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5 best Coca-Cola 600 races in NASCAR history

Check out the five best Coca-Cola 600 races in NASCAR history as the sport's longest race of the season represents a major crown jewel event.

NASCAR: Coca-Cola 600

The Coca-Cola 600 is one of NASCAR’s crown jewel events that is also run on the same day as Formula 1’s Monaco Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500. This is commonly known as the “Greatest Day in Motorsports” as they are three of the biggest races of the year.

Without further ado, let’s dive into the five best Coca-Cola 600s in NASCAR history.

Related: How to watch the Coca-Cola 600 Race

5) 2013 Coca-Cola 600: The 11 yellow flag madness

NASCAR Sprint Cup: Coca-Cola 600
Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

The 2013 Coca-Cola 600 featured 11 caution flags with a specific incident being an unprecedented and shocking yellow. Needless to say, this one was baffling and frustrating for two drivers in particular.

On Lap 122, the cable that held a FOX Sports television camera over the front stretch snapped and fell onto the track. Kyle Busch, the race leader, and Marcos Ambrose suffered significant damage as a result and NASCAR red-flagged the race for 30 minutes.

Busch would eventually lose an engine alongside Dale Earnhardt Jr. later in the event. The No. 88 car dropped oil on the track which caused the second red flag of the day with another one on the way.

Kasey Kahne and Matt Kenseth would set the pace after Busch’s exit as they led a combined 273 laps of the 400-lap event. However, the third red flag of the race would pause their efforts after Aric Almirola caused a six-car wreck by making it three-wide.

The lead would change six times over the last 36 laps of the event. Drivers started to make pit stops on Lap 364 but Kahne would cycle back to the lead before the final caution on Lap 385 due to debris.

Everyone except Kahne pitted during the yellow flag and Kevin Harvick passed him on the restart. Harvick pulled away for his second Coca-Cola 600 victory in three years.

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4) 2017 Coca-Cola 600: Austin Dillon stuns late to win 1st Cup Series race

NASCAR: Coca-Cola 600
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 Coca-Cola 600 is one of the most popular runnings of the race and this is due to a notable early wreck and a finish that brought back memories of NASCAR’s “Golden Era” with Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Jeff Gordon.

There were nine cautions during the event with the most notable being Brad Keselowski and Chase Elliott. The No. 24 car significantly slowed down on the front stretch and Keselowski slammed into the back of it, ending their days.

Martin Truex Jr. led 233 laps of the 400-lap race which was by far the most over the course of the event. It would also be delayed by nearly two hours due to lightning and a downpour of rain.

Truex would be the dominant car during the race until green-flag pit stops began with 33 laps to go. However, Jimmie Johnson and six other drivers would try their shot at fuel-saving while Truex and Kyle Busch stormed through the field with fresh tires.

Johnson was in prime position to win the race and hold off the charging fresh tires, but he ran out of fuel with two laps to go and Austin Dillon shockingly inherited the lead.

Dillon would save enough fuel and hold off the hard-charging drivers behind him for his first NASCAR Cup Series victory and the first win for the No. 3 car since Earnhardt, Sr. won at Talladega in 2000.

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3) 2011 Coca-Cola 600: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. faulters late

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Coca Cola 600
Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

The 2011 Coca-Cola 600 is known for its 14 cautions and green-white-checkered finish that stole the hopes of one driver and many race fans. This one still haunts people to this day as one of NASCAR’s most popular drivers lost out on a crown jewel.

Greg Biffle led 103 laps during the 402-lap race which ended up being the most overall. It was another race that didn’t see complete domination. The first 350 laps were full of cautions and lead changes with the longest green flag run being 75 laps to start the event. However, it didn’t go more than 50 laps during green-flag conditions after the Lap 171 caution.

Biffle took the lead at Lap 350 after passing Jeff Gordon and looked to control the race. The driver of the No. 16 car led until Jimmie Johnson lost an engine with four laps to go and created a green-white-checkered finish.

This caused some drivers to come down pit road as the race would go longer than the scheduled distance. Biffle and others would pit while Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr. would try to stretch it on fuel.

Earnhardt Jr. would take the lead on the restart and hit the white flag. Unfortunately, as he entered Turn 4, the driver of the No. 88 car ran out of fuel before being passed by Kevin Harvick for the victory on the last lap.

The top-5 finishers would only lead 17 total laps which showed how the race flipped with the caution flag. Earnhardt Jr. would never go on to win the Coca-Cola 600 despite his efforts.

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2) 2007 Coca-Cola 600: The greatest fuel-saving race in NASCAR history

NASCAR Nextel Cup: Coca-Cola 600
Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

One of the greatest Coca-Cola 600s also tends to be one of the greatest fuel-saving efforts in NASCAR history. It was a wild event that saw 13 cautions and 29 lead changes among 15 drivers.

The most notable caution flew when Jeff Gordon was turned on the front stretch and went back up the track into the wall. Gordon caught some air but the car stayed upright and did not flip.

Kurt Busch led 107 laps during the 400-lap race which was the most before his eventual crash on Lap 186. After Busch’s wreck, no driver would lead more than 30 consecutive laps until Tony Stewart took the lead on Lap 339.

Stewart would control the race until he needed to pit with eight laps to go for fuel as he did not have enough to make it. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Denny Hamlin came in the following laps after inheriting the lead.

However, Casey Mears played the fuel-saving game along with the next three finishes that combined for seven laps led. Mears saved enough fuel and came home with his first and only NASCAR Cup Series victory. It is arguably one of the greatest fuel-saving races in NASCAR history as said above.

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1) 2005 Coca-Cola 600: Johnson and Labonte’s legendary battle to the finish

The most historic Coca-Cola 600 occurred in 2005 with a plethora of yellow flags and one of the best finishes in NASCAR history. This race also set the benchmark that all other races now chase in terms of caution flags.

There was a record 22 cautions over the course of the night. A record that still holds its place in NASCAR history for almost 18 years to date. It was a wild race that saw only 30 of the 43 entries finish.

Brian Vickers led 98 laps during the race, which turned out to be the most during the 400-lap event. However, Vickers was involved in a wreck on Lap 380 with four other drivers with the most notable being Jeff Gordon.

There was also a red flag due to an accident involving Joe Nemechek and Scott Wimmer. This would be the final caution of the event before a classic finish would take place in 2005.

On the final restart of the race with five laps to go, Jimmie Johnson restarted in fourth place before moving to second place with four laps to go. It set up for a classic battle with Bobby Labonte. Johnson tried to find a way around Labonte before getting to his outside on the final turn of the race.

Johnson passed Labonte and won by a small margin of 0.027 seconds which is the closest finish in an official event during the track’s NASCAR history. This also marked Johnson’s third straight Coca-Cola 600 as he became the first driver to accomplish this feat.

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