Ryan Blaney Ends NASCAR Cup Series Winless Streak with Win at Charlotte

After going 59 races without a Cup Series win, Ryan Blaney breaks the streak with an emotional win on Memorial Day at Charlotte Motor Speedway

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Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord, NC — May 29, 2023

Charlotte Motor Speedway was set to host the NASCAR Cup Series for the 64th running of the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday. It was to be a weekend filled with remembrance of 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, as well as those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defending their country.

Rain has plagued the Charlotte area since overnight Friday, causing the race to be postponed until Monday. Unfortunately, much of the pageantry had to be cut from the pre-race agenda as track crews were still trying to prep the racing surface after a noon-time shower delayed the Xfinity Series race for the third time.

With a window of blue skies and some sunshine, race officials will try and get the Cup Race on the track and will finish the remaining laps of the Xfinity later this evening. Barring further weather interruptions.

Charlotte Motor Speedway History

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 Motor Speedway (oval) has hosted 124 NASCAR Cup Series races all-time – tied with Darlington Raceway for the fourth-most in series history; behind Daytona (152), Martinsville (149) and Richmond (133). The first NASCAR Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway was on June 19, 1960 and the inaugural event was won by driver Joe Lee Johnson driving for car owner Paul McDuffie.

Charlotte Motor Speedway has also produced 54 different NASCAR Cup Series race winners in the 124 races, led by Jimmie Johnson with eight victories (2003 summer, 2004 sweep, 2005 sweep, 2009 Playoffs, 2014 summer, 2016 Playoffs).

A total of 10 of the 54 NASCAR Cup Series Charlotte Motor Speedway race winners are entered this weekend, with five of the 10 still looking for their first victory of the 2023 season – Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, and Austin Dillon.

Active Race Winners (10) Wins Seasons
Jimmie Johnson 8 2016, 2014, 2009, 2005 sweep, 2004 sweep, 2003
Martin Truex Jr 3 2019, 2017, 2016
Kevin Harvick 3 2014, 2013, 2011
Brad Keselowski 2 2020, 2013
Denny Hamlin 1 2022
Kyle Larson 1 2021
Chase Elliott 1 2020
Kyle Busch 1 2018
Austin Dillon 1 2017
Joey Logano 1 2015

 

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin is the defending winner of the 2022 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.

Coca-Cola 600 Sells Out for Second Consecutive Year

Charlotte Motor Speedway has announced the 64th running of the Coca-Cola 600, this year’s Memorial Day Weekend is sold out of reserved grandstand seats for the second consecutive year. Only a limited number of standing-room-only and premium terrace box tickets remain for the May 28 NASCAR Cup Series showdown at America’s Home for Racing. Infield camping and Camping World Racing Resort are also sold out.

Fans from across the nation and 18 foreign countries – as far away as Australia, Tanzania, and the Czech Republic – have secured tickets to the iconic Memorial Day Weekend showcase of speed this year.

As it has each year for nearly a decade, the NASCAR community will come together to formally honor and recognize the United States Armed Forces during Military Appreciation Month through the annual NASCAR Salutes Together with Coca-Cola program.

NASCAR and Coca-Cola will again host Gold Star Families during Memorial Day weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where the show car with fan messages will be on display. Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 will continue the tradition of all 40 NASCAR Cup Series cars featuring the name of a fallen service member on the windshield.

Charlotte Motor Speedway is a Great Place for First-Time Winners

When it comes to getting your first win in the NASCAR Cup Series, nowhere beats Daytona International Speedway with 22 first-time winners. But when it comes to 1.5-mile tracks, none have produced more first-time winners than Charlotte Motor Speedway with 10 – fourth-most all-time behind Daytona (22), Talladega (13), and Martinsville (12)

The most recent driver to win his first career NASCAR Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway was Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon, who collected his first checkered flag back in 2017. Seven times the Coca-Cola 600 has been the first race a driver has won in the NASCAR Cup Series – 1961, 1994, 1995, 2000, 2007, 2009, 2017.

