Taking the checkered flag at any NASCAR race comes with shiny trophies, accolades and large paychecks. But we like to think one of the more sought-after awards is the one given each year at the conclusion of the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte, N.C. For the last four years, Coca-Cola has established a tradition of refreshing the winning driver with a vintage vending machine.
It all started with a suggestion made by a… professional
golfer. Ben Reiling, director of motorsports marketing at Coca-Cola, recalls
the 2009 conversation with Padraig Harrington in Atlanta during the Tour
Championship presented by Coca-Cola. Reiling says it was Harrington who suggested one
of the antique vending machines would make a great prize for the winner of the
tournament. Setting the wheels in motion, Reiling called in
Coke’s golf team. They pulled it together last minute, and the first
machine was awarded that weekend to Phil Mickelson.
That same night, Reiling and his team spoke with Coke’s NASCAR partners about securing a machine for the Coca-Cola 600. And the rest, as they say, is history. Every year since, winners of both the Tour Championship by Coca-Cola and the Coca-Cola 600 have driven away with classic, 1950’s-era Coke machines. All of the machines are fully restored and operational.
This year’s Coca-Cola 600 release is a Vendo 39 model, renovated by Terry Kimble of Remember When Collectibles in Grayson, Georgia. The machines are valued around $10,000 and, we hope, are considered priceless by the drivers who have received them.
To see the machines that have stood in the winner’s circles over the years and for a sneak peek of this year’s machine, enjoy our slideshow:
Do you think a member of the Coca-Cola Racing Team will take home the trophy this year? Race fans, let us know who you think will be going home with the Vendo 39 in the comments section below.