It’s hard to match the pageantry and elegance of the Coca-Cola 600 prerace show and its Memorial Day weekend tribute to the armed forces. One thing that was most impressive was watching 37 busses filled with approximately 1,500 troops from Fort Bragg, Camp Lejeune and Fort Jackson and their families drive around the track and unload on the frontstretch. For many NASCAR fans, Sunday was a familiar experience, but for the troops it might have been a once-in-a-lifetime moment.
• Who thought the most trouble Kurt Busch would experience during his attempt to complete all 1,100 miles of the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 would come on the Charlotte end of his journey? Busch was not particularly strong during qualifying and did have to start the 600 from the rear of the field after missing the drivers’ meeting, but no one would have guessed a blown engine would end his day early.
• The problems Kevin Harvick’s team is experiencing – thanks to NASCAR’s new Chase format – will not doom the opportunity to compete for a championship. However, they are the type of problems that could dash his hopes of winning his first Sprint Cup title. Harvick’s No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet is consistently one of the fastest every week but has had a slew of pit-road and parts problems that have sidetracked him for chances at even more than the two wins he has.
Kenseth disappointed with finish: Matt Kenseth, who led the series with seven wins last season, has yet to earn a victory this year but was in position to change that Sunday night.
Jimmie Johnson passed Kenseth for the lead with eight laps remaining to deny him the trip to Victory Lane. Kenseth ended up third.
“Whenever your team does everything, everything falls the right way, they put you out in the front at the end of the race, you don’t win the race, you’re always frustrated and disappointed,” Kenseth said. “You don’t get a lot of those opportunities.”
Patrick’s day goes sour: Danica Patrick began this past weekend by earning her third consecutive top-10 start and ran well during Saturday’s final practice, but Sunday’s race didn’t go as she had hoped.
“We weren't really as fast as we needed to be at the beginning. It’s unfortunate for the whole team. It would have been great to keep the run going that we had,” Patrick said.
“I think we still showed some good things this weekend. We’re not going to forget about where we’ve been lately and running better.”
Patrick, who finished 39th, earned a career-best finish of seventh two weeks earlier at Kansas.
McMurray has big month: Fresh off his $1 million victory in the Sprint All-Star Race, Jamie McMurray followed it up with a season-best fifth-place finish in the 600.
McMurrat led 34 laps Sunday, only the second points race this season he has been out front.
“We’ve had such good cars all year long and have not been able to capitalize because of tire issues or just some bad luck so I’m excited we won last week,” McMurray said.
“We ran really good again this week and Dover is one of my favorite tracks. I’m looking forward to getting there.”
Edwards was in position: It appeared Carl Edwards was in position to try to pick up the win by stretching his fuel, but a late caution took that opportunity away.
“The strategy was all over the place. It was fun,” Edwards said. “We didn’t have a way to really win it on pure speed, but to have a shot based on that strategy was really good.”
Where: Dover (Del.) International Speedway
When: 1:15 p.m. Sunday
Radio: Motor Racing Network
Last year’s winner: Tony Stewart
Five Key Moments
1 . Jimmie Johnson, who started from the pole, and Kevin Harvick traded the lead six times during the first 150 laps.
2 . Harvick was forced to pit under green on Lap 263 for a loose wheel that dropped him off the lead lap.
3 . Kurt Busch’s attempt to complete the Indianapolis 500-Coca-Cola 600 double ended with a blown engine after 271 laps.
4 . During the final caution, Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth and Johnson elected not to pit and led the way on the restart on Lap 380.
5 . Johnson ran down Kenseth with eight laps remaining and held off a fast-approaching Harvick to earn his first victory of the season.