First-Time Cup Winners at Charlotte Date
Austin Dillon Sunday, May 28, 2017
David Reutimann Monday, May 25, 2009
Casey Mears Sunday, May 27, 2007
Jamie McMurray Sunday, October 13, 2002
Matt Kenseth Sunday, May 28, 2000
Bobby Labonte Sunday, May 28, 1995
Jeff Gordon Sunday, May 29, 1994
Charlie Glotzbach Sunday, October 20, 1968
Buddy Baker Sunday, October 15, 1967
David Pearson Sunday, May 28, 1961

 

The 2023 season has yet to see a first-time winner this year, but that could change this weekend. In the Modern Era (1972-Present), the most first-time winners the NASCAR Cup Series has produced in a single season is five, and it has occurred three times (2001, 2011, and 2022).

Today’s Race

Qualifying was rained out for the first time ever in the history of the Coca-Cola 600. The starting lineup was set by the provisions in the NASCAR rule book. William Byron and Kevin Harvick are in the front row to start the race.

Jimmie Johnson is competing in today’s race. He will start at the rear of the field without a qualifying attempt.

Alex Bowman, driver of the No. 48 for Hendrick Motorsports, will return to NASCAR Cup Series competition this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway after recovering from a fractured vertebra.

Bowman, 30, suffered the compression fracture on April 25 while competing in a sprint car at 34 Raceway in West Burlington, Iowa. On Tuesday, he drove a Cup Series car 170 laps during a NASCAR-approved medical evaluation test at North Wilkesboro Speedway.

“It’s a boost for all of us to have Alex return to the No. 48 car this weekend at our home track,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “He’s still 17th in points, which says a lot about how well the team performed at the start of the year. Alex has worked hard to rehab the injury and come back strong, and I look for him to continue having a championship-caliber season.”

Bowman remains eligible for the 2023 Playoffs after NASCAR granted a medical waiver.

With the Cup Series drawing closer to the postseason, Charlotte offers playoff contenders an additional Stage to garner points in today’s race. The 600 miles around the 1.5-mile speedway will be split into four Stages of 100 laps each.

The Start

William Byron(24), Kevin Harvick(4), and Denny Hamlin(11) fell into line at the front of the field and began to put some distance between themselves and the pack. Kyle Busch(8) and Ryan Blaney(12) joined the lead group as the fast cars began working their way to the front.

One of the biggest early movers was Martin Truex Jr.(19), as he joined the top five after starting in the 18th position on the grid after just 10 laps.

Moving in the wrong direction is Harvick as he quickly dropped out of the top twenty.

Each Stage of the race will require a pitstop as the fuel window is approximately 65 laps. Most teams will try and split the 100 laps of each segment of the race, getting fresh Goodyear tires at almost every stop.

Stage One

NASCAR scheduled a competition caution for around lap 35 to give teams a chance to see how their cars were responding to the green race track that was washed down by the weekend’s excessive rain.

After the yellow flag pit stops, Byron was first off the pit road. He was followed by Blaney, Christopher Bell(20), Brad Keselowski(6), and Hamlin.

On the restart, it looked like Byron might pull away. However, it was Blaney who put his Ford Mustang at the front of the pack with a power move down the backstretch.

With 63 laps on the board, Bell took the lead away from Blaney. Byron had dropped to the third spot, with Keselowski and Hamlin still hanging tough in the top five.

The first caution for cause occurred on lap 74 when Jimmie Johnson(84) spun off turn two and slid backward into the outside wall on the backstretch. The timing of the caution was perfect, as the entire field took the opportunity to pit under the yellow flag.

Byron, again, was first off the pit road, followed by Blaney, Bell, Hamlin, and a newcomer to the top five, Tyler Reddick(45). The green flag waved with 21 laps to go, and the scramble for positions was on.

With 10 laps to go, Blaney had closed to the rear bumper of Byron. Their battle for the lead brought Bell, Reddick, and Truex into the mix for the maximum Stage points that are awarded to the segment winner.

Blaney got beside Byron and actually nosed ahead. Running side-by-side, they cut a big hole in the air, and Bell closed up on the bumper of Byron. Byron held on for the Stage win, but Bell edged out Blaney for second.

Stage One Results

POS CAR DRIVER POINTS
1 24 William Byron 10
2 20 Christopher Bell 9
3 12 Ryan Blaney* 8
4 45 Tyler Reddick 7
5 19 Martin Truex Jr. 6
6 11 Denny Hamlin 5
7 8 Kyle Busch 4
8 6 Brad Keselowski* 3
9 5 Kyle Larson 2
10 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

During the Stage ending caution period, Michigan’s Erik Jones took his car to the garage with a radiator issue.

