Wild Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Ends in Double Overtime with Hamlin Winning

0
1195
Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord, NC — May 29, 2022

On this Memorial Day weekend, Charlotte Motor Speedway hosts the NASCAR Cup Series for the 63rd running of the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday at 6 pm. In a weekend filled with remembrance for the brave men and women who are serving or have served in our military. The annual event takes pride in honoring our service members and their families.

During the broadcast of the Coca-Cola 600, FOX will display the name of every U.S. Armed Forces member who lost his or her life since last year’s Memorial Day weekend race as part of a special tribute titled “FOX Sports Remembers,” an initiative begun in 2009. FOX’s scroll began running during its pre-race show at 5 pm.

NASCAR Salutes Together with Coca-Cola returns for its eighth season, celebrating the service and sacrifice of U.S. service members and their families. “In partnership with NASCAR, Coca-Cola is proud to honor our nation’s Armed Forces during The Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend,” said Sue Lynne Cha, Vice President of Integrated Marketing Experiences for Coca-Cola North America.

Amid all the pomp and ceremony drivers prepared to race in one of the biggest events of the year, one of the crown jewels of NASCAR racing. Carrying the name of a fallen service member on the windshield of their race car. “Racing to Remember.”

Goodyear tires reflect the theme for the evening “Honor and Remember.” / NASCAR Photo

Charlotte Motor Speedway

Charlotte Motor Speedway is one of the most historic venues on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule. The famous facility is a 1.5-mile, paved oval with 24 degrees of banking in the turns and is located just outside Charlotte, North Carolina.

Charlotte has hosted 123 NASCAR Cup Series races all-time. The fourth-most in series history behind Daytona (150), Martinsville (147), and Richmond (131). The first NASCAR Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway was on June 19, 1960, and the event was won by driver Joe Lee Johnson driving for car owner Paul McDuffie.

Charlotte Motor Speedway has also produced 53 different race winners in the 123 Cup Series races, led by Jimmie Johnson with eight victories (2003 summer, 2004 sweep, 2005 sweep, 2009 Playoffs, 2014 summer, 2016 Playoffs). Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. (2016, 2017, 2019) and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick (2011, 2013, 2014) lead all active drivers in Charlotte wins with three each. Nine of the 53 former Cup Series Charlotte Motor Speedway winners are entered this weekend, with four of the nine still looking for their first victory of the 2022 season – Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, Austin Dillon, and Brad Keselowski.

Tonight’s Race

The longest race on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule, 600 miles, is also the only race of the year that has four stages. The Coca-Cola 600 requires 400 circuits around the 1.5-mile speedway. Stages are split equally at 100/100/100/100 laps. The bonus points from the additional Stage come at a critical time as the points battle for the final playoff positions has begun to heat up.

Hendrick Motorsport’s driver Kyle Larson is the defending winner of the 2021 Coca-Cola 600 and will look to become the seventh different driver to win back-to-back Coke 600s; joining Buddy Baker (1972-‘73), Darrell Waltrip (twice: 1978-’79 and 1988-’89), Neil Bonnett (1982-’83), Dale Earnhardt (1992-’93), Jeff Gordon (1997-‘98) and Jimmie Johnson (2003, ’04, ’05) – Johnson leads the series in consecutive Coca-Cola 600 wins with three straight.

To do so, Larson will have to come from the back of the starting grid as an accident in practice required his crew to make major repairs to the race car.

Damage to Kyle Larson’s race car during Saturday practice created a significant amount of work for his crew to repair prior to Sunday’s race. / NASCAR Photo

Denny Hamlin sits on the pole for tonight’s race. With a win this weekend, Denny Hamlin could join an elite club.

Crown Jewel Winners

Three major pillars within the NASCAR Cup Series schedule, some even refer to them as the ‘Crown Jewel events’ of the series – the Daytona 500, the Southern 500, and this weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway – are all extremely difficult to win by themselves. But, even more so, is conquering all three. In NASCAR Cup Series history only 11 drivers have won all three major events, and with a visit to victory lane this weekend, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin could be the 12th.

NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon leads the series in ‘Crown Jewel’ wins with a combined 12 victories across the three events – three Daytona 500 wins (1997, 1999, 2005), six Southern 500s (1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2007) and three Coca-Cola 600s (1994, 1997, 1998).

