Running off at the typewriter while trying to stay awake during the Coca-Cola 600, appropriately dubbed “NASCAR’s Longest Night….”
A full moon was overhead Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but even that can’t explain some of the weirdest incidents that occurred in a Sprint Cup race in a long time. To wit:
The race was delayed for about 40 minutes because a cable-like rope on the overhead television camera broke. On the bad side, the cable caused damage to several cars, including Kyle Busch’s, and about 10 fans were injured as a result. On the good side, a Comcast cable repair truck set a track record by arriving more than 3 hours before its scheduled 4-hour repair window.
Then-leader Matt Kenseth stayed out after a caution on lap 257 while most of the top cars behind him pitted for fresh tires. Kenseth appeared to have the dominant car at the time. Kenseth’s crew chief, Jason Ratcliff, admitted on in-car radio that he may have erred on the call. You think? Kenseth, who led 112 laps and at one point was 5 seconds clear of the field, was passed for the lead almost immediately by Kasey Kahne after the restart. By the time Kenseth cycled through on pit stops he had fallen back to 14th, effectively costing himself a chance at victory. Team owner/coach Joe Gibbs may want to return to calling the plays after that huge turnover by Ratcliff.
Even stranger, the same situation occurred near the end of the race when leader Kahne stayed out while his pursuers pitted for tires. Kevin Harvick restarted second and quickly overtook Kahne and was never challenged en route to victory.
Just hours after Tony Kanaan won an Indianapolis 500 that nearly doubled the race’s previous record for lead changes, the Coca-Cola 600 had just seven drivers lead more than 2 laps. That’s less than two different leaders every hour. At one point during the race, Trevor Bayne was in the same running position for nearly two hours. You know you are in for a long night when most of the track positions gained during the race are the result of the “free pass” given to the first car one lap down after each caution.
Jamie McMurray’s car struck a plastic Coke bottle that had been thrown onto the track prior to the race being red-flagged the first time. McMurray’s car was undamaged, and he went on to finish 19th. McMurray actually finished 17th but was penalized two places by NASCAR when a post-race inspection found traces of a mysterious caffeine stimulant in the car’s radiator.
Perhaps they should throw out Coke Zero next time.