Stage Two

The front of the field remained the same with the exception of Michael McDowell, who did not pit and inherited the lead. He did not remain there long as the cars with fresh tires quickly relegated him to mid-pack.

While the players at the front of the pack remained the same, the order in which they ran changed again. Bell moved to the lead, with Reddick trying to get close enough to put some pressure on. Blaney, Keselowski, and Byron filled out the top five spots.

Keselowski was the first of the leaders to pit under the green flag. He came down pit road on lap 146. The remainder of the lead pack came a lap later.

Service stops shuffled the leaderboard. Reddick took over the top spot. Keselowski moved to second, followed by Blaney, Truex, and Bell. As soon as everyone finished their pit stops, the caution flag was brought out for rain on the track over turns three and four.

The red flag came out on lap 158, just 42 circuits short of an official race. The race track is soaked, and the jet dryers have been called out to try and get back to racing conditions.

During the red flag stoppage, there was an incident on pit road. Aric Almirola had a discussion with Bubba Wallace(23) that ended with the mild-mannered Almirola shoving Wallace as a NASCAR official stepped between the two.

We will have to wait for post-race interviews to find out what that was all about.

When the red flag was lifted, Christopher Bell was sent to the rear of the field for the restart. His crew made unapproved adjustments to his race car when all work is supposed to cease during the stoppage.

Joey Logano(22) was also penalized for equipment interference in the pits when one of his tires rolled out of his pit area. He joins Bell at the back of the pack.

Just after going green, Jimmie Johnson spun again, hitting the outside wall on the backstretch, and the race went back under caution. Johnson’s car was towed to the garage.

Kyle Larson(5) has not been a factor all day. During the caution periods, his crew threw everything at the car in the way of adjustments trying to make it competitive for the second half of the race.

Finally, back to racing, Reddick led. Blaney, Truex, Chris Buescher(17), Truex, and Chase Elliott(9) made up the top five.

On Lap 175, another incident occurred. Kyle Busch drifted up the track on the backstretch and made contact with Keselowski forcing the #6 car into the outside wall. Busch spun and had to come to pit road for attention. When the pits opened, Keselowski came down so his crew could check the car over after the contact.

The best news of the day? More blue sky and more sunshine, and it looks like this will become an official race when the lap count reaches 200.

Blaney outran the leader into turn one, taking over the lead.  Buescher also passed Reddick to move into second.

On lap 185, Hamlin got loose coming to the start/finish line and forced Elliott into the outside wall. Elliott retaliated by turning down into Hamlin, wrecking both cars out of the race. Elliott complained to his crew over the radio that Hamlin had run over him twice in the last four laps. Contrary to rumor, Ross Chastain(1) had nothing to do with the incident.

Hamlin said Blaney should be suspended for the intentional hook job. Elliott said after contact with the wall, his car was not driveable. Hmm.

After early race woes, Harvick dropped to the 30th position. With 10 laps to go in the Stage, Harvick was back in the top five.

Blaney was the leader at the restart. Buescher passed him before they got back to the line. Then Harvick moved into second place. Keselowski also made a pass on Blaney, as did Joey Logano. Blaney finished the Stage in sixth place.

Stage Two Results

POS CAR DRIVER POINTS
1 17 Chris Buescher* 10
2 4 Kevin Harvick* 9
3 6 Brad Keselowski* 8
4 22 Joey Logano* 7
5 54 Ty Gibbs 6
6 12 Ryan Blaney* 5
7 20 Christopher Bell 4
8 24 William Byron 3
9 1 Ross Chastain 2
10 23 Bubba Wallace 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Oh, and Yes, the race is now official.

Stage Three

After pit stops, Kyle Busch and Ricky Stenhouse Jr(47) lined up on the front row. It only took a lap before Harvick and Logano hooked up and blew past them. The Fords have struggled on mile-and-a-half tracks this year. However, at Charlotte, they appear to have figured things out. Blaney joined the front two, and they began to pull away from the pack.