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick is the only active driver to already accomplish the feat with five combined victories across the three historic events – one Daytona 500 (2007), two Southern 500s (2014, 2020), and two Coca-Cola 600s (2011, 2013).

Stage One

Just 18 laps into the race and three different drivers already held the lead. Denny Hamlin(11), Kurt Busch(45), and Kyle Busch(18). Kyle was out front when a spin coming off turn four involved the number 15, 16, and 17 cars. Ryan Preece(15), Noah Gragson(16), and Chris Buescher(17) created the strange number symmetry as they slid onto the front tri-oval with only significant damage to Preece’s car.

Kyle Busch was back out front after the first pit stops of the day. Followed by Bubba Wallace(23), William Byron(24), Tyler Reddick(8), and Hamlin. Shortly after going back to green, Josh Bilicki(77) spun to bring out the caution again. Many drivers, unhappy with the setup on their cars, returned to pit road for additional adjustments.

Kyle Busch led again on the restart, but the fastest car on the track was Daniel Suarez(99) moving through the pack to the front. Suarez caught and passed Busch, as the two drifted up the track in turn two, Busch lost control and spun. Missing the outside wall, Busch was able to avoid damage, he did flatten the right rear tire in the slide down the banking. The incident caused Kyle to lose a lap to the field as his crew made repairs in the pits.

Problems continued as Corey LaJoie(7) spun, just 15 laps later, doing considerable damage to his car. The caution allowed Kyle Busch to return to the lead lap as the recipient of the “lucky dog.”

Back to green flag racing, Chase Elliott took a turn at the front of the pack, leading Reddick, Byron, Christopher Bell(20), and Ross Chastain(1). Elliott held on for the Stage win.

Kyle Larson started the race in last place and raced himself into the top-20. Only to be penalized for a pit road infraction and sent to the rear again. Moving up through the field he encountered more trouble in the pits and was sent to the back with another penalty. Larson finished the Stage in 29th place.

Stage One Results

POS CAR DRIVER POINTS
1 9 Chase Elliott 10
2 8 Tyler Reddick 9
3 20 Christopher Bell 8
4 1 Ross Chastain 7
5 23 Bubba Wallace 6
6 12 Ryan Blaney* 5
7 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 4
8 19 Martin Truex Jr. 3
9 48 Alex Bowman 2
10 11 Denny Hamlin 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Stage Two

After Stage ending pit stops, Elliott retained the lead and led on the restart. Chastain, Bell, Wallace, and Ryan Blaney(12) rounded out the top five. Chastain became the eighth different leader when he passed Elliott 11 laps into the Stage.

Bubba Wallace brought out the sixth caution flag of the race when he spun through the tri-oval turf coming to a stop on pit road where he coasted into his pit stall. The caution allowed the leaders to pit and Elliott was first off pit road to regain the top spot.

Kyle Larson’s tough night continued as his fuel man spilled some gasoline down the side of the race car during his stop and it caught fire from the heat of the exhaust. It was soon blown out as the car went down pit road and fire crews sprayed the pit stall to extinguish the fuel that hit the ground.

Cautions continued as Austin Cindric(2) blew a left rear tire and crashed hard into the wall just 18 laps into the green flag run. The wreck sent the Team Penske Ford Mustang to the garage and out of the race.

Blaney and Larson stayed out while the rest of the pack pitted gaining important track position. The question will be, “can they hold onto it” against the fresh tires behind them. Elliott made quick work of the pair taking the lead by the time they returned to the start/finish line.

Both drivers got loose on the old tires with Larson spinning off the track in front of the entrance to pit road bringing out the eighth caution of the race.

Back to racing and Trackhouse Racing stagged a battle for the lead as Chastain and Suarez both passed Elliott on the restart. With laps winding down to the end of the Stage, Elliott tried to pass Suarez, he managed to move in front of the #99 car but slid up the track and tapped the wall. Coming around to the front stretch, Elliott spun into the tri-oval turf similar to Wallace and Larson.

The race restarted with nine laps to go to the end of the Stage. As the leaders scrambled for positions the front of the field jumbled up and Blaney went spinning mid-pack after hitting the apron of the track. The resulting melee took a lot of cars out of the race.

