Forgive me, but this is one of the weeks during the NASCAR schedule when us “old-school” NASCAR fans reminisce about bygone names for classic races. The Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway started as the “World 600,” and just like the old Fire Cracker 400, it’s almost impossible for me not to slip when talking about this race and use the classic name. This race was made 100 miles longer to impress everyone that the then junior race on the Memorial Day Weekend schedule was pretty important, too. Of course nothing will overshadow the Greatest Spectacle in Auto Racing, the Indianapolis 500, but a 600-mile test sure was impressive for man and machine back in the day.
Shorter Races Would Cure Nothing
Denny Hamlin was very vocal that there is no need for a 600-mile race or even a 500-mile race nowadays and that TV viewership would actually increase for a shorter race. While I took it as a mercy killing for us fans when the Dover International Speedway and Pocono Raceway races were shortened to 400 miles, the classic races need to stay at their original length.
Could you imagine the revolt if the Indianapolis 500 folks said that next year the race will be only 300 miles to appeal to the attention fan of the younger audiences they want? Fans from all 92 counties in the state of Indiana would show up with torches and pitchforks to protest.
But why do we need 500 miles or even a 600-mile race like we have this weekend? Tradition.
That might be a dumb reason in any other sport but think about all of the old-fashioned traditions that still exist in NASCAR today. Pocono changed the length of their races, and their television ratings didn’t go up. Dover switched from an all-day marathon of 500 laps to 400 laps, and their television ratings didn’t go up.
I have never heard one fan attending a race complain that that race was too long. Ever. Faster cars have made the need to shorten up the 600-mile Memorial Day Weekend race unimportant too. Joe Lee Johnson won the first 600-mile race in five hours and 34 minutes with only eight caution flags. Last year, Kyle Busch won in just four hours and 23 minutes with 11 caution flags. Shorter races might make the workday easier for NASCAR drivers, but history shows it wouldn’t help the ratings or the competitiveness of the race. Shorter races would cure nothing that a better rule package to give us more exciting racing from flag to flag could fix.
This week on social media, I noticed a unique tribute car paint scheme in the works for the upcoming Labor Day race during the Southern 500 weekend (If you ever try to shorten that race to 300 miles, there is going to be another Civil War, Denny). Chase Briscoe posted a list of sprint car racers from history and asked the NASCAR fans and dirt racing fans if anyone was missing.
NASCAR tracks seem to favor honoring some actor or actress with no knowledge of NASCAR or racing, but, here, Mitchell, Indiana’s Briscoe of the NASCAR Xfinity Series is remembering the sport’s roots. Many of the names like Gary Bettenhausen, Pancho Carter, Parnelli Jones, Jack Hewitt, AJ Foyt and Roger McCluskey were long gone before this young man was born in 1994, yet he is remembering them at Darlington Raceway.
Some of the names on Briscoe’s list went on to fame and fortune in IndyCar or NASCAR, but some, like the People’s Champ Dave Darland, continue to run sprint and midget cars today. Briscoe even made room on the list for guys like Ken Schrader, whose love of racing is what this sport is all about. Way to go, Briscoe, for remembering the roots of this great sport.
World 600 Fantasy Insight
Looking Back at Last Week
Win: Chase Elliott-Finished 14th
Place: Kevin Harvick-Finished second
Show: Brad Keselowski-Finished 11th
Long Shot: Jimmie Johnson-Finished 15th
In years past, the Winston used to give us a hint of what to expect in the World 600 the next week. But the last couple of years, NASCAR has wisely used the Monster Energy All-Star Race as a test session for possible changes to the aero package. While I will continue to scream about the need to get rid of the front splitter and side skirts, I have to admit the new front splitter piece and those little hood air things did seem to bring us the best Charlotte racing in a few years.
But that leaves us with the other package for the 600 and back to the stats. Martin Truex Jr. failed to lead the All-Star Race and finished 10th, but he comes in at the top of the Fantasy Insight Points with 184.4 out of a possible 200. Only Truex, Kurt Busch and Johnson top the 180-point mark, with Keselowski, Elliott, Kyle Busch, Hamlin, Daniel Suarez and Kevin Harvick all over the 175-point mark, which has been the key figure for all race winners in 2019.
Win: Truex- Super consistent and will be in contention going into the final 100 miles
Place: Hamlin-Best average finish of any driver with more than five starts, but win-less at Charlotte
Show: Harvick-Should be in the hunt, but will team beat themselves again this week
Long Shot: Kurt Busch (25-to-1 odds) Super consistent and excellent at Charlotte, too