Ever driven 600 miles in one sitting? With no stops for a bite to eat, a chance to use the bathroom, or just a rest?
Well that's what separates the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers competing in Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 from the rest of us. They will drive 600 miles around the Charlotte Motor Speedway, and barring a long red flag for rain or some other disaster - looking at you, Juan Pablo Montoya - there'll be no stops to eat, make their bladder gladder, or take a breather.
Think about this: even under caution and while driving down pit road, they're still doing 55 MPH or so, depending on the track. That's not taking a breather. And the 13-15 second pit stop is no breather either, as they have to focus on keeping their car from stalling and be ready to peel out as soon as the crew chief tells them to go. The rest of the time, they're running speeds upwards of 190 miles per hour, with G-Forces trying to tug them clear out of the right-side of their race car as they navigate the four 24-degree banked turns.
Stock car drivers, as legendary broadcaster Ken Squier once put it, are ordinary men doing extraordinary things, and the 600 is just one of many displays of that.
It is also a display of where the heart of NASCAR and its fans lie: with our troops and our great country. Patriotism is always on display at a NASCAR race in any division, with military on hand to present the colors of our nation and a flyover at the conclusion of the Star-Spangled Banner. It is also the only sport that holds a pre-event prayer and does so every week in every series.
The 600, though, takes things up a notch. It is run on Memorial Day Weekend, when the sacrifice of those who fought before and fight now around the world is honored. The pre-race ceremony features a variety of military exhibitions and just an all-around patriotic feel that no other sport in our country can come close to matching. Many of the cars carry American-flag themed paint schemes. That trend will continue Sunday, as the six-week "NASCAR Salute to America" tour kicks off.
The 2009 Coca-Cola 600 perhaps best exemplified just how much our nation's military means to NASCAR and its fans. The race had been rained to Monday afternoon - and eventually was rain-shortened, with David Reutimann scoring the win. At 3 p.m., the designated moment of silence for Memorial Day, NASCAR put out the caution flag and brought all of the cars to a stop on the frontstretch. It was an unprecedented move and one that drew almost universal praise, as the sport had shown where its priorities stood.
The pre-race of the Coca-Cola 600 showcases the pride race fans have in their country and its military. It is perfectly natural to beam, as the chills rush up and down your spine, at the sea of red, white, and blue on display. We love our country and we love our troops.
God Bless America, and let's go racing.