In addition to Blaney, Kevin Harvick(4), Brad Keselowski(6), Elliott, Hamlin, Gragson, Martin Truex Jr.(19), Harrison Burton(21), Wallace, Byron, Michael McDowell(34), Todd Gilliland(38), and Kurt Busch were all involved to some degree. Only Harvick, Hamlin, Gragson, Truex, Burton, McDowell, and Gilliland were able to continue.

Track crews cleaned up the racing surface and the green flag waved with four laps to go. Erik Jones(43) joined the battle for the lead moving into second, but could not hold the spot as Suarez and Chastain finished one-two.

Stage Two Results

POS CAR DRIVER POINTS
1 99 Daniel Suarez 10
2 1 Ross Chastain 9
3 43 Erik Jones 8
4 14 Chase Briscoe* 7
5 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 6
6 22 Joey Logano* 5
7 4 Kevin Harvick* 4
8 19 Martin Truex Jr. 3
9 8 Tyler Reddick 2
10 20 Christopher Bell 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

The NASCAR pace car brought the field down pit road and the drivers shut off their race cars. While pit crews stood on the pit wall displaying American flags with Honor and Remember flags the entire speedway paused for a moment of silence.

Stage Three

Halfway through the race, the cars from Trackhouse Racing were the dominant factors. Suarez and Chastain led at the restart, but just 18 laps in Harvick brushed the wall and slowed dramatically causing NASCAR to bring out the caution for the 13th time.

Pit stops scrambled the front runners as Chastain and Joey Logano fought for the lead with Chase Briscoe(14) and Kyle Busch following. Suarez was one of the leaders who came to pit road for fresh tires and he started well back in the pack. By the midpoint of the Stage, he had returned to second place behind his teammate Chastain.

Suarez had just taken the lead when Gragson spun in the familiar spot off turn four for the 14th caution of the evening. The entire field took advantage of the caution period to get fresh tires and fuel.

The restart came with 42 laps to go in the Stage, with Chastain and Briscoe fighting for the lead. On the longest green-flag run of the race, Chastain held it together to take the green and white checkered flag at the end of Stage three.

Stage Three Results

POS CAR DRIVER POINTS
1 1 Ross Chastain 10
2 14 Chase Briscoe* 9
3 5 Kyle Larson 8
4 8 Tyler Reddick 7
5 99 Daniel Suarez 6
6 22 Joey Logano* 5
7 41 Cole Custer* 4
8 17 Chris Buescher* 3
9 3 Austin Dillon 2
10 11 Denny Hamlin 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

The Final Stage

A new driver out front early in the Final Stage, Reddick gets past Chastain on the restart and becomes the 13th different leader of the race. Larson, Suarez, and Briscoe are all in the mix.

With 77 laps to go, Chastain was back out front while Reddick complained of a vibration. On lap 339 his right rear tire went flat and as debris littered the track the 16th caution of the race was displayed.

All the leaders came to pit road, but it was too early to avoid another stop for fuel and tires to finish the race. However, with the frequency of incidents experienced already, it’s likely another caution will slow the field before the checkered flag.

Just after going back to green flag racing Suarez got loose at the front of the pack. He spun around and collected Chase Briscoe, Todd Gilliland, and Chris Buescher. Somehow the remainder of the field avoided the collision. Briscoe avoided major damage, Gilliland crunched the front end of his car, but the back end of the Suarez car was destroyed. Buescher came out the worst in the incident as he barrel rolled 10 times side-over-side through the end of the pit road. The car ended up on its roof with Buescher trapped inside.

NASCAR was forced to bring out the red flag as safety crews attended to Suarez and Buescher. Suarez exited his car quickly. A tow truck arrived on the scene shortly afterward to pull Buescher’s car into an upright position and he climbed out unscathed.

The impact of the initial crash ripped a wheel off the front of Buescher’s car. Held to the frame by a retaining strap, the wheel dug into the turf and got pinned under the car initiating the roll-over. The driver’s safety cage remained solid, protecting Buescher from injury. Interviewed after he exited the infield care center he said it still hurt to make that many rotations trapped inside the car. Well Chris, wait until tomorrow.

Chastain took the field back to the green flag when the race restarted. But, it was the hard-luck driver of the race, Kyle Larson, taking the lead into the final laps of the night. Briscoe also passed Chastain for second as the number one car did not have the same speed after resuming racing.

