Charlotte allows entire teams to join in
We know that our Daytona 500 Speedweeks is always a big event. We know that when we go to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Brickyard 400, it is a really big event. Actually when any racing series either kicks off or ends a season, the race is a really big deal.
Across the board, to have all three of the major motorsports series — NASCAR, Formula One and IndyCar — hosting one of their premier events on the same day. Juan Pablo Montoya can relate to it. He has raced in all three of the events taking place this weekend: NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600, IndyCar's Indianapolis 500 and F1's Monaco Grand Prix.
Tony Stewart has raced in two of the three on the same day. Chip Ganassi and Roger Penske own teams in two of the series and will tell you that Sunday is truly a really big deal and a big day in all of motorsports.
That’s why Montoya wants to win in Charlotte so desperately. He would be the only human being that could say he won all three events. Although he didn’t run very well the other night in the all-star race, I still think he can win the Coca-Cola 600 before he retires.
The Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte is one of our crown jewels in NASCAR. Back in the day, R.J. Reynolds used to pay $1 million to any driver who could win three of the big four Cup races in a single year. Those races included the Daytona 500, the Coca-Cola 600, the Southern 500 in Darlington and the Winston 500 in Talladega.
You put major races for three different circuit's races on the same day and they all fall on Memorial Day weekend, it just makes it so special. Don’t forget that the Sprint Cup race Sunday is the longest race of the year — 600 miles is the longest race we run all year by 100 miles. You also have to throw in the fact this is the home track for almost every single NASCAR driver and race team. A lot of bragging rights go with winning the Coca-Cola 600.
You want to win here. This is the race the guys from the shop get to attend. This is the race the wives of the team members get to attend. I have been fortunate to experience winning this race twice, and there is just something so special about having all those folks with you in Victory Lane. It feels, more than ever, that it was a team win.
A lot of drivers, such as David Pearson, Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte and David Reutimann all got the first wins of their career here.
It’s a really hard race to win. With the extra 100 miles this race has, it truly is a test of man and machine.
With the race starting in the late afternoon and finishing under the lights later that evening, this track goes through a lot of transitions. That’s a tough thing for the crew chief to work with. Not only do you have to keep up with what the track is doing, but more so, you have to anticipate what the track will do and plan accordingly.
Casey Mears got the only win of his career there by using some fuel strategy. Gordon won this race in 1994 when Ray Evernham stunned the field and only took two tires when everyone else took four. Reutimann was able to put himself in front of the field before Mother Nature halted the race, and he won his first race.
So there are lots of different ways you can win at Charlotte.
Trust me, drivers dream of being called a Coca-Cola 600 winner.