CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 is going to be always known as the first (and hopefully last) race at Charlotte Motor Speedway held without fans, due to the coronavirus pandemic. But the 600 -- the longest race on NASCAR's Cup circuit -- has had plenty of other unique and memorable moments.
Here are a few of them:
In 1959, track owner Bruton Smith and colleague Curtis Turner (who was also a top NASCAR driver) began construction of Charlotte Motor Speedway. Smith worked long hours to have the 1.5-mile track in Concord ready for the track's inaugural World 600 on June 19, 1960.
Smith had exhausted himself to the point that he fell asleep midway through the race, which was won by Joe Lee Johnson.
LOSS OF A LEGEND
Fireball Roberts, one of NASCAR's earliest stars, died after crashing in the May 24, 1964 World 600. Roberts, a charismatic and talented driver who had 33 Cup victories, was involved in a fiery accident after Ned Jarrett and Junior Johnson had spun in front of him on Lap 7. Roberts suffered severe burns, and actually survived until July 2, when he died after developing pneumonia and sepsis.
NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon, who retired after the 2016 season, was feeling pressure to win a race after he had gone winless during his 1993 rookie season. The 1994 season started the same way for Gordon, until he won Charlotte's 600 miler. The victory was marked by crew chief Ray Evernham's gutsy decision to take on two tires during a late-race pit stop. Gordon was overcome with emotion after the race, tearfully saying on his radio: "You're an awesome, crew chief! Oh God, I love you guys! That's great. Thank you, men."
The 2009 race was marked by rain, rain and more rain, with inclement weather delaying the event from Sunday to Monday. Even then, the rain continued and the race would only last 227 laps, with cautions and three red flags mixed in. After about 6 1/2 hours and as the rain continued to fall, David Reutimann was declared the winner -- one of his two career Cup victories.
Martin Truex Jr.'s victory in the 2016 600 was the definition of dominance. Starting from the pole, Truex led 392 of 400 laps (an event record) and 588 of 600 miles (a series record). Truex's average speed was 160.655 mph and the race time was 3 hours, 44 minutes and 5 seconds (both event records).
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