The Finish

With 15 laps to go, Briscoe had closed to within a car length of the leader. Larson hugged the top of the track making it difficult for Briscoe to make the pass. Chastain, Hamlin, and Custer were the remainder of the top 5, but not close enough to be a factor at the end.

Both Christopher Bell and Aric Almirola(10) got into the wall during the final 10 laps, but neither incident brought out the caution. With five laps to go Briscoe made the pass, but could not pull up in front of Larson to lock down the position.

With three laps to go, Briscoe was next to the leader again. This time Briscoe could not hold the line and he spun down the track, bringing out the 19th caution.

Everyone came to pit road for fresh tires to make the two-lap sprint to the finish in NASCAR overtime. Most of the contenders took just two tires. Larson, Chastain, Logano, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(47) held down spots in the first two rows coming to the restart.

But it was Austin Dillon(3) coming out of nowhere (6th on the restart) to go into the lead as they raced four-wide out of turn four. Of course, a wreck occurred as the track is not that wide. The caution waved again sending the race into overtime number two. Chastain, Dillon, Larson, Truex, Logano, Custer, and Stenhouse were involved.

For the second shot at a green-white-checkered finish, Hamlin and Chastain lead with Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick just behind in row two. Chastain quickly dropped back at the drop of the green as damage sustained in the wreck kept him from being competitive. Busch replaced him with a run that brought him even with Hamlin. They raced to the white flag without incident as Hamlin pulled back out front.

Denny Hamlin became the improbable winner of the 2022 Coca-Cola 600, completing his career sweep of NASCAR’s Crown Jewel races. Busch finished second and Harvick third as only 16 cars remained on the lead lap at the end of the race.

Denny Hamlin Celebrates His Win in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte / NASCAR Photo

Playoff Standings

RK DRIVER POINTS STATUS
1 Ross Chastain 455 In Win(2)
2 William Byron 420 In Win(2)
3 Denny Hamlin 309 In Win(2)
4 Chase Elliott 489 In Win
5 Kyle Busch 452 In Win
6 Joey Logano* 423 In Win
7 Alex Bowman 415 In Win
8 Kyle Larson 412 In Win
9 Chase Briscoe* 349 In Win
10 Austin Cindric* 294 In Win
11 Kurt Busch 289 In Win
12 Ryan Blaney* 436 +94
13 Martin Truex Jr. 430 +88
14 Christopher Bell 400 +58
15 Kevin Harvick* 373 +31
16 Tyler Reddick 350 +8
NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Cut Line
17 Aric Almirola* 342 -8
18 Austin Dillon 328 -22
19 Erik Jones 321 -29
20 Daniel Suarez 301 -49

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Results of the Coca-Cola 600 from Charlotte Motor Speedway

POS CAR DRIVER BEHIND LAPS
1 11 Denny Hamlin 413
2 18 Kyle Busch 0.119 413
3 4 Kevin Harvick 0.665 413
4 14 Chase Briscoe 0.785 413
5 20 Christopher Bell 1.217 413
6 8 Tyler Reddick 1.527 413
7 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 1.572 413
8 34 Michael McDowell 1.601 413
9 5 Kyle Larson 1.695 413
10 48 Alex Bowman 1.727 413
11 21 Harrison Burton 2.215 413
12 19 Martin Truex Jr. 2.302 413
13 42 Ty Dillon 2.701 413
14 43 Erik Jones 3.265 413
15 1 Ross Chastain 6.350 413
16 38 Todd Gilliland 7.176 413
17 10 Aric Almirola -1 412
18 51 Cody Ware -1 412
19 78 BJ McLeod -6 407
20 22 Joey Logano -8 405
21 41 Cole Custer -8 405
22 3 Austin Dillon -8 405
23 50 Kaz Grala -13 400
24 16 Noah Gragson -27 386
25 99 Daniel Suarez -67 346
26 17 Chris Buescher -67 346
27 31 Justin Haley -70 343
28 23 Bubba Wallace -213 200
29 12 Ryan Blaney -218 195
30 6 Brad Keselowski -220 193
31 45 Kurt Busch -222 191
32 24 William Byron -222 191
33 9 Chase Elliott -225 188
34 2 Austin Cindric -268 145
35 7 Corey LaJoie -353 60
36 77 Josh Bilicki -382 31
37 15 Ryan Preece -397 16