Race Weekend Central

NASCAR 101: Going the Distance

This weekend brings on what many to believe to be the greatest weekend in motorsports, with the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on tap for a weekend full of battling.

These races are all about distance. Charlotte Motor Speedway will, of course, be run for at least 600 miles while the NTT IndyCar Series runs its course through 500 miles on the grandest stage the sport has to offer. Some drivers have been known to tackle both in a single day, just like Kyle Larson plans on doing this year.

There may be a bit of weather in the forecast, but if all goes according to plan, Larson will have quite the distance to go to complete the double. Some quick math will tell anyone that the total between the two races is 1,100 miles. That much is easy, but it’s for just one person, and it only encapsulates the actual raced distance instead of the miles traveled.

Just how far is Larson really going, then? From Charlotte to Indianapolis Motor Speedway is another 578 miles. Larson will at least have to do that after the 500, which would bring the total to almost 1,700 miles, and with the presumed to-and-from driving that will take place throughout the day, should eclipse the 1,700 mark pretty handily.

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For reference’s sake, that’s more than six times the length of the Grand Canyon (277 miles) and just longer than the entire lower 48 states from top to bottom (1,650 miles). It would also take more than 9,000 Eiffel Towers to equal the distance (984 ft.).

Larson would have to do some more legwork to reach distances such as that of, say, the Great Wall of China, which measures in at just over 13,000 miles. There are plenty of other walls that he would be able to best, though. The Berlin Wall was just under 100 miles, and Larson will have that mark obliterated after a few minutes of Indy.

Maybe, then, it is best to look at rivers for a comparison. The Mississippi River runs just a hair under 2,350 miles. If Larson wanted to build in another plane ride, he could very well best that mark. He would have to run the double more than two years in a row, though, to best the mark set by the Nile River (4,132 miles).

For even more staggering numbers, things have to be multiplied. Over the course of the Coca-Cola 600, if all 40 entrants to the race complete the full 600 miles, that leads to a crisp 24,000 total miles shared throughout the field. For the Indy 500, 34 entrants could combine for a total of 17,000 miles covered throughout the day. That’s good enough for almost two complete trips around the earth itself.

With this being the 64th running of the Coca-Cola 600 (38,400 miles) and the 108th running of the Indy 500 (54,000), the two figures combine for 92,400 miles. That would get someone almost halfway to Earth’s moon, which is about 239,000 miles away.

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All this distance talk might have some wondering: Who has the record for the furthest distance driven during a day of NASCAR racing? That title belongs to none other than Justin Haley, who set the record last season by competing in both the Coca-Cola 600 and the Alsco Uniforms 300 on the same day. He clocked almost 900 raced miles that day.

While the distances will always be what impresses some people most about this day, it’s important for other reasons, too. Very rarely do two titans of motorsport get to share the spotlight on the same day.

Yes, there are playoffs and postseason happenings going on in college baseball and the NBA, but those only take up so many time, especially on Sunday. For an entire day, anyone will be able to flip through the channels and find something beautiful.

This Sunday is primed to be the first time in a long time where the sporting eyes of the world are glued to watching people drive very fast and turn left, and as a race fan, that’s music to many an ear.

About the author

wtm174

Tanner Marlar is a staff writer for Sports Illustrated’s Cowbell Corner, an AP Wire reporter, an award-winning sports columnist and talk show host and master's student at Mississippi State University. Soon, Tanner will be pursuing a PhD. in Mass Media Studies. Tanner began working with Frontstretch as an Xfinity Series columnist in 2022.

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