MOORESVILLE, N.C. – The Coca-Cola 600’s biggest challenge in recent years hasn’t been out-performing the Indianapolis 500.
It’s been keeping those watching the 600 awake.
It shouldn’t be a problem this year, if Saturday’s Sprint All-Star Race is any indication of what’s to come.
The All-Star Race was one of the best in the 30-year history of the event. There was an impressive late-race battle for the win, wrecks that eliminated big names, and an upset winner.
What more could you want?
It was so much more compelling than any other All-Star Race in recent years that it makes you feel like it was an instant classic.
Jamie McMurray – where did he come from? – won the race over Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr., three of a large group of drivers you probably picked over McMurray.
McMurray’s made a career out of emerging from the shadows to win the big races. He’s the opposite of football’s Tony Romo. McMurray only wins the ones that matter the most.
He captured the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 in 2010, and now he’s got the All-Star Race under his belt. McMurray should be a threat on Sunday night.
What makes this year’s 600 so exciting is that picking a winner isn’t as easy as looking for Jimmie Johnson’s car and pointing to it.
Speaking of Johnson, the defending and six-time Sprint Cup champion, he’s never in his career gone winless in a season past the 600. Whether or not he breaks his 13-race losing streak – which his teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr., likened to a 72-race skid for other drivers – he’s one to watch.
A bunch of drivers are ones to watch on Sunday. Forty-three, to be exact. This year’s Memorial Day marathon could produce a winner from anywhere on the grid, due in part to how competitive the cars have been this season.
It’s also because the cars have been more racy at Charlotte in particular. Drivers were able to make some moves on the track to gain position last week. There was a pass for the lead in the Sprint Showdown for the first time since 2011.
There were wrecks in the All-Star Race for the first time since 2011.
Whether the Coca-Cola 600 really ends up being better than it was in 2011 is up for debate. It looks like it will be.
All that’s left now is to wait for the green flag.