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‘... just oil everywhere:’ How the Coca-Cola 600 ended so early for two favorites

NASCAR driver Chase Elliott, left, watches from the door frame of his car as Brad Keselowski, right, heads toward him during a wreck heading into Turn 1 at Charlotte Motor Speedway during Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600.
NASCAR driver Chase Elliott, left, watches from the door frame of his car as Brad Keselowski, right, heads toward him during a wreck heading into Turn 1 at Charlotte Motor Speedway during Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Chase Elliott and Brad Keselowski entered Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 as two of the favorites to possibly win the 400-lap race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Then they exited together.

Just 19 laps into the race, debris flew off the back of Jeffery Earnhardt’s car as he rounded Turn 4. Elliott attempted to dodge the material and some leaked oil, but he lost control, prompting Keselowski to plow into the back of his car.

“Somebody broke, and there was just oil everywhere and I couldn’t turn,” Keselowski said. “I ran into the back of Chase. Somebody broke in front of him and then he ran over what they broke and then he broke.

“So there were two cars broke in front of me and just oil everywhere. You couldn’t stop and turn. You couldn’t do anything.”

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NASCAR drivers Chase Elliott, left and Brad Keselowski, right, kick up smoke during a wreck heading into Turn 1 at Charlotte Motor Speedway during Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600. Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

The bottom of Elliott’s front end burst into flames as he tried to slow down. Keselowski then rear-ended Elliott, who was in fifth place at the time of the incident, which resulted in a caution that took the place of the previously scheduled competition caution on Lap 25.

Both drivers exited their cars under their own power following the collision, but the damage their cars sustained forced them to withdraw from the race.

For Elliott, the early exit resulted in his fourth straight race in which he failed to finish within the top 20.

Lynyrd Skynyrd played live on the track before the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte, and many tributes were made to the U.S. Military including performances and a pre-race ceremony.

“This is just disappointing,” Elliott said. “(Earnhardt) broke something, I guess, and I hit it and it was pretty hard whatever I hit. It destroyed our nose, and I saw some fire. Brad couldn’t get stopped. I hate it. It’s such a bummer.”

Keselowski, who entered Sunday tied with Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr. for the NASCAR Cup Series wins lead with two, shared a similar sentiment.

“It’s a real bummer for our team,” Keselowski said. “We had a really fast Miller Lite Ford, and I think we had a shot at winning tonight. But that’s how it goes.”

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Brad Keselowski, left, and Chase Elliott entered Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 as two of the favorites to possibly win the 400-lap race. Then they exited together. Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Pat James: @patjames24

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