Maybe it can be attributed to the sunshine as more blue skies have appeared than we have seen all weekend. Blue Skies / Blue Oval, hmmm.

On lap 231, Christopher Bell lost control off turn four and slid through the Roval chicane and unto the pit road. That will give everyone an opportunity to pit under yellow and could give some teams the chance to run the remainder of Stage Three without another stop.

After pit stops, Byron was out front, followed by Harvick, Blaney, Ty Gibbs(54), and Logano. Look who is lurking just outside of the top five. Kyle Larson.

Blaney moved to the front, and Reddick’s car seemed to come back to life as the sun descended below the front grandstand. He ran second as the top two moved away from Larson in third and Byron in fourth.

A caution on lap 274 is going to set up a real sprint to the finish of Stage Three. Keselowski and Todd Gilliland(51) got together and spun on the backstretch. Damage to the number six car is going to put a damper on what was a great early run.

Byron keeps getting off pit road first with great work from his crew and the advantage of being in the number one pit stall. But it’s Ryan Blaney who returns to the front after just a few laps of green flag racing. Behind those two, the contenders keep mixing up the running order.

With five laps to go in the Stage, Reddick had closed to the rear bumper of Blaney. But catching is one thing. Passing is another. Add a third car to the mix as Truex moves up to make it a three-way race. They cross under the green and white checkered flag in that order.

Stage Three Results

POS CAR DRIVER POINTS
1 12 Ryan Blaney* 10
2 45 Tyler Reddick 9
3 19 Martin Truex Jr. 8
4 24 William Byron 7
5 54 Ty Gibbs 6
6 5 Kyle Larson 5
7 8 Kyle Busch 4
8 4 Kevin Harvick* 3
9 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 2
10 48 Alex Bowman 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

The Final Stage

Again it’s Byron out front and Blaney in second. Larson, Gibbs, and Reddick follow. And again, Blaney leads by the time they return to the flag stand. Reddick goes past Byron on the next lap.

With daylight beginning to fade, it will be interesting to see if any driver’s car gets extra racy when the sun goes down. Kyle Busch is a candidate. He moved past Byron 20 laps into the Final Stage.

Tyler Reddick got loose off turn four and drove through the infield grass of the first dogleg. Back onto the track at speed as if nothing happened. However, Kyle Busch, smelling blood in the water, closed and made the pass for second place. Blaney’s lead interval was over two-and-a-half seconds.

The caution came out on lap 343, another perfect timing for the potential last pit stop of the race. Michael McDowell pitted just before that, his crew failed to get the right front wheel tight, and it came off on the backstretch.

The race off pit road went to Byron with Reddick, Kyle Busch, and Blaney in tow. Will not starting on the front row present a problem for Blaney at this critical point in the race?

Blaney followed Reddick on the restart, and the #45 car slipped. Byron held onto the lead, with Larson moving into second. Kyle Busch ran third, and Truex sat fourth, just ahead of Blaney in fifth.

Blaney had little trouble with Truex, passing for the fourth spot. On lap 358, Harvick slid up into Reddick and spun through the front stretch grass bringing out the caution for the 14th time.

Almost everyone pits again. Of course, Byron is first off, Larson is second, with Blaney third and Busch in the fourth spot. The “choose rule” will line them up with Blaney behind Byron. Zane Smith(38) did not pit and starts on the front row next to Byron and Larson behind Smith.

At the drop of the green flag, Larson goes to the middle to make it three wide. However, coming back to the line, they start wrecking at the back of the pack. Logano, AJ Allmendinger(16), and Harrison Burton(21) were involved, and all continued with minor damage.

The restart came with 31 laps to go. Byron and Blaney are in the front row. Larson and Reddick are in row two. Byron got a big jump on Blaney and pulled down in front of him in turn one. But Austin Cindric(2) spun on the backstretch, and the 16th caution of the event was displayed.

Yes, Byron and Blaney are in row one. Larson is joined by Truex, this time in row two. A better start by Blaney has them side-by-side in turn one. Out of turn two, Larson gets loose and spins. He collects Bell, Logano, and Gibbs in the incident. Most importantly, Blaney was ahead of Byron when the caution was displayed, giving Blaney the lane choice for the restart.

