Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Rating the Coca-Cola 600: 3 Stars ***

A day of domination continued into the evening as Kurt Busch was to the Coca-Cola 600 what Dario Franchitti was to the Indianapolis 500. Kurt Busch took the lead on lap 12 and led 252 of the next 388 laps to win NASCAR’s longest race. With pretty good racing, domination by the #2 car and a really bad caution, the 600 gets a 3 Star Rating.

Kurt Busch had the field covered like Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon has done in the past. Actually, it felt like he led more than 252 laps. However, several green flag stops throughout the night shuffled things around at times. Also, who would have guessed Jamie McMurray would have been the challenger to Busch late in the race. Many other likely candidates were set back early in the race for one reason or another. Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch all had issues during the middle part of the race that pretty well ended their chances of winning.

Those three drivers also were a part of the one black eye of the race. No, not what Jeff Burton tried to do to Kyle Busch after the race. This one occurred on lap 213. With Kurt Busch still comfortably in the lead, the race had gone 41 laps without a caution, and teams were within another 10-15 laps of making a green flag pit stop. Instead, the caution came out because of debris in Turn 2, yet it was never shown. To make things worse, Denny Hamlin had just gone a lap down and Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson were the last three cars on the lead lap with Kurt Busch coming quickly to put them a lap down.

Overall, NASCAR has done a good job of keeping the debris caution in its pocket this year. Not this time, however. Four of the biggest names in the sport were guaranteed a chance to get back in the race. The three on the tail end of the lead lap came around and Denny Hamlin got the lucky dog. Come on now, this race didn’t need that. So what if some different people are up at the front?

Once again, the wave around rule helped many drivers remain on the lead lap and was directly responsible for Kevin Harvick’s 11th place finish. That is the one rule change over the past year or so that I wish would not have changed. Actually, I still wish they were able to race back to the line for the caution. Although it was kind of unsafe, the drivers were able to police themselves. If a driver wanted his lap back he had to beat the leader back to the line. There weren’t the free passes that are handed out today. If only six drivers are left on the lead lap, does that mean it’s going to be a bad race? Not necessarily. If those six drivers are competitive with one another, the race will still be exciting to the end. More cars on the lead lap does not equal more excitement.

Finally, the 600 miles did play a part in the outcome of the race. People continue to talk about shortening races, and I know this one will remain 600 miles, but at every race the length of the event helps determine the outcome. Mechanical failures and driver errors happen throughout a 500-mile race. If people like short races, go watch the Nationwide and Truck races. The big stage means big, long races. That is part of what sets the Sprint Cup Series apart from the two support series.

Next up is one of the most important months of the season. Yes, May is a great racing month, but June will help determine who is a contender for the championship. And, it’s about time for the fuel-mileage races to begin. Pocono, Michigan and Sonoma all are known for producing fuel-mileage races. Hopefully TNT carries on the excitement of a very good start to the 2010 season. Adam Alexander should be a nice addition to the booth and should work well with Wally Dallenbach and the tell-it-like-it-is Kyle Petty.


  1. WOOHOO! I give the race 5 stars for total Miller Lite domination and a fun little scare at the end with Kurt's good buddy Cupcake. Thank god Kurt rules the restarts!

    Of course Jr being the only HMS car to lead a lap was also a bright spot (kidding!!)

    Usually I hate the 600 miles, just too long to watch on a beautiful long weekend but this one was tolerable!

  2. Hey jmayer!

    I had to work so recorded the race. The problem was I knew who had won the race before sitting back down to watch. Kind of anti-climatic...

    It's too bad there was a mishap in the pits with Kyle hooking Keselowski. It might have been real interesting to watch the two Busch boys going back and fourth. I don't think klvalus would have liked the outcome!

    As it was Kyle gets a big WOOHOO for a top 5 finish given the circumstances.

    One of these races, hopefully coming soon, will end up being a shoot-out!

    Thanks alot!

  3. It's kind of hard to believe that NASCAR didn't throw a yellow at the end of the race. LOL...I guess they used their one no-debris caution too soon? lol

  4. klvalus - That last caution really helped Busch out. I think McMurray may have caught him otherwise. Silly me hoping things would stay green for once. lol

    Dwindy1 - That is a bummer. Watching a race on tape is bad, but it's real bad if you already know the winner. But, it's either that or total seclusion for a couple days until you can watch the race. lol. Been there and it's tough.

    Gene - Yeah and Marcos helped them out with his late spin. That caution midway through was terribly obvious in its timing. I would love to have seen the conversation upstairs before that happened.

  5. alas, the 600 just didn't have that tension that the F1 race (not sure the Red Bull guys will be sending each other Chrissie cards this year) and Indy (am I the only person who likes fuel mileage races?) had earlier in the day :(

  6. tezgm99 - I'm with you, fuel mileage races have an incredible amount of drama. Plus, most races these days come down to late restarts so it is a nice treat to have some races come down to fuel mileage. I know Franchitti didn't have much fuel left at the end, but it felt like there was no way he was going to run out at the end.