HAMPTON, Ga. – Charlotte Motor Speedway revealed a unique addition to this year’s Coca-Cola 600 weekend on Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway with the announcement of a Coca-Cola Racing Family reunion.
The special gathering will take place in conjunction with the 600 Pit Party on Sunday prior to the race, which features a concert from Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Cheap Trick.
Past and present Coca-Cola Racing Family drivers will appear during the reunion, including Coca-Cola 600 winners Jeff Burton, Kyle Petty and Austin Dillon.
“The Coke 600 is just a huge deal,” noted Burton on Friday afternoon at Atlanta. “I can remember watching it as a little guy and thinking that the race just lasted forever. … To win the 600 is one of the highlights of my career, and now to be able to go back to the speedway and have some fun with the fans is really special and a big deal for me.
“Any time you go to do an event with Kyle, you have to put your seat belt on, but I’m fortunate to have been one of the founding members of the Coca-Cola Racing Family and honored to be part of that crowd. It was a new idea at the time, but it really changed the way we could market in motorsports.”
Charlotte Motor Speedway Executive Vice President and General Manager Greg Walter told SPEED SPORT after the announcement that this May’s gathering of drivers will hearken back to the inaugural class of the Coca-Cola Racing Family in 1998.
That inaugural class included 10 drivers: the late Dale Earnhardt, Dale Jarrett, Bobby Labonte, Bill Elliott, Burton, Petty, Todd Bodine, Ricky Rudd, the late Kenny Irwin and Steve Park.
Now, the group features the stars of today, including Dillon, defending series champion Joey Logano, Bubba Wallace, two-time Daytona 500 champion Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman, Daniel Suarez and Kyle Larson.
The common thread? The drivers’ relationship with the Official Soft Drink of NASCAR.
“When you think about the first class of the Coca-Cola Racing Family, and you look at the fact that Tony Stewart joined the next year … all the drivers who have been a part of that and the stories they’ve had to share have been bound together by their relationship with Coca-Cola,” said Walter. “When you get the old drivers talking about how things were in their day, it evokes memories of those family reunions where you have the crazy uncle who talks about how things were when he was a kid and things like that.
“Race fans love legacy. They love a sense of history and always seem to look back on where we came from,” Walter added. “This is part of that DNA and storytelling, and it’s a huge part of our sport’s past. When you hear Kyle Petty bringing up old stories and Jeff (Burton) talk about his wins … they didn’t get along back then, but they came together for one brand in what they and others did for Coca-Cola.
“We believe this will be a powerful moment for our fans, and every time we bring back drivers from the past, it’s always very well-received.”
This year’s reunion also comes as CMS celebrates the 35th anniversary of Coca-Cola’s sponsorship of the track’s annual 600-mile event in May.
“To be able to celebrate 35 years of partnership with Coca-Cola, the longest sponsorship in motorsports, is incredible for us,” Walter noted. “Coca-Cola is all about three things: better, special and different. We talk about ideas with them every year that try to tie into those three qualities. That’s something that spurs both of us to always keep trying to provide even better and superlative experiences for our fans.
“We’re proud to continue our relationship with them and look forward to the Coca-Cola 600 in May.”