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NASCAR Cup: Denny Hamlin wins attrition-filled Coca-Cola 600


Two overtime restarts Sunday night at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway extended the 2022 Coca-Cola 600 to the longest race in NASCAR Cup Series history and led to a Joe Gibbs Racing battle for the win between teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch. Hamlin won that battle for his second win of the season, joining Ross Chastain and William Byron as multi-race winners in the first 14 races of the year.

“It’s so special. It’s the last big one that’s not on my résumé. It meant so much,” Hamlin said of his latest win. “Man, I just can’t thank this whole FedEx team enough. Jordan Brand, Shady Rays, Toyota, Coco-Cola. I’ve been a Coke family driver for 18 years. Never won the Coke 600 before. This means a lot. Man, we weren’t very good all day. Just got ourselves in the right place at the right time. What a battle there.”

After 413 laps/619.5 miles, Busch finished second while Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Kevin Harvick and Chase Briscoe finished third and fourth. A third JGR driver, Christopher Bell, rounded out the top-five.

“We didn’t have a good enough day to be even in that position, so just a strong fight all night by this M&Ms team,” Busch said. “I give honor to those we remember on Memorial Day weekend. I appreciate the opportunity and being able to do that. We had Sergeant Thiem on here with us this weekend. We tried to come with victory lane and honor him, but unfortunately, one spot short.”

Sunday night’s race was attrition-filled with the two cautions that resulted in overtimes being the 17th and 18th of the race.

Briscoe brought out the 17th caution while racing Kyle Larson for the lead. All lead-lap cars pitted during that caution with some, including Larson and Ross Chastain, taking two tires and others taking four.

Austin Dillon, on four new tires, moved up several positions on the first overtime restart and looked to be close to moving into the lead when he was among the drivers collected in a multi-car crash up front that also involved Larson, Chastain and Joey Logano.

Chastain was next to Hamlin on the front row for the final restart, but with significant damage to his car, Chastain fell outside the top-10 by the checkered flag, finishing 15th after leading a race-high 153 laps.

Most of Chastain’s laps led came in the second half of the race. He last lost the lead to Larson with 47 laps to go in the scheduled 400-lap distance. Larson had raced from the back multiple times by that point after starting in the back because of a practice crash Saturday and multiple pit-road penalties in the first half of the race. At one point in the first half of the race, Larson described the event as the worst race of his life.

“Yeah, long race, thankfully. The first half was a struggle for all of us, but I was especially frustrated with myself,” Larson said. “To rebound from that and have a shot to win, there, late was something to be proud of. Our team fought really hard, so I’m happy with that. Briscoe was really good that long run, there. Wish we would have been just a little bit better, so he never would have got to me to work really hard and, ultimately, spin. You’re kind of gambling on tire stuff, there. I think we took two to try and get ourselves the front row, which we did. I think the four tires was just a little bit better than me and got to my inside there through turns three and four. It’s just really tight racing off of 4. The 3 (Dillon) almost had me cleared and we just made contact, there, and there was a big wreck. Kind of ended my night, there.“

After involvement in the last crash of the event, Larson finished ninth.

Tyler Reddick beat Chastain off pit road after the third 100-lap stage to restart with the lead for the final 100 laps. Chastain retook the lead within the first 25 laps of the final quarter of the race.

Reddick reported a vibration but remained on the race track. The result was a flat left-rear tire that brought out a caution with just over 60 laps remaining.

Reddick recovered to finish sixth.

The restart that followed quickly turned into another yellow flag for a wreck involving Chastain’s Trackhouse Racing teammate Daniel Suarez and Chris Buescher. Buescher’s car flipped multiple times before coming to a rest upside-down.

“We just got caught up in it with our Fifth Third Bank Mustang,” Buescher said. “Our team did a really nice job and made some huge gains through the weekend. I’m really proud of them. We had a good race car. We drove all the way into the top-10 and just got back a little bit, there, and got around cars that really hadn’t been and got caught up in a wreck. It’s unfortunate.”

The race was red-flagged for several minutes as safety personnel turned the car right-side up and Buescher climbed out of his car under his own power, uninjured.

“I do appreciate them for helping me and setting it back over again, so thank you to everybody working for not slamming it back,” Buescher said. “It was nice to be able to get out. The blood is rushing to your head a little bit. I guess I could have pulled the belts and fallen right to the ground, but figured I’d just wait on them.”

Chase Elliott won the first of four 100-lap stages after getting off pit road during a lap-61 caution for Corey LaJoie. Two of his Hendrick Motorsports teammates, William Byron and Alex Bowman, also were in the top-three out of the pits but dropped back in the remaining laps of the stage.

The remaining HMS driver, Larson, meanwhile, had to drop to the back for an equipment violation on pit road during the LaJoie caution. It was the second such penalty for Larson in the race.

Busch took the lead from pole sitter Hamlin on lap 10. After losing the lead to Suarez on lap 46, Busch spun from the second position and off the lead lap.

Suarez and Chastain battled up front in the closing laps of the second stage with Suarez taking the win.

Stage one winner Elliott, meanwhile, ended the second stage in the garage after a spin on lap 187.

Elliott first lost the lead to Chastain on lap 111 but regained the position on pit road during a lap-127 caution for Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.

Chastain, again, took the lead from Elliott on a lap 171 restart. That restart followed a caution on lap 166 for separate spins by Larson and Ryan Blaney, both on older tires after staying out during a caution for Austin Cindric just before lap 150.

Another Blaney spin with nine laps remaining in stage two began a wreck that ultimately collected at least 10 cars, including those of Hamlin, Byron, Brad Keselowski, Wallace, Kurt Busch, Harrison Burton, Michael McDowell and Todd Gilliland, and brought out the 10th caution before the halfway point of the race.

“I was tucked up tight behind the 8 (Reddick), and he was kind of lower than I thought on the frontstretch and kind of ran through the turf, and then, got to one and jerked right, and I think he was up behind the 99 (Suarez) and thinking he was gonna hit the apron, and I didn’t have time to kind of get right, and I just kind of hit the apron and got me loose,” Blaney said. “I hate that other cars got torn up. I just didn’t really know where I was at being close to him, and you kind of see that sometimes. I just hate that it tore us up”

Chastain dominated the third stage en route to a stage win. He and Suarez were the first two off pit road during the caution that followed stage two. After restarting behind drivers who stayed out, Suarez took the lead and Chastain second by lap 217.

Suarez gave up the lead to pit when the yellow flag waved for Kevin Harvick just past lap 220, turning the lead over to Chastain.

Chastain, then, led most of the remainder of the stage. Suarez did retake the lead just past lap 250, but another caution shortly after gave Chastain the opportunity to retake the lead in the pits. Suarez’s crew, meanwhile, struggled with a slow stop.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished seventh, Michael McDowell was eighth and Bowman 10th.

Below, are the results of the Coca-Cola 600:

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Posted by on May 30, 2022. Filed under Breaking News,Cup Series,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.