Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord, NC — May 26, 2019
If you are a race fan today may be as close to nirvana as you can get. The Monaco Grand Prix started things off early local time with Lewis Hamilton taking the win on the narrow streets of the principality on French Riviera.
The Indianapolis 500 saw Dale Earnhardt Jr. driving the pace car to start the race. Simon Pagenaud out dueled Alexander Rossi, swapping the lead over the final laps, to pull into victory lane and drink the celebratory bottle of milk.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race from Charlotte, the Coca-Cola 600, wraps up the day under the lights.
The Coca-Cola 600 is the longest race on the NASCAR circuit. The 400 laps around the mile and a half Charlotte Motor Speedway used to be an endurance test of engines and vehicle equipment. Today with temperatures in the mid-90s it will be a test of driver fitness and conditioning.
Four Stages of 100 laps make up the race, Kyle Busch(18) won last year’s 600 in dominating fashion taking all four Stage wins. He starts 3rd tonight, William Byron(24) sits on the pole with Aric Almirola(10) on the front row in his Stewart-Haas Ford Mustang.
Red, White & Blue
NASCAR celebrates Memorial Day with an all-out tribute to the military and veterans who have served our country.
Red, white, and blue colors dominate the paint schemes this weekend on the race cars, with some camouflage thrown in for good measure.
Byron, with a push from Kyle Busch, took the lead from the drop of the green flag. The front of the field sorted out quickly into a single file line. Back in the pack, two and three wide racing was the norm. The early mover? Kevin Harvick(4) worked his way from the 5th starting spot to 2nd place 10 laps in.
Erik Jones(20) brought out the first yellow flag of the day on Lap 22. Jones cut down a right front tire and tried to knock down the outside wall in Turn 4. He was Ok but his car was damaged beyond repair.
On the restart, Kyle Busch led the field with Austin Dillon(3) beside him on the front row. Busch did not need a push to rocket off into Turn 1, the rest of the field scramble for position two and three wide. Harvick took the lead briefly in the tri-oval, only to be passed by Kyle Busch on the backstretch. Byron, Dillon, and Martin Truex Jr.(19) filled out the top five a third of the way through the Stage.
Matt DiBenedetto(95) suffered the same fate as Jones, smacking the wall on Lap 47 and bringing out the 2nd caution of the evening. DiBenedetto took his car to the garage also. During pit stops Chase Elliott(9) was caught speeding on pit road, Almirola was penalized for an uncontrolled tire, sending both drivers to the rear of the field for the restart.
Early Battle for the Lead
Back to green and again it’s Kyle Busch and Harvick battling for the lead. This time when Harvick passes Busch he makes it stick. Truex joined the battle and moved into 2nd. He passed Harvick a few laps later. Byron and Brad Keselowski(2) were the other two cars in the top 5.
While leading Truex cut down a tire bringing out the 3rd caution. He was able to keep the car under control, just brushing the wall. After a couple of stops in the pits, the #19 car was able to remain on the lead lap and continue racing.
Back to green and trouble struck again. Kyle Busch and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(17) bumped on the entry to the tri-oval sending Stenhouse spinning through the artificial turf across from the start/finish line. Installation of the fake grass has kept cars from digging into the turf and doing damage to the splitter and front fascia. Stenhouse was able to change flat spotted tires and continue in the race.
Keselowski, who had taken the lead just before the caution, restarted on the front row with Harvick. As the pair fought for the top spot, the field stacked up behind them three and four wide. Daniel Hemric(8) lost control in the tri-oval sliding high and unto the bumper of Clint Bowyer. Tapping the wall cost Hemric some damage to the car, luckily everyone behind avoided getting caught up in the incident.
Restarting with 5 laps to go in the Stage, Keselowski maintained the lead. Despite a late charge from Harvick, Keselowski held on for the stage win.
Stage 1 Results
|19||Martin Truex Jr.||2|
* Ford Mustang Drivers
With five cautions in the first stage, what will be in store for Stage 2? Denny Hamlin(11) took the lead off the restart after the Stage ending pit stops. Harvick, Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson(48), and Elliott followed.
It took 26 laps for the caution to make an appearance. Another right front tire failure, this time on the car of Chris Buscher(37), brought out the yellow flag. Most of the leaders pitted, but Elliott, Truex, Joey Logano(22), Ryan Blaney(12), and Daniel Suarez(41) chose to stay on the track.
Blaney weaved through traffic and took the lead on the restart. Until his teammate, Keselowski passed him on the next lap. Halfway through the Stage Harvick had closed on Keselowski making it a two-car race as Kyle Busch, Hamlin, and Byron trailed the lead pair.
Logano pitted on Lap 152 complaining of being extremely loose. The pits stop dropped the Team Penske driver from the lead lap. On Lap 160 it was Hamlin blowing a right front tire and hitting the wall. Every one of Joe Gibbs Racing cars, except Kyle Busch, has now experienced a right front tire failure. Something in the car setup?
Despite several stops in the pits, Hamlin was able to remain on the lead lap. Byron won the race off pit road, followed by Keselowski, Harvick, Johnson, and Alex Bowman(88).
