Keselowski Takes 600 Victory, Elliott Left Dejected

The second-last weekend in May is usually considered The Greatest Day in Motorsports. Typically, Formula 1 runs the iconic Monaco Grand Prix, IndyCar runs the prestigious Indianapolis 500, and NASCAR runs the patriotic Coca-Cola 600 – the longest race in the NASCAR season. This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Monaco GP was cancelled, and the Indy 500 was postponed until August, leaving just the 600 to entertain race fans around the world.

Before the race even started, Wednesday night’s winner, Denny Hamlin, developed huge issues when 3 pieces of tungsten ballast fell from his #11 Toyota onto the track. Tungsten is a weight that teams use to get the car to meet NASCAR’s minimum weight restrictions, meaning Hamlin had to pit for the ballast to be put back in the car. This put Hamlin 8 laps down.

LAP 1: For the first week since NASCAR returned, the field qualified for starting positions, putting the #1 of Kurt Busch on the pole position. Busch led the field to green beside the #48 of Jimmie Johnson before quickly pulling away just after the start/finish line.

LAP 10: The field started gapping early in the race with the Top 8 cars becoming their own pack.

CAUTION – LAP 20:  Since there was zero practice time prior to the race, the yellow flag waved for a competition caution. Kurt Busch remained in the lead during pitstops, with Martin Truex Jr making up 6 positions and restarting in 2nd place.

LAP 30: Jimmie Johnson got loose on the restart and wiggled up the track. Johnson dropped several positions but settled into 12th place.

CAUTION / RED FLAG – LAP 51: Mother Nature decided to rain on the parade (pardon the pun) as a brief pop-up shower passed over the speedway. It lasted just long enough to soak the track and force an hour-long delay.

LAP 52: When the red flag was lifted, Alex Bowman took 2 tires while the rest of the lead-lap cars pitted for 4, putting him P1 on the restart. The #9 of Elliott picked up second and the #19 of Truex fell to third.

LAP 76: The Hendrick Motorsports teammates of Bowman and Elliott got into an intense side-by-side battle that ended with the two drivers making contact. Regardless, Bowman maintained the lead while Elliott was passed by Truex shortly after.

LAP 84: Ryan Blaney got a big run heading into Turn 3 and tagged the back of the #95 of Christopher Bell. The #95 briefly slid sideways, but Bell saved the car before causing a major wreck. He got back in the gas and continued racing as if nothing happened.

CAUTION – LAP 97: The #14 of Clint Bowyer blew the right-front tire heading into Turn 1. The car shot straight into the outside wall as the car erupted in a ball of smoke. Bowyer got out of the car quickly but was clearly winded from the impact.

STAGE 1 END – LAP 100: The segment ended under caution, allowing Alex Bowman to claim his second stage win of the season. Truex Jr, Elliott, Tyler Reddick, and Joey Logano rounded out the Top 5. Bowman held onto the lead during pitstops while Kyle Busch had a quick stop and came off pit road in 2nd place.

LAP 125: Bubba Wallace went to the garage following a few risky moments on track when his brake pedal failed. Wallace came over the radio to say that the pedal was to the floor, seemingly a running problem for Wallace’s #43.

LAP 156: Green flag pitstops started with William Byron and Chase Elliott. Leader Alex Bowman pitted two laps later and cycled back to the front.

STAGE 2 END – LAP 200: Alex Bowman won the stage as Martin Truex Jr, Kyle Busch, William Byron, and Chase Elliott rounded out the Top 5. While under caution, the field pulled down pit road single file and shut off the engines for a moment of silence to honour fallen servicemen/women for Memorial Day weekend. Bowman maintained the lead through pitstops while Kyle Busch was penalized for being too fast entering pit road, causing him to restart at the tail end of the field. Chase Elliott’s team had problems during their stop that ultimately caused him to fall back to 16th place.

LAP 221: Martin Truex Jr chased down Bowman and used lapped traffic to make the pass for the lead. From there, Truex set sail with the top spot, putting a 2-second gap between him and Bowman.

