You like bumping? Rubbing’s racing? Wrecks, passes for the lead, long runs on a longer summer night? And a five-lap shootout, winner take all?
The 60th Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway certainly had all that — and then much, much more. At the end, Martin Truex Jr. drove away for his second 600 victory.
In recent years, the 600 had become, well, somewhat dull by NASCAR standards. Lots of follow-the-leader and a lack of lead changes — just ask Truex Jr. in 2016 and Kyle Busch last season. Instead, this year’s iteration of the crown jewel race absolutely lived up to expectations, and may even go down as one of the best races so far this Cup Series season.
When a caution came out with 10 laps left, that set up a five-lap dash to the finish and an insane restart. David Ragan opted not to pit, instead setting up a situation where Truex and challenger Joey Logano had to battle to get by one another. Truex made a risky pass going four-wide, and Logano hit him in the rear bumper, shaking the No. 19 loose.
But Truex, somehow, hung on. He steadied himself. Stabilized what had been anything but a stable race. And from there, Truex only had to drive away for his second 600 victory.
Which he did, same as he did three years ago at this track. Let the celebration — from NASCAR, fans, and of course the entire Truex team — commence.
Stage 1: Pole winner and Charlotte native William Byron held the lead for the first 25 laps or so, but the stage was defined by the most cautions (5) in 600 history that early in the race. While Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., and Kevin Harvick all led at various points, ultimately Brad Keselowski was the beneficiary of the latest caution and won Stage 1.
Stage 2: Another few cautions marred Stage 2, but a top tier of drivers started to separate themselves. Most notably, Hendrick Motorsports landed three cars in the Top 5, and Jimmie Johnson wasn’t far behind at 11th. Brad Keselowski outran Alex Bowman and William Byron on fresher tires after the final restart on lap 193.
Stage 3: Truex collected his second stage win of the season in Stage 3 by building himself a small cushion in the final 25 laps. Busch, Chase Elliott, and Ryan Blaney were next after Truex, but Denny Hamlin — who finished the stage 10th — had arguably the fastest car as the track transitioned from day to night.
Stage 4: The final stage didn’t get real good until the last 40 laps, when a restart set the stage for the race’s closing laps. Truex held off challengers in Elliott and Joey Logano to maintain his lead, and after Elliott got lost in traffic, it was a two-man show vying for the lead. From there, Logano looked for a push from teammate Ryan Blaney behind him, but instead a caution from Keselowski with 10 to go changed the trajectory of the race. Truex and Logano went four-wide on the subsequent restart, but Truex got the inside edge and held off for the next four laps to win his second race this year.
Three who mattered
Martin Truex Jr.: After hitting the wall in the first stage, who would have expected Truex to pull off the win? He even survived a late tire rub and fending off the defending Cup Series champ, but now he has three wins in his last five races.
Joey Logano: He was practically kissing Truex’s rear bumper for 30 laps in the final stage, and he almost punted him on the final restart. Still, Logano ended up just barely running out of time and had to settle for second.
Chase Elliott: His Hall of Fame dad Bill Elliott spent his entire career chasing a 600 win — and he never got one. It looked as if Elliott might earn one for the family name with 40 laps to go, but lap traffic ended up costing the younger Elliott his first crown jewel race.
▪ Heck of a prerace job by honorary pace car driver and WWE star Charlotte Flair. The daughter of 16-time world champion Ric Flair, she took part in driver introductions and even helped Fox Sports with its gridwalk, interviewing Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano minutes before the start of the race.
▪ NASCAR respect for the military is unparalleled among American sports, and that was on full display Sunday. In addition to customary prerace tributes and the 600 Miles of Remembrance program, NASCAR held a touching 30-second moment of silence after Stage 2 to honor fallen soldiers. One final notch in that belt: 100-year-old World War II veteran Sidney Walton was also in attendance.
▪ Tire issues were a constant throughout the race, but most notably affected the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas. Erik Jones blew his right front and slammed into the wall early in Stage 1, ending his day before it began. Then both Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin had the same thing happen, although both were able to continue racing. Goodyear later told reporters that the combination of low tire pressure and a high load contributed to all three cases.
They said it
“This is for everybody who gave their life so we could be out here tonight.” – Truex.
Finish, start, driver, car, laps
1. (14) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 400.
2. (7) Joey Logano, Ford, 400.
3. (3) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 400.
4. (12) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 400.
5. (9) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ford, 400.
6. (22) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 400.
7. (13) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 400.
8. (15) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 400.
9. (1) William Byron, Chevrolet, 400.
10. (5) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 400.
11. (2) Aric Almirola, Ford, 400.
12. (30) Corey LaJoie, Ford, 400.
13. (19) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 400.
14. (17) Paul Menard, Ford, 400.
15. (31) David Ragan, Ford, 400.
16. (18) Ryan Newman, Ford, 400.
17. (20) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 400.
18. (6) Daniel Suarez, Ford, 399.
19. (21) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 398.
20. (26) Matt Tifft, Ford, 398.
21. (10) Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 398.
22. (23) Michael McDowell, Ford, 398.
23. (28) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 397.
24. (8) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 397.
25. (29) Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 396.
26. (34) Parker Kligerman(i), Toyota, 396.
27. (11) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 396.
28. (39) Quin Houff, Chevrolet, 396.
29. (36) BJ McLeod(i), Chevrolet, 395.
30. (37) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 389.
31. (24) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, Suspension, 343.
32. (40) Joey Gase(i), Toyota, 334.
33. (25) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, Accident, 315.
34. (4) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, Accident, 315.
35. (33) Bayley Currey(i), Ford, Accident, 245.
36. (35) Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, Suspension, 134.
37. (32) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, Oil Cooler, 108.
38. (38) Cody Ware(i), Ford, Rear Gear, 51.
39. (27) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, Accident, 47.
40. (16) Erik Jones, Toyota, Accident, 22.
Average Speed: 124.074 mph.
Time of Race: 4 Hrs, 50 Mins, 9 seconds.
Margin of Victory: 0.330 seconds.
Caution Flags: 16 for 80 laps.
Lead Changes: 30 among 11 drivers.
Lap Leaders: W. Byron 1-24;K. Busch 25-49;W. Byron 50;K. Harvick 51-54;K. Busch 55-58;K. Harvick 59-62;M. Truex Jr 63-73;K. Harvick 74;D. Hemric ‥ 75-81;B. Keselowski 82-90;K. Harvick 91-95;B. Keselowski 96-106;D. Hamlin 107-127;C. Elliott 128-130;M. Truex Jr 131;R. Blaney 132-133;B. Keselowski 134-162;W. Byron 163-167;B. Keselowski 168-189;A. Bowman 190-193;W. Byron 194;A. Bowman 195-198;B. Keselowski 199-203;K. Busch 204-252;M. Truex Jr 253-258;K. Busch 259;M. Truex Jr 260-303;C. Elliott 304-343;M. Truex Jr 344-392;D. Ragan 393-395;M. Truex Jr 396-400.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Martin Truex Jr 6 times for 116 laps; Kyle Busch 4 times for 79 laps; Brad Keselowski 5 times for 76 laps; Chase Elliott 2 times for 43 laps; William Byron 4 times for 31 laps; Denny Hamlin 1 time for 21 laps; Kevin Harvick 4 times for 14 laps; Alex Bowman 2 times for 8 laps; Daniel Hemric ‥ 1 time for 7 laps; David Ragan 1 time for 3 laps; Ryan Blaney 1 time for 2 laps.