By Nicholas Sterling
With three laps to go in the Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte, Chase Elliott held a nearly 2 second lead over second place Brad Keselowski. It seemed like Elliott was going to get redemption after last week’s crash. However, this wouldn’t be the case.
Elliott’s teammate, William Byron, cut down a tire with two laps to go, bringing out the caution. Elliott’s team made the decision to pit from the lead despite clean air being important all night. The move put him back to 11th with just two laps to go.
Keselowski stayed out under caution and held off a hungry Jimmie Johnson to capture his 31st career victory and first Coca Cola 600. While Johnson was the second driver to cross the finish line, his car failed post-race inspection and he was credited with a 40th place finish.
Elliott rebounded to a second-place finish, with Ryan Blaney, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick rounding out the top five.
The race ended up being a total of 607.5 miles due to the overtime finish, making it the longest race in NASCAR history. Add in a one hour and eight minute rain delay during stage one, and you’ve got a long night for the drivers.
Many of the fans were critical of the 550-horsepower package as there was little passing under green. There were only two instances where the leader was passed under green aside from the restarts. The likes of Alex Bowman, Joey Logano, and Matt Dibenedetto were able to hang onto the lead with either two or no tires as the race went on.
The winner of last week’s Darlington race, Denny Hamlin, suffered an unusual, yet costly issue during the pace laps. The ballast came out of the car and forced him to pit road. The ballast, which represents weight in the car, needed to be replaced before Hamlin could resume.
According to the NASCAR rulebook, “Loss or separation of added ballast from the vehicle will result in a four Race suspension of the crew chief, car chief, and head engineer.”
The only major accident on the racetrack happened when Clint Bowyer’s car suffered a mechanical failure and hit the wall. The car was full of smoke when it came to rest. Bowyer was okay.
Charlotte Motor Speedway will host their second straight Cup Series race Wednesday night at 8 p.m. EST on FS1. The starting lineup is determined by an invert of the top 20, meaning Byron and Alex Bowman will start on the front row.