A back flip and a sandwich is what Carl Edwards will have after the Coca-Cola 600. After pitting on a caution with 60 laps left in NASCAR’s longest race, the newest driver at Joe Gibbs Racing was able to save enough fuel to win his 24th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
Edwards held off former Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle after leaders Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex, Jr., amongst others, headed to pit road within the last 35 laps. In doing so, the Missouri native has scored his first triumph with Joe Gibbs Racing after recording one top 10 in his first 11 races in the No. 19 Toyota. The victory marks Gibbs’ 117th win in the Cup Series, and gives Edwards a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Truex, who led a race-high 131 laps, which is the fifth largest amount of laps led in his career, finished fifth at Charlotte. The Furniture Row Racing team was in position to contend with Hamlin for the win, but after the final pit stop, he was a lap behind Edwards. However, he continues to sit second in points with 11 top 10s in 12 races.
Hamlin had to be sent to the infield medical center following the race after experiencing a migraine headache in the late stages of the race. After short pitting due to a loose wheel, he finished eighth on an evening where he led 53 laps.
Rounding out the top five were Dale Earnhardt, Jr., pole sitter Matt Kenseth and Truex.
Kyle Busch made his return to the Cup Series during the All-Star Race last weekend, but the Coca-Cola 600 was his first time back in a points-paying event. Busch ran inside of the top 15 early on, but struggled with a loose condition. As the race continued, he moved into the top 10, and evidently cracked the top five – running as high as second during the 600-mile race. He finished 11th, which is considered a victory as he told reporters following the race that he experienced no pain throughout the race.
Jimmie Johnson spun twice during the race. Getting lucky on his first spin – similar to Kansas – he was headed back to the front of the pack. However, on Lap 273, the No. 48 car got loose coming off Turn 4, and hit the SAFER Barrier entering pit road. Johnson finished 40th, 30 laps down.
“We came in with an aggressive mindset to bring an aggressive set-up in the car, drive aggressively and take chances,” Johnson said after the second incident. “We just don’t have anything to lose. Unfortunately, we didn’t get long enough into the race for the aggressive set-up to come into play. Another 30/40 laps we would have had the car right where we wanted it. I just didn’t make it there.”
Running in his final Coca-Cola 600, Jeff Gordon flew in from Indianapolis on Sunday afternoon. Gordon drove the pace car in the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500, and finished 15th at Charlotte.
It’s NASCAR’s longest race. Recently, each one of these events comes down to fuel mileage. This year should be no different.
The Coca-Cola 600, formerly known as the World 600, enables teams to bring their family members to the track, and they get to spend more time with their families because of it. As part of the Memorial Day ceremonies, NASCAR teams and drivers unite on this special weekend with a sign of patriotism seldom seen in any other sport. And in the midst of NASCAR’s homeland,
During a test at Charlotte over the off-season, Kevin Harvick was seemingly the best car at the 1.5-mile speedway. Harvick was strong during the Sprint All-Star Race on long runs, and that is going to be important going into the homestretch of an event which he has won twice in the past. The move to Stewart-Haas Racing has started to pay dividends for the 38-year-old driver. However, the rest of SHR did not perform well during the Sprint Showdown and the All-Star Race, and this might be a weekend where things can turn around for the organization. SHR has done well on fuel mileage races this year, taking risks late in events in order to gain as many as 15 spots late in races such as Tony Stewart at Las Vegas.
After winning the Sprint All-Star Race, Jamie McMurray has plenty of momentum going into the Coca-Cola 600, which he finished second in during the 2010 edition of the event. Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates has done well as of late with Kyle Larson joining the organization this year, and if the All-Star Race was an indication of how the team will run at the All-Star Race, both drivers should contend for top-10 finishes.
Track position was a key during both races last weekend. Drivers which took two tires to get towards the front of the pack were able to stay up there for the most part. During the All-Star Race, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon had two of the strongest cars, yet they did not have the track position to compete for the lead. Gordon ended up getting involved in a wreck, and Johnson finished sixth because he did not have a short-run car.
Johnson has not won a points paying event at Charlotte since October of 2009, but he has been strong on the intermediate tracks this season. Even though he has yet to score a victory after winning the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship, Johnson is going to be a contender during the Coca-Cola 600. If Johnson can have a clean race, he might show the dominance which he had at Charlotte before the repave nearly a decade ago. Johnson’s teammate, Kasey Kahne, is also going to be a contender this weekend, especially after having a dominant car during the Sprint All-Star Race, leading 20 laps before smacking the wall multiple times.
Kurt Busch will be exhausted after the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday evening. Busch will be racing a backup car in the Indianapolis 500 for Andretti Autosport, all while racing his Sprint Cup Series vehicle for SHR. Busch will have Parker Kligerman as his backup driver in case the Indianapolis 500 is delayed, but even if Busch can’t start the race, he will be able to qualify the No. 41 Chevrolet, making him still eligible for the Chase for the Sprint Cup as long as he is inside of the top-30 in points after Richmond in September.
