The Coca-Cola 600 is in a class of its own when it comes to NASCAR Cup Series races.
From the green flag to the checkered flag, it’s the longest race on the NASCAR schedule with a distance of 600 miles from start to finish. Held on Memorial Day weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina, the Coke 600 is a must-see event for the fans and an experience unlike any other.
Known as the World 600 from 1960 to 1984, the race’s name was changed to Coca-Cola World 600 in 1985, and then has simply been called the Coca-Cola 600 since 1986. The race didn’t see too many changes in the years that followed, though the running in 2020 looked a little different due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with no fans in the stands.
Despite the lack of fans for the May 24 race, it still marked an important moment in NASCAR, as it was the longest race in the sport’s history.
2020 Coca-Cola 600: The Longest Race in NASCAR History
Starting the night of May 24, the 2020 Coca-Cola 600 wouldn’t finish until the early morning hours of May 25, as a rain delay during the first stage postponed the race for an hour and a half. Still, for 398 of its 400 laps, the race didn’t real look like too much out of the ordinary.
Coming into the fourth and final stage of the 2020 Coca-Cola 600, Alex Bowman had won Stage 1 and 2, while Joey Logano was the Stage 3 winner. But, things would take a turn for the interesting at the tail end of the Cup Series race. With only two laps to go, William Byron spun out, bringing out the caution and sending the race into overtime.
Chase Elliott, who had experienced heartbreak at Darlington Raceway the previous week after Kyle Busch wrecked him with 28 laps to go while he was leading, led most of the way down the stretch. But, before the restart, the Hendrick Motorsports driver decided to cruise into pit road. This would seriously cost him.
Brad Keselowski, driving the No. 2 Ford for Team Penske at the time, opted to stay on the track with eight other drivers. It would be the right move, as Keselowski saw the checkered flag, while Jimmie Johnson finished second only three-tenths of a second behind Keselowski. Elliott placed third.
“I feel like I’ve thrown this race away a handful of times, and I thought we were going to lose it today,” Keselowski, who celebrated his 31st Cup Series victory, told Fox Sports in a post-race interview.
“I know we’ve lost it the way that Chase lost it and that really stinks, and today we finally won it that way.”
Unfortunately for Jimmie Johnson, his luck would turn out to be worse than Elliott’s. Two hours after the race, Johnson was told that his Chevrolet failed the post-race inspection. He was disqualified as a result.
When it was all said and done, the 2020 Coca-Cola 600 race had 20 lead changes from 11 different drivers. With an official race time of 4 hours, 29 minutes, and 55 seconds, the race lasted 607.5 miles due to the overtime laps, marking the longest race distance in NASCAR history.