MONTE DUTTON - LONG BUT STILL SPECIAL
Six hundred miles. It’s a long way. My proudest achievement of the last few years was driving all the way home from Gainesville, Texas, in a single day. I didn’t plan on it. I just started out, the lure of home was great, and I just kept going and going and going.
That was a little over 1,000 miles, but I didn’t drive them wide-ass open and on the edge of out of control. Oh, no. I set the cruise control and filled up several times on gasoline and coffee. My exciting journey would have bored Kyle Busch, but it was right sporty by my lowly standards.
Now I hear the question asked across the wide, wide world of television and social media: Should NASCAR have a 600-mile race?
Why, yes, it should. Indy cars ought to have an Indy 500. Horses ought to have a Belmont Stakes. Baseball ought to have doubleheaders.
Once upon a time, beginning, oh, three decades back, a NASCAR bonus called the Winston Million was based on the four races that were the biggest (Daytona 500), longest (World, then Coca-Cola, 600), fastest (Winston 500) and oldest (Southern 500), the last being on superspeedways, then known as one mile or greater.
That made sense. There ought to be a biggest, a longest, a fastest and an oldest, and winning them ought to be important.
It’s too long. It’s boring. Oh, quit your crying.
There will be times on Sunday night when my attention flags. When it’s over, I will somehow be tired sitting in my living room. Monday will be an ordeal.
But, by God, that’s what it takes.
Not enough of NASCAR is special anymore. Not enough events are really events. Races are neither bowls of cherries nor boxes of chocolates. If they could run 600 miles in 1960 – Joe Lee Johnson was the only one who could; Johnny Beauchamp made it 594 – they can run it now.
Race cars weren’t as durable then.
Eighteen cars were running at the end. Ten crashed. Various other causes of retirement cited were: head gasket 5, engine 4, valve 2, axle 2, fuel pump 2, spindle 2, A-frame 2, and one apiece listed fuel tank, transmission, brakes, rear end, exhaust, oil pressure and timing.
Richard Petty, Lee Petty, Junior Johnson, Bob Welborn, Paul Lewis and Lennie Page were all disqualified.
Not only did drivers run it. People – to be official, 35,462 – watched it. It was new. It was different. It’s not new anymore, but it’s still different.
If they ever make the Coca-Cola 600 something other than 600 – oh, God, please don’t make it 600 kilometers – it won’t be different anymore.
One of the reasons NASCAR has shrunk – in people, ratings, seats, affordability, campers, drunks, etc. – is that not enough is different anymore.
I might get sleepy. Hell, that’s why I have a coffee machine.