However, even though the usual suspects will contend for the win this weekend, the Coca-Cola 600 provides an extra 100 miles that no other event does. Patience is going to be extremely key during this event. Drivers have a notorious history for over-driving their cars during the early stages of the race. With this race going from the sun beaming down on the track to seeing the night sky glowing above the track, drivers will have to communicate with their crew chiefs the best possible strategy to keeping up with the temperature sensitive track, all the while attempting to stay on the lead lap as green flag runs are at a premium during the Coca-Cola 600.
Here are some notables for the Coca-Cola 600:
-A.J. Allmendinger had an extremely strong car during the Sprint Showdown and All-Star Race. Allmendinger moved inside of the top-10 before being involved in an incident. The alliance JTG Daugherty Racing has with Richard Childress Racing is paying off, and it will show this weekend as Allmendinger attempts to get his fourth top-10 of the year.
-Trevor Bayne returns to the seat of the No. 21 Ford. Bayne made his Sprint Cup Series debut at Texas back in 2010, which is a track with somewhat similar characteristics to Charlotte. He finished 16th in the Coca-Cola 600 in 2013, but is looking for more after recording two top-20 finishes at Las Vegas and Texas this season.
-Blake Koch will make his first of multiple starts for Go Fas Racing this weekend in the No. 32 car. Koch raced at Phoenix earlier this year for Front Row Motorsports, but also missed the race at Las Vegas. Even though Koch won’t be a contender in this event, getting 600 miles on the Sprint Cup Series circuit will be one of the best opportunities he has ever had.
-Brian Scott will return to the seat of the No. 33 Chevrolet for Circle Sport Racing in conjunction with Richard Childress Racing. Scott made his Cup Series debut at Charlotte last October, and will be attempting to make his sixth career start in NASCAR’s top-tier division.
-Michael McDowell returns in the No. 95 Ford this weekend. The team has started to move into the right direction after finishing 30th at Texas after a rough start to the year.
Sunday Night’s Coke 600 had to be one of the most unusual races NASCAR has had in a very long time. The most bazaar incident came on lap 126 when a cable holding up the SkyCam broke and fell onto the track and into the stands. Before anyone knew what had happened, race leader Kyle Busch ran over it and sent it flying. He and many others ran over portions of the cable damaging their cars.
NASCAR red flagged the race and brought the cars down pit road. Dozens of NASCAR Officials surrounded the cars to assess the damage and counted a total of 19 of them that had visible damage from the flying cable; the worst being on the No18 of Busch, the No55 of Mark Martin and the No9 of Marcos Ambrose.
After assessing the damage and giving officials enough time to clean the cable up off of the track, NASCAR had the teams fire the engines and make a trip around the track and back to pit road. This time, they sent them to their pit boxes and did something very unprecedented for NASCAR. They gave the teams 15 minutes to work on their cars.
That gave teams like Martin, Ambrose and Busch, who had to replace the right front and side of his car, 15 minutes to do so and other teams with little or no damage 15 minutes of time to make changes. NASCAR officials surrounded each and every car on pit road and monitored each team. It was organized chaos.
After the 15 minutes were up, the grid was reset and no driver lost his or her spot from before the caution and the race was restarted. Teams, drivers and fans were still scratching their heads wondering, what in the world just happened here?
Did NASCAR handle this bazaar situation correctly? I believe they did. The damage to the race cars had nothing to do with an on-track incident and it would have been unfair to punish the drivers with significant damage by sending them to the back of the pack after making repairs or possibly to the garage.
NASCAR handled this odd situation the best they could and since we usually criticize them and their decisions, I think we should commend them on a job well done. Listening and reading to drivers comments after the race, many agree that NASCAR did it the right way.
“Put them back into position on the same tires, open pit road, and then go ahead and pit,” Matt Kenseth said. “It just turned into a free-for-all. There were some crews with 15 people around the cars, and there was no way an official could have possibly seen what they were working on. But that was nice that the guys got to fix their damage, because it was certainly no fault of their own."
“NASCAR did a great job of actually handling a crisis there because we were hard-done by and they gave us our laps back and we were able to stay in the race and duke it out,” Ambrose said after the race.
It wasn’t just cars that sustained damage. In a statement released, 10 fans were also treated for injuries from the cable falling, three of whom were taken to local hospitals. All were treated and released.
The use of the camera has been suspended indefinitely and an investigation into what caused the failure has begun.
So hats off to those NASCAR Officials who made the call after this bazaar incident and also those who oversaw the happening on pit road; you definitely made the best out of an unforeseen situation.