NASCAR: Coca-Cola 600


The longest race of the NASCAR season, at Charlotte Motor Speedway, ended late on Sunday night after lengthy rain delays.

At the 1.5-mile track, the race was divided into four stages of 100 laps, creating a total of 400 laps.

At the start of the race, polesitter Kevin Harvick led the field to the drop of the green flag, side-by-side with Kyle Busch as they fought for the lead immediately. It didn’t take long for Busch to take the lead from Harvick on Lap 2 after Harvick’s #4 Mobil 1 Ford got tight in Turn 4.

It was a clean start to the race until a bizarre moment happened on Lap 20 when Jeffery Earnhardt blew his engine on the frontstretch in front of the leaders, leaking oil on the track and causing Brad Keselowski to ram in the back of Chase Elliott’s car as Elliott was slowing down after hitting some of Earnhardt’s flying debris, ending the race for both drivers.

Harvick regained the lead from Kyle Busch at the first restart. However, Busch was able to close in on Harvick and steal the lead from him as Harvick was making his scheduled green flag pit stop with 36 laps to go in Stage 1.

After the green flag stops cycled through, Martin Truex Jr. was the new race leader with a big gap over Busch. Nonetheless, Busch was able to catch Truex to retake the lead in less than 20 laps to take the first stage win.

The yellow flag pit stops were completed with Harvick beating everyone off pit road followed by Truex in second and Matt Kenseth in third. Harvick chose the outside line for the restart but it didn’t stop Truex from taking the lead from him at the start of Stage 2, getting clear air and eventually opening the gap.

On Lap 125, Harvick came in for an unscheduled pit stop after radioing to his team that he may have a flat tyre. The team determined that he had a loose left-rear wheel while Harvick returned to the track a lap down.

After a long green flag run, the second caution came out for Matt DiBenedetto who cut a tire and smacked the wall, ending his race early. The race then fell under a red flag due to lightning striking outside the track and quickly bringing heavy rain to the area for a brief period. The race was stopped for an hour and forty minutes but the event was able to continue after the Air Titans dried the track up.

On Lap 175, Danica Patrick brought out a caution for hitting the wall. Some of the lead lap cars pitted except for Paul Menard who stayed out and got to restart in first place. However, it didn’t take long for Truex to take the lead again and go on to become the winner of Stage 2.

In Stage 3, Truex was still the race leader after winning the race off pit road. The drivers following behind him were Jimmie Johnson, Kenseth, Kyle Busch and Jamie McMurray.

The race resumed on Lap 207 as Truex took control of the race for most of the stage.

During green flag pit stops, Ty Dillon blew his engine at Turns 3 and 4, leaking oil and causing Harvick to hit it in Turn 4 and send his car spinning down to pit road. Amazingly, he saved it without significant damage. Kasey Kahne and Trevor Bayne were also victims of the wreck.

Johnson stayed out during the yellow flag pit stops, putting him in the lead and Truex lined up behind him. The race resumed on Lap 253 and Truex had another good restart and passed Johnson in Turn 2 for the lead.

With eight laps to go in Stage 3, Kyle Larson smacked the wall, bringing out the caution.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr would take the lead after the lead lap cars pitted while Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch were lined up behind him.

The race restarted on Lap 298 and Hamlin quickly grabbed the lead from Stenhouse and was able to hold off Busch for the final three laps to win Stage 3.

During the last stage, the last round of green flag pit stops occurred as the leaders, Busch and Truex, made their scheduled stops while Jimmie Johnson stayed out after pitting on Lap 330 and right behind him was Austin Dillon who tried the fuel mileage game.

The last few laps were intense as Johnson was told by his crew chief, Chad Knaus to save fuel, whilst Dillon closed the gap for the lead quickly.

Meanwhile, Truex and Busch, who had already made their stops, were both on a mission to catch back up to the leaders.

A dramatic turn of events happened on Lap 399 when Johnson ran out of fuel, giving Dillon the race lead, followed by Truex and Busch, making it a three-way battle for the win. On the final lap, Busch got around Truex for second and was aiming to steal the win from Dillon. But no one was able to stop him as Dillon came to the exit of Turn 4 to capture his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victor, surviving a fuel scare.

Kyle Busch finished second; Truex had to settle for third after leading the most laps, Kenseth came home fourth and Hamlin rounded up the top five.

Next up for the drivers is a tough challenge at the “Monster Mile” in Dover, Delaware on Sunday.