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By David Rogers. CONCORD, N.C. — Thanks to a weather-shortened Coca-Cola 600 Cup Series race on May 26 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Christopher Bell was declared the winner after 249 of the 400 scheduled laps and a packed house of NASCAR fans didn’t get to see if a late-arriving Kyle Larson, Jr. could improve on the No. 13 position he inherited from early relief driver Justin Allgeier.

BONUS PHOTOS at bottom of article. For best photography viewing on a desktop monitor or laptop, please click on any image for Slide Show mode.

Larson, of course, had already been deprived of a full double-double day when weather delayed the start of the Indianapolis 500 for several hours. Once it got going, Larson, an Indy Car rookie, finished a respectable No. 18 in the 33-car field and crossed the finish line only nine seconds behind leader Josef Newgarden of Team Penske. Newgarden’s time was 2 hours, 58 minutes, 49.749 seconds vs. Larson’s 2:58:58.892 piloting the Arrow McLaren SP car, a partnership involving the California native’s NASCAR team owner, Hendrick Motorsports.

The start of the 2024 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, May 26. Photographic image by David Rogers for High Country Sports

Behind No. 1 Bell in the Coca-Cola 600 race were No. 2 Brad Keselowski, No. 3 William Byron, No. 4 Tyler Reddick and No. 5 Denny Hamlin to round out the top five finishers.

After NASCAR and Speedway Motorsports officials decided to call the race because a restart was unlikely until far after midnight and an uncertain weather forecast even at that, Bell sounded almost apologetic in speaking with reporters.

“It is a win for us but I wanted to race,” he said.

Although they were unlikely to have gotten home until after 3:00 a.m. if the race had been restarted, a lot of fans were angry and felt cheated, booing as Bell took home the honors. They weren’t necessarily booing Bell, but the race-shortening circumstances.

To his credit, Bell led a race-high 90 laps, won Stage 2, and was running in or near the top five throughout the race after starting No. 3, behind pole sitter Ty Gibbs and No. 2 starter Byron.

In his media center comments, Bell noted that not only did he lead laps but was able to pass cars and get back into the lead after losing it. He took particular care to credit his pit crew for helping keep him among the leaders.

“We had great pit stops,” he said.

A moment of silence was observed between Stage 2 and Stage 3 to remember and honor the military veterans. Photographic image by David Rogers for High Country Sports

Racing aside, the Coca-Cola 600 has evolved as an impressive celebration by the stock car racing community as it remembers and honors military veterans who have served and especially those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving their country, as well as the military families who have also been asked to sacrifice.

Speedway Motorsports, Charlotte Motor Speedway, and NASCAR pulled out all the stops for the 2024 pre-race and in-race ceremonies to honor and remember. Each driver had the name of a fallen military veteran on his windshield. Goodyear had an “honoring and remembering” note on the sidewalls of its tires. At the end of Stage 2, the cars all lined up on pit road, turned off their engines, and the entire racetrack recognized a minute of silence to remember those who gave their lives. In pre-race ceremonies, military choral groups sang, helicopters flew over the infield turf in front of the grandstand to deploy and later pick up soldiers. In addition, just as the singing of the Star Spangled Banner was reaching its climax, a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber passed overhead.

A B-2 Spirit stealth bomber passed over the start-finish line at the climactic moment of the National Anthem. Photographic image by David Rogers for High Country Sports

Fans may well have been disappointed by the racing’s end but there was no denying the fan enthusiasm for the race organizers’ planning and logistics for honoring and remembering military veterans.

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