Why NASCAR called the Coca-Cola 600 after attempting to dry the track after storms

NASCAR didn’t finish its longest race.

The Coca-Cola 600 was stopped more than halfway through due to severe weather. Lighting struck, rain poured — and the red flag was thrown.

It was around 9:30 p.m. Sunday when the race — already official as more than half of it had been completed — was halted after 249 of 400 laps. NASCAR dispatched its Air Titans, jets and blowers to dry the 1.5-mile race track in Cabarrus County, hopeful for a late-night resumption of one of its crown jewel races.

But it never came. And after roughly two hours, Christopher Bell headed to victory lane to celebrate his win in a truncated race.

“Whenever they didn’t call the race and the rain stopped, then it was like, OK, well, there’s no way they’re gonna call the race now,” Bell told reporters. “So, we’re gonna get back after it. I never in a million years thought that I was going to be winning a rain-shortened event — after they didn’t call it whenever the rain stopped.”

Humidity and timing

Increased humidity on Sunday made the track take longer to dry, a Charlotte Motor Speedway spokesman said.

Still, NASCAR and speedway officials were optimistic. The rain had stopped before 10:30 p.m. Sunday, and the track could dry in about an hour. That could have potentially opened the door for a late-night finish.

The high humidity, however, was too much to overcome. The race was called at 11:30 p.m., as officials said it couldn’t have resumed before 1 a.m.

“It was pretty disappointing,” Brad Keselowski, who finished second, told reporters. “Would have liked to have just had more laps and ran the Coke 600. I think we ran the Coke 350 today.”

The delay came as Kyle Larson arrived

Those thunderstorms that wiped out the conclusion of the Coke 600 had been moving east throughout the day.

Earlier, the Indianapolis 500 was delayed about four hours. Kyle Larson had been planning on running in that race and flying to Charlotte for the Coke 600.

But the situation didn’t pan out. Larson finished 18th in the Indy 500 and got into a car immediately following his postrace interview, heading to a helicopter before taking a private jet to North Carolina. He then flew to Charlotte Motor Speedway on a helicopter.

And just as Larson’s golf cart pulled up to pit road, the Coke 600 was under caution for rain.