LAP 236: The #6 of Ryan Newman had a battery issue and had to make a lengthy pit stop to fix the problem. The stop put Newman several laps down after racing mid-pack for most of the race.

LAP 252: Kurt Busch was the first car to start green-flag pitstops. When the field cycled through, Truex regained the lead.

CAUTION – LAP 275: While racing in 25th, Matt Kenseth had a tire go down and snapped sideways in Turn 2. The #42 backed into the wall causing significant damage to the rear end. Since the caution came so late in the stage, three teams played strategy and stayed out. Those include Joey Logano, who went from 6th to 1st; Kevin Harvick, who went from 9th to 2nd; and Chase Elliott, who went from 10th to 3rd.

LAP 282: When the race restarted, the only driver that benefitted from the strategy call was Logano, who ran away with lead due to his advantage of clean air. Harvick and Elliott, on the other hand, dropped like rocks back through the field, landing in 17th and 18th respectively.

STAGE 3 END – LAP 300: When the green-white checkered flag flew, it was Logano who took the 3rd and final stage win of the night, his first of 2020. Bowman, Ryan Blaney, Truex, and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the Top 5. During pitstops under yellow, Matt DiBenedetto in the #21 was the only car to take 2 tires and picked up the lead.

LAP 305: DiBenedetto and Logano made up the front row for the restart. When the green flag flew, Logano got loose and wiggled slightly. He was forced to check up and fell back to mid-pack. DiBenedetto kept the lead for only 1 more lap before Martin Truex Jr passed him. Jimmie Johnson also passed DiBenedetto and took second place.

LAP 335: Throughout the 4th and final stage, Chase Elliott steadily made his way through the field. With 65 laps to go, he was P6 and was quickly chasing down his teammate William Byron for 5th place.

LAP 347: The #51 of Joey Gase carried too much speed into Turn 4 and spun around through the infield. In the pits under yellow, Jimmie Johnson had a great stop that put him P1, with Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, and Martin Truex Jr making up the first 2 rows.

LAP 364: After an intense battle with Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott made the pass and became the 11th leader of the race. The lead and possible win would have been redemption for Elliott, who was wrecked on the final lap of Wednesday’s race.

CAUTION – LAP 398: The yellow flag flew for Elliott’s teammate, William Byron, who had a shredded left-rear tire and spun in Turn 2. Given how poorly the #9 did by staying out on the prior restart (immediately falling to 18th place), Elliott’s crew chief, Alan Gustafson, made the call to pit for fresh tires. Unfortunately for Elliott, the rest of the lead lap cars stayed out.

LAP 403: The race went into overtime, triggering a 2-lap shoot-out to the checkered flag. Elliott restarted 11th while Brad Keselowski took the lead.

CHECKERED FLAG – LAP 405: Despite Elliott’s attempt at hustling through the field, he only made it to P3 before the checkered flag flew on what was the longest Coke 600 in history. Brad Keselowski claimed the win, checking off 3 out of 4 crown jewel races.

RESULTS:

  1. Brad Keselowski
  2. Jimmie Johnson
  3. Chase Elliott
  4. Ryan Blaney
  5. Kyle Busch
  6. Kevin Harvick
  7. Martin Truex Jr
  8. Kurt Busch
  9. Tyler Reddick
  10. Christopher Bell
  11. Chris Buescher
  12. Erik Jones
  13. Cole Custer
  14. Joey Logano
  15. Austin Dillon
  16. Aric Almirola
  17. John Hunter Nemechek
  18. Matt DiBenedetto
  19. Michael McDowell
  20. Alex Bowman
  21. William Byron
  22. Ross Chastain
  23. Ryan Preece
  24. Corey LaJoie
  25. Ricky Stenhouse Jr
  26. Ty Dillon
  27. Matt Kenseth
  28. Ryan Newman
  29. Daniel Suarez
  30. Denny Hamlin
  31. Brennan Poole
  32. Gray Gaulding
  33. BJ McLeod
  34. Garrett Smithley
  35. Timmy Hill
  36. Quin Houff
  37. Joey Gase
  38. JJ Yeley
  39. Bubba Wallace
  40. Clint Bowyer

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