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NASCAR Cup: Brad Keselowski wins Coca-Cola 600

CONCORD, NORTH CAROLINA – MAY 24: Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24, 2020 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

By AMANDA VINCENT

Brad Keselowski raced from the back to the front at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday night to win his first Coca-Cola 600. The win also was his first of the season but the third for Team Penske in the first seven races of the season.

“I’m tickled to death,” Keselowski said. ”One [crown jewel race] left — the Daytona 500. It’s been a great 10-year career I’ve had so far, and I hate it took me 10 years to get this one. I feel like I’ve had cars and a team good enough to do it many times over, and it just slipped through our hands, and today it didn’t. I’m just really proud of everyone, and persistence pays off.”

Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott finished second and third. Johnson took the checkered flag 0.3 seconds behind Keselowski.

Elliott was the leader of the race, having taken the lead from Keselowski with 37 laps remaining in the 400-lap scheduled distance, when another Hendrick driver, William Byron, wrecked in the closing laps. As a result, the race went into overtime, and Elliott was the only frontrunner to head for pit road during the caution.

For Keselowski’s team, the call to stay out was a no-brainer.

“We’ve lost too many races that way, and I knew we had to take the chance,” Keselowski said. ”If it didn’t work out, I knew it was the right call.”

After Elliott pitted, he restarted the race in the back of the top-20, but on newer tires, while Keselowski and Johnson restarted on the front row.

Because of the overtime restart, Sunday night’s race because the longest race in NASCAR history. Keselowski started the NASCAR marathon in the back because of an unapproved change inside his car before the race.

Keselowski, though, was close enough to the front by the time the yellow flag waved for Joey Gase just past lap 350 to get out of the pits second to Johnson and, then, take the lead from Johnson on the restart.

Elliott started the race in the third position, but he also had to race back to the front after an extra pit stop to remove a spring rubber at the halfway point of the race.

Another of Johnson and Elliott’s teammates, Alex Bowman, dominated the first half of the race. After Kurt Busch started on the pole and led the first 54 laps, Bowman took only two tires after a red flag for rain to assume the lead.

By lap 200, Bowman had led 140 laps and won two stages. Aside the opening laps led by Busch, the only other laps not led by Bowman in the first two 100-lap stages were laps during a cycle of green-flag stops in the second stage.

The first stage ended under caution after Clint Bowyer hit the wall hard on lap 97.

“It knocked the wind out of me, there,” Bowyer said. ”I mean, we’re 100 laps into a 400-lap race, and to be out already, you talk about a helpless feeling. The guys worked really hard on the Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 Delvac Ford, but it just wasn’t meant to be.  We’ll get ready for next Wednesday and we’ll be back at it. I’m gonna go somewhere and  take this thing off and find somewhere where I can find a cold beer. I’m outta here.”

Bowman led 163 laps before another driver, Martin Truex Jr., finally took command of the race on lap 224, and by the end of the race, Bowman led a race-high 164 laps. 

Truex led about half of the laps that made up the third stage, but Joey Logano was one of three drivers to stay out during a caution for a Matt Kenseth wreck on lap 275. Despite being on older tires, Logano was able to remain up front until the third stage ended at lap 300.

Matt DiBenedetto used a two-tire strategy to get off pit road first after the third stage to restart with the lead. He was able to maintain the position until Truex retook the lead on lap 312. Johnson passed DiBenedetto for second several laps later. Johnson, then, took the lead from Truex by getting off pit road first during the Gase caution.

“It was a long and typical 600,” Truex said. “You battle the car all night long, and you just keep making adjustments and trying to stay up with the race track. The Bass Pro Toyota was really strong when we started off, and I was able to pick off a few spots and work our way towards the front. I really rode there behind the 88 [Bowman] for the first two stages. I felt like at times we were stronger than he was and just couldn’t make the move. Track position was crazy important tonight with the cooler temperatures and everybody having a year under their belts now with this car. Everybody is getting so close, and they changed the tire and it was way different. It just felt really hard and had really low grip, and it was really bouncy. We tried to keep up with the track, and at times, I felt like we were the best car. When we could get the lead, we could pull away. We had the lead late there in the last stage, early in the last part of the last stage, and just had some trouble in the pits. It seems like every week we’re having a little bit of hiccups here and there, and it set us back. The guys are working hard trying to get better. We win and lose as a team. That was a little bit frustrating, but good job by everyone. We had a strong car and a solid day.”

Ryan Blaney finished fourth, and Kyle Busch was fifth after overcoming a mid-race speeding penalty.

“During the middle stages of the race, I thought we were really fast,” Busch said. “I feel like we had a great M&Ms Red, White, and Blue Camry and ran up front and got back up front from having to go to the back. But we put tires on it, and it was never the same after that from about lap 280 or 290 when we put tires on it ,and it wasn’t the same as it was before that. We were lucky to steal a fifth-place finish out of it today, and we’ll have to go back to work and figure out some things to make our stuff better for when we come back on Wednesday and get back after it. I certainly want to give a huge shout out and a huge thanks to all the men and women who have served for our country her on Memorial Day weekend; we appreciate you. Everyone be safe tomorrow and have fun.”

Kevin Harvick was sixth and Truex wound up seventh. Kurt Busch finished eighth after an unscheduled pit stop for a loose wheel in the final 100 laps. Tyler Reddick was ninth, and Christopher Bell rounded out the top-10.

Below, is the complete finishing order of the Coca-Cola 600:

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Posted by on May 25, 2020. Filed under Breaking News,Cup Series,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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