Martin Truex Jr. dominates Coca-Cola 600
Martin Truex Jr. leads the way in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 29, 2016 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).
By AMANDA VINCENT
Martin Truex Jr. claimed his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win of the 2016 season in dominating fashion Sunday night, leading all but eight laps of the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C. Truex’s dominance in NASCAR’s version of an endurance race was record-breaking. His 392 laps led in the 400-lap race set a new record for most laps led in a Coca-Cola 600. Also, by leading 588 miles of the 600-mile total distance, Truex led more than any driver has led in a single Sprint Cup race at any track, ever.
“It feels awesome,” an emotional Truex said in victory lane. “Coca-Cola 600, man, this is one everybody wants to win. I feel like we had this thing won last year when we gave it up and, just, I don’t know. There are so many emotions. I had to unplug my radio and just ride around and think for a few minutes, because I didn’t even know what I was going to say or what I was going to do.”
Kevin Harvick passed Jimmie Johnson just inside 50 laps to go and finished second. Johnson was third.
“We struggled the first 450 miles, but they kept swinging at it and were finally able to find some tire pressures that were better,” Harvick said of his crew. “At the beginning of the race, we were just having the same problem getting in the corner and then sliding the back of the car up off the corner, and towards the end, we got the car on the race track a lot better and were able to really start driving it like we needed to keep up.”
Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top-five.
No one was able to complete a pass on Truex at any time during the race. Of the eight laps not let by the eventual race winner, all but one came during cycles of green-flag pit stops. On two restarts, Johnson was able to get the nose of his car ahead of Truex, and one of those times, he nosed out at just the right time to be credited with leading a lap.
“They (Truex and the No. 78 team) have had a few runs where they have just been the class of the field, and things have kept them from victory lane,” Johnson said. “Tonight, he wasn’t going to be denied; there was no way around that.”
Joey Logano and Hamlin ran second and third to Truex early in the race before Johnson moved up from his seventh-place starting spot. By lap 17, Johnson was up to third. By lap 68, he was second. Johnson ran second to Truex throughout much of the remainder of the race.
Logano continued to be a mainstay inside the top-three until a pit road penalty during green-flag pit stops on lap 254. As a result of the penalty, he went a lap down. He eventually got back on the lead lap, though, and finished just inside the top-10 in ninth.
Carl Edwards found himself in the top-three after the same cycle of stops, but his time near the front was short-lived, as he was assessed two pit road speeding penalties during the next cycle of stops just before lap 300. He was caught speeding on pit road during his initial stop for service and then was nabbed speeding again serving the first speeding penalty. Edwards wound up 18th at the checkered flag.
Finishing sixth through 10th were Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, Chase Elliott, Logano and Ryan Newman. Both Elliott and Newman overcame pit road speeding penalties before scoring top-10 finishes.