Call it endurance, call it a marathon, call it one long race...no matter what kind of description is used, the fact is the Coca-Cola 600 tests a driver and team's ability to endure the most changes, and most stress, in one race.
A green flag that happens in afternoon sun, yet fades into sunset, hits twilight as the stars begin to shine, and a checkered flag under a bright night sky; that's the way this race is every year. It's a race that honors the men and women of the armed forces, whether active, retired, or fallen, that served the country, and yet ends with one team at the forefront of the headlines.
On NASCAR's longest night, one of the more popular young men in the garage stood head and shoulders above the rest.
That man was Kasey Kahne.
When the night skies rolled in, the No. 5 car took off, just as it did the two previous times Kahne won this race as a part of what is now Richard Petty Motorsports. The season did not start well for this team, but things began to turn around slowly, and finishes kept getting better.
Now, owner Rick Hendrick can say he didn't have to wait as long for win No. 201 as he did for No. 200. In successive weeks, both his dominating driver and his newest young gun have gotten major wins for him. If this is a sign that Hendrick is wanting another Cup trophy, it's a sign that's hard to deny.
His victory also gave one of the writers their first win on the 2012 season. Meanwhile, out front, things held steady as the top three picked the same driver.
Take a look where all are now standing after one grueling Coca-Cola 600:
James Broomhead (447) Jimmie Johnson finished 11th (2)
Billy Fellin (436) Jimmie Johnson finished 11th (2)
Sal Sigala Jr. (430) Jimmie Johnson finished 11th (1)
Christopher Leone (429) Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 6th (0)
Misan Akuya (417) Jimmie Johnson finished 11th (1)
Kelly Crandall (407) Matt Kenseth finished 10th (1)
Rob Tiongson (406) Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 6th (3)
Michael Hirshbein (389) Kyle Busch finished 3rd (1)
Dustin Parks (389) Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 6th (1)
Kara Martin (379) Tony Stewart finished 25th (1)
Patti Rodisch (372) Kasey Kahne WON (1)
Ryan O'Hara (315) Jimmie Johnson finished 11th (0)
Next Race: In a way, the final two races on FOX are two beasts of race tracks. Charlotte over the last decade has been given the nickname "Beast of the Southeast." Well, for NASCAR, the next track was the original beast of the circuit.
There's nothing funny about the next stop on the circuit. One mile in length, a concrete surface, and a track that can bite even the best of drivers. A trip to America's first state is on the docket, which means a trip to the "Monster Mile" in Dover, Delaware.
Writers, this evil track is ready to hold true to it's name, so do not be scared. "Miles the Monster" only feasts on sheet metal and Goodyear tires. Have your picks for the FedEx 400 benefitting Autism Speaks sent in by 10 p.m. ET on Thursday, May 31.