|DIBENNEDETTO NASCAR'S ROCKY BALBOA
|FROM JOURNEYMAN DRIVER TO HALL OF FAMER
|WINNERS NOT ADDING UP
|THE 600 IS STILL A CROWN JEWEL
|NEXT TWO WEEKS COULD BE TOO GOOD
|WALTRIP A TWO-WAY HALL OF FAMER
THE 600 IS STILL A CROWN JEWEL
In 1960, Bruton Smith wanted to do something that would put Charlotte Motor Speedway on the motorsports map. He was thinking big and wasn't willing to play second banana to any other track, even the already hallowed ground known as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
His brainchild was NASCAR's longest race. It has stood the test of time and will mark a very special anniversary this weekend.
"The 60th Coca-Cola 600 is really a big number," smiled son and SMI President Marcus Smith. "My dad had this vision of what would make it the biggest race ever. At the time you had the Indy 500 and Daytona 500 and he said well heck we'll have the World 600.
Joe Lee Johnson won the inaugural 400 lap marathon on this 1.5-mile track, beating Johnny Beauchamp by four laps. Bruton Smith had a winner and it grew into one of NASCAR's biggest races, on that every driver wanted to bag before he hung up his helmet.
"It's a big testament to my dad and his vision. Great visions are amazing things. It's one thing to have a vision but then to execute and follow through and have it be successful takes a lot of special things. He gets all the credit for having the vision, the execution and guts to make it happen and we just want to make him proud."
Funny thing, as you would expect, people tried to talk him out of a 600-mile race, but little did they know it all but guaranteed it. "That's his fuel, he loves that," Marcus explained. "I don't know if he realizes it or not the word 'no' or 'you can't do that' or 'I don't think so' is like an amazing, super fuel to him. He won't back down."
It's one of the reasons, among many others, his father was put into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2016.
"Honestly, it's a crown jewel race," stated Kevin Harvick. "The 600 is one of those races that every driver and team in that garage are going to say that they want to win."
Kurt Busch couldn't agree more. "I love the tradition of the extra 100 miles and the toll that it puts on the cars, teams and driver. It is genuinely a cool event and one of the marquee races in NASCAR."
According to Brad Keselowski, "This race is a different challenge than anything else we have by a good bit, and I appreciate that so much about this race. I appreciate that you're going to go through the daytime and you're going to be burning hot and the car is going to be out of control. Then we're going to transition to night time and the cars are going to be just crazy fast, and you're going to see a lot of great side-by-side action as we get into night time. I think that's tremendous, and only possible because of the 600 miles."
"When you win the 600 you know you've accomplished something special because not just any car can make it 600 miles and it takes a driver that can handle it and it takes some luck," said Marcus Smith. "All those things come together I think for this longest race in the NASCAR schedule to be a champion."