This year's Coca-Cola 600 was undoubtedly the most fun race I have ever attended, and mind you, I've gone to more than I can remember. The likely cause of this is that I had something to root for. Since 2019 I have gone for Martin Truex Jr. because I enjoyed watching him and Kyle Busch go at it in the 2019 Coca-Cola 600. Though Austin Dillon won that race, it was nice watching Kyle Busch get tested for 600 miles by Truex. That was easily the best race I ever watched, but not the most fun.
Before the 2019 Coca-Cola 600, I did not have an individual driver that I was drawn to unless you count Bobby Labonte when I was six years old. Regardless, I just wanted Kyle Busch to lose, and that's all that mattered to me. However, this season has been a little different.
It started when I found out that there was a NASCAR team headquartered in my hometown of Harrisburg, North Carolina. Most teams in the NASCAR Cup Series are headquartered in Mooresville, Kannapolis, or Concord. But Harrisburg has their team. JTG Daugherty Racing.
I lived in Harrisburg since I was five and finally moved out when I was twenty-two, and it wasn't until I moved to the North Carolina Mountains that I "discovered" that Harrisburg had a team of its own. So for 17 years, I had passed by their headquarters without ever considering it. For two of those years, I passed the headquarters daily as I went to see one of my high school lady friends. The team's headquarters sit on the corner of Caldwell Road and Highway 49, behind the QT.
I started writing articles on the team, and the response that I have had since has been much more amazing than I could have imagined. What has shocked me more than anything is that the team engages with me a lot on Twitter (@DawsonHaywood). I don't mean the occasional like of a tweet sent out to respond to one of their tweets. I'm talking full-blown retweets and mentions by the team, which has over 44,000 followers on the platform. I'm truly grateful for this special attention that they have paid to me for whatever reason, and it has made me a serious fan of the team.
The driver for JTG Daugherty Racing, Ricky Stenhouse, accomplished something the team has never accomplished since joining the Cup Series. Finishing in the Top-10, four races in a row. The team's first full season in the Cup Series came in 2009 and had Marcos Ambrose driving the #47 car. The last time the team finished in the Top-10 three times in a row came late in the 2016 season when A.J. Allmendinger was the team's driver.
Prior to the Coca-Cola 600, Stenhouse finished 8th in Kansas and Darlington and nearly pulled away with a win in Dover but unfortunately placed second. Prior to this run that the team has been on, Stenhouse had been finishing between 28th and 31st for most of the season.
To be able to witness, in person, your favorite team accomplish something the team has never accomplished was truly a gift and on one of the biggest stages in NASCAR. But, it did not come without hardship. This year's Coca-Cola 600 was the longest race in NASCAR history lasting over five hours and nearly 620 miles due to double overtime. This race also nearly broke the record for the most cautions issued in a race with 22. According to CBS, over 25% of the race was under a yellow flag.
Despite the longevity of this race, it was still so fun to watch Stenhouse and the JTG Daugherty Racing team finish in the Top-10. The NASCAR season is still long, but hopefully, the team stays rolling and pulls out with a win soon. It's long overdue. This weekend the Cup Series travels to Madison, Illinois, in the Enjoy Illinois 300. This is the first time we will see the JTG Daugherty Racing team compete at this track.