20 Laps to Go

Blaney takes the high side, and Byron the bottom lane. Truex behind Blaney pushes him to the lead, and Byron is able to squeeze between them for second when they separate on the backstretch.

Like every time he has gone to the lead, Blaney begins to build an interval. Truex maintains the third spot, and Wallace runs up to pass his teammate Reddick for fourth.

With 10 laps to go, Blaney leads by 6/10ths of a second. With five to go, it was over a one-second advantage.

Ending a 59-race winless streak, Blaney does it with a win in one of NASCAR’s Crown Jewell events. It also provided his boss, Roger Penske, a Charlotte victory to go with his Indy 500  win yesterday. The first time Team Penske accomplished the Memorial weekend sweep in the same year.

Blaney carried the name of SGT David Kenneth John Kreuter, who lost his life in Afghanistan in 2005, into victory lane with him.

Aric Almirola shed light on his pit road difference of opinion with Bubba Wallace during the red flag. According to Aric, the two had a racing incident on the track, and Bubba gave him a hand gesture when he passed him. During the stoppage, Aric asked why Bubba felt the need to flip him off. Bubba responded with a profane outburst. Aric shoved him away and said he was not going to be cussed out over it.

Playoff Standings

Alex Bowman moved back above the cut line in his first race back. Despite never contending for the win, Ross Chastain retained the regular season points lead by four over William Byron. Ryan Blaney became the 10th different winner in the Cup Series in 2023.

RK DRIVER POINTS STATUS
1 William Byron 442 In Win(3)
2 Kyle Busch 392 In Win(2)
3 Kyle Larson 377 In Win(2)
4 Ryan Blaney* 445 In Win
5 Martin Truex Jr. 433 In Win
6 Christopher Bell 429 In Win
7 Tyler Reddick 409 In Win
8 Denny Hamlin 400 In Win
9 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 358 In Win
10 Joey Logano* 357 In Win
11 Ross Chastain (Points Leader) 446 +154
12 Kevin Harvick* 438 +146
13 Brad Keselowski* 394 +102
14 Chris Buescher* 368 +76
15 Bubba Wallace 327 +35
16 Alex Bowman 296 +4
NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Cut Line
17 Chase Briscoe* 292 -4
18 Ty Gibbs 281 -15
19 Daniel Suarez 276 -20
20 Corey LaJoie 258 -38
21 Austin Cindric* 254 -42
22 Michael McDowell* 250 -46
23 Justin Haley 247 -49
24 Todd Gilliland* 244 -52
25 AJ Allmendinger 237 -59

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Results of the Coca-Cola 600 from Charlotte Motor Speedway

POS CAR DRIVER BEHIND LAPS
1 12 Ryan Blaney 400
2 24 William Byron 0.663 400
3 19 Martin Truex Jr. 1.053 400
4 23 Bubba Wallace 2.552 400
5 45 Tyler Reddick 2.668 400
6 8 Kyle Busch 3.533 400
7 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 5.119 400
8 17 Chris Buescher 6.181 400
9 3 Austin Dillon 6.567 400
10 38 Zane Smith 7.171 400
11 4 Kevin Harvick 8.149 400
12 48 Alex Bowman 8.243 400
13 41 Ryan Preece 9.277 400
14 16 AJ Allmendinger 9.673 400
15 31 Justin Haley 9.891 400
16 15 JJ Yeley 11.555 400
17 7 Corey LaJoie 12.958 400
18 21 Harrison Burton 13.295 400
19 6 Brad Keselowski 13.627 400
20 14 Chase Briscoe 13.981 400
21 22 Joey Logano 15.376 400
22 1 Ross Chastain 15.526 400
23 99 Daniel Suarez 17.132 400
24 20 Christopher Bell 22.764 400
25 10 Aric Almirola 25.096 400
26 54 Ty Gibbs -2 398
27 77 Ty Dillon -3 397
28 34 Michael McDowell -4 396
29 78 BJ McLeod -8 392
30 5 Kyle Larson -23 377
31 2 Austin Cindric -31 369
32 43 Erik Jones -59 341
33 51 Todd Gilliland -135 265
34 9 Chase Elliott -215 185
35 11 Denny Hamlin -215 185
36 42 Noah Gragson -283 117
37 84 Jimmie Johnson -285 115