Byron and Keselowski raced side-by-side for almost two laps until the stars and stripes of the #2 car pulled in front. Things settled down until Ryan Preece(47) hit the wall with another right front tire problem on Lap 188. Setting up a wild run to the end of the Stage.
The race restarted with seven laps to go in the stage. Byron the leader, Bowman in 2nd and Keselowski in 3rd. Bowman took the lead and then with two laps to go he was passed by Keselowski for the Stage win.
At the end of the Stage, the cars were brought down pit road and stopped just before the start/finish line. With engines shut off, the crowd rose for a 30 second moment of silence in honor of every individual who lost their lives in the service of their country. From roaring engines to complete silence, an impressive display!
Stage 2 Results
* Ford Mustang Drivers
After pit stops, it’s Kyle Busch back out front on the restart. Elliott, Harvick, Truex, and Blaney give chase starting the 2nd half of the race. A third of the way through Stage 3, Kyle Busch had built the largest lead of the night, almost two and a half seconds. By the halfway point of the race, Busch had built the lead to over 3.5 seconds. Then Bayley Currey(52) hit the wall out of Turn 2 and slid down the backstretch bringing out the 11th caution of the race.
Truex won the race off pit road and will restart with Kyle Busch next to him on the front row. With a push from Blaney, Truex took the lead. Kyle Busch fought back to pass a lap later until Truex made the cross-over move on the backstretch regaining the lead. In the clean air, Truex began to build the lead.
400 Miles In
At the 400 mile mark, the field seemed content to make laps and ride things out for a while. Single file all the way around the track, everyone is catching their breath for the run to the finish in the Final Stage.
Truex finished out the Stage building almost a four second lead on his teammate Kyle Busch. Keselowski who won the first two Stages finished 14th. A total of 21 cars remained on the lead lap 300 laps into the race.
Stage 3 Results
|19||Martin Treux Jr.||10|
|17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.*||4|
* Ford Mustang Drivers
The Final Stage
With the end in sight, the battle for the win is sure to intensify. Elliott exits pit road 1st and takes the lead on the restart. The scramble for positions gets tight. Kurt Busch spins and takes a wild ride through the tri-oval.
Fortunately, he avoids serious contact with other cars. At the start of the spin, Kurt makes slight contact with his brother Kyle Busch. Slight damage to the right side of Kyle’s car forces him to the pits. One of the fastest cars on the track will have to come from the rear of the field.
The restart has Elliott, Truex, Kyle Larson(42) last weeks All-Star Race winner, Blaney, and Logano leading the pack to the green flag. Trouble erupts on the backstretch and the biggest crash of the day results. Kyle Larson gets sideways, hits Clint Bowyer(42) and the wreck grows. The cars of Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon(3), and Preece are also involved.
The race returns to green with 77 laps remaining and as the laps wind down the intensity continues to build. Three wide down the backstretch drivers are looking for an opening to move forward. Elliott steps out at the front with Truex right behind. Blaney, Logano, and Ryan Newman(6) are the leaders as the field sorts itself out.
Elliott led for 40 laps then Truex moved back to the front with 56 laps remaining. The race may come down to the final pit stop and one more tank of gas will be needed to complete the 600 miles. Bowman entered the pits with 46 to go to change a flat left rear tire. A lap later leader stops began with Keselowski in for service. Harvick followed on the next circuit.
Hamlin cut another tire and brought out the 15th caution of the evening on Lap 359. Giving the field the opportunity to make their final stop for tires and gas under the yellow flag. Truex beat Elliott of pit road. Stenhouse, Blaney, and Newman followed. That order is likely to change at the drop of the green.
The race restarted with 35 laps to go, if you want to win the Coca-Cola 600 now is the time to make it happen. Truex shot forward, Elliott faded back. Penske teammates Logano and Blaney diced it out for 2nd with Kyle Busch closing from 4th.
With Roger Penske winning his 18th Indy 500 earlier in the day, Blaney and Logano were trying to complete the Memorial double. No team owner has ever won Indy and Charlotte on the same day. With 20 laps to go in the 600, only Martin Truex stood in the way of that happening.
Blaney picked up a serious vibration in the middle of the corners he pitted with 10 laps to go. Just as Keselowski slid off Turn 4 after bouncing off the wall. With the caution displayed, Blaney drove through the pits to remain on the lead lap. The leaders all hit pit road for fresh tires.
David Ragan(38) stayed out and inherited the lead. Newman took two tires and exited the pits first. The pair line up on the front row for the restart. Truex, Kyle Busch, Elliott, and Logano will follow them to the green.
It was four wide down the backstretch for the lead. By the time they made it back to the start/finish line, it was Truex, Logano, Kyle Busch, and Elliott at the white flag. As Hamlin crashed on the backstretch, Truex drove under the checkered flag to take the win.
Next week it’s Pocono. The following weekend The Lasco Press will be back with Live Coverage of the FireKeepers Casino 400 at our home track Michigan International Speedway.
Results of the Coca-Cola 600 from Charlotte Motor Speedway
|1||19||Martin Truex Jr||—||400|
|5||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr||2.374||400|
Points / Playoff Standings
|7||Martin Truex Jr.||396||3|
|Playoff Cut Line|
|20||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.*||267||0|
*Ford Mustang Drivers