W 40, Memorial Day is the one day of the year that I can watch the Indianapolis 500 at noon, and end the day with the Coca Cola 600 from Charlotte Motor Speedway.

NASCAR will drop the Green Flag on The Coca Cola 600 on Sunday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the year’s longest race.

2013 champion, Kevin Harvick will bring a new car, a new owner, and a new race team into the 1 1/2 mile race track for a repeat of last years victory. Harvick has won two out or the last three Memorial Day races in Charlotte.

Stewart Haas Racing driver, Kurt Busch will be attempting to pull off the Memorial Day double by running in the Indy 500, and later in the Coca Cola 600. His boss, and teammate, Tony Stewart was the last to race 1100 miles on Memorial Day.

CWTS and Nationwide driver, Parker Klingerman will be filling in for Busch at Charlotte Motor Speedway when he is away at Indianapolis. Kurt will more than likely miss the drivers meeting, and have to start at the rear when the Green Flag drops.

The All-Star race on Saturday night was the 90 lap sprint with five segments, Sunday night will feature a 400 lap marathon that starts in daylight, and finishes under the lights late into the evening.

Jamie McMurray won the sprint on Saturday night, but the Coke 600 is typically won by big teams. Drivers and crew chiefs who can keep up with the ever-changing track conditions that fluctuate during the transition from the heat of the day, into the evening, when the track cools considerably.

We got a first look on Saturday night at how the 2014 changes to the Gen 6 cars were going to perform at the home of NASCAR, and I liked what I saw. The speeds were high, and the racing was intense.

There was good door-to-door racing in the pack, and the car out front in clean air enjoyed an advantage until they picked up tire wear. The segment leaders were able to get out to leads well over a second, but as the green flag laps started to pile up and they run into the rear of the field, their advantage was lost.

The Coca Cola 600 is an endurance race. Nobody was better at this type of racing than Darrell Waltrip. Waltrip won the Coke 600 a record five times. Jeff Gordon is second with four wins, and could very well catch old DW on Saturday night.

Jul 5, 2013; Daytona Beach, FL, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series former driver Darrell Waltrip during the Daytona Rising 500, a ceremony marking the groundbreaking of an expansion at Daytona International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

Gordon comes into Sunday night’s race with a 15 point lead over Matt Kenseth in the Sprint Cup points standings, and has to be a solid favorite to win number four. He ran well during the All-Star race until he cut a tire down in the third segment, and got into the wall, collecting Martin Truex Jr, and Greg Biffle.

Last year’s race was plagued with Red Flag stops after a cable supporting a Fox Sports CAMCAT snapped and fell on the racing surface. The lap 126 incident injured several spectators.

A second Red Flag occurred when Dale Earnhardt Jr. blew an engine later in the race, and spread oil all over the track.

Kevin Harvick won after the last restart when he took two tires during the final caution and three-time winner Kasey Kahne didn’t pit.

Harvick was able to pass Kahne with ease for his second Coca Cola 600 victory.

Editorial Note:

I want to apologize to SkyCam LLC for incorrectly identifying their camera in this article.