Hamlin Survives Longest Coca-Cola 600
(CONCORD, NC – MAY 29, 2022 – RIS) Denny Hamlin overcame a multitude of problems to win his first points race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, taking the checkered flag 0.119 second ahead of fellow Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch after two overtime attempts stretched the Coca-Cola 600 to 413 laps. Including the stage concluding flags, the race was slowed for 18 times, with one of those including a red flag when Chris Buescher’s car rolled on the front straight ‘ballfield’ after contact with Daniel Suarez’ car. Thirteen driver swapped the lead for 31 lead changes. Hamlin led three times for fifteen laps, including the final round. With regular crew chief Chris Gabehart serving a four-race suspension after a wheel and tire loss, team engineer Sam McAulay served as crew chief, earning his first home track win as a crew chief.
“ It was definitely a very long day” McAulay said later. “I think there was a lot of talk coming into this weekend from everybody in the series that this could be one of the longest Coke 600s we've ever had. It proved to be up there.
“With the race being so much attrition, so many people falling out of the race, that was the biggest deal. I think Denny understood that from the get-go and even mentioned it at one point at halfway, like this is a survival race. Kind of like it's felt at the Daytona 500 sometimes, but you also have durability concerns, all sorts of things to fight the whole night.”
The first caution took only 17 laps under green before a three-car melee involving the three-car sequence of Ryan Preece (No. 15 Ford,) Noah Gragson (No. 16 Chevy) and Chris Buescher (No. 17 Ford) in the fourth turn brought out the first caution. Next, Josh Bilicki spun the No. 77 Ford in the third turn and then Kyle Busch spun while leading in the second turn and onto the back straight and Corey LaJoie’s spin in the fourth turn brought out the fourth yellow of the first stage. Chase Elliott took the lead on lap 63 with William Byron at the point the net lap before Elliott headed the field for the rest of Stage 1, earning his third stage win of the season. Byron faded from second to finish the stage in 11th position, with Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell, Ross Chastain and Bubba Wallace the top five after 100 laps under a bright Carolina sun.
Bubba Wallace spun on lap 125, sliding across the ROVAL chicane on the front straight and driving directly to his pit stall for new tires. Kyle Larson’s car left a small splash of burning fuel on pit road where his crew casually blew out the flames with a leaf blower.
Austin Cindric’s cut left rear tire in Turn Three sent the Daytona 500 winner spinning into the outside wall and out of the race.“We cut a left-rear tire down right on corner entry. There was absolutely no warning and unfortunately that was the lap I decided to run the bottom, so a long distance to the wall and a pretty hard hit,” Cindric reported. “We had a really really fast Menards/Cardell Ford Mustang. I was having fun. We had a fast car and fast cars usually climb up through the field running the top and running the bottom. It’s just unfortunate.”
Lap 165 had Kyle Larson spin off the fourth turn and across the chicane to bring out the cautio, then some 21 laps later, his fellow Hendrick driver Chase Elliott spun in almost the same place for another yellow. The No. 9 crew replaced the right rear toe link during the caution, then on the restart, Ryan Blaney got loose and spun in traffic, with Kurt Busch just one of a baker’s dozen cars involved. The cars involved were Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Blaney, Noah Gragson, Martin Truex Jr, Harrison Burton, Bubba Wallace, William Byron, Michael McDowell, Todd Gilliland and Kurt Busch, to several had minimal damage and continued. “Something happened where Blaney got turned and I saw it and checked up and got wiped out from behind,” reported Keselowski. “I hate it for everybody at RFK. We unloaded and weren’t very good and we finally got the car good the run before this. We were driving forward and making passes and were almost into the top 10 and then get wrecked.”
“We had a winning top-five Monster Energy Toyota Camry TRD, we did,” said Kurt Busch. “Just was hoping we would have enough tires to get to the end and the sequences that everyone was on. Billy Scott’s (crew chief) a great leader. We’ve wrecked a lot of cars this year and we were just wrong place, wrong time this year. Bubba (Wallace) was in front of me and tried not to hit him. I think I hit about 15 different things. And I tried to crank it up and was like, ‘Nah, she’s done.’ This is a rough situational event. Fast car and I’m really proud of my guys. I’ll be at the shop on Tuesday helping them tear it down.”
William Byron “thought we were in the catbird seat there. We were the first team on new tires. Had a good restart through (turn) one and got ahead of the No. 45 (Kurt Busch). We were going to cycle out really well there; and then they just started wrecking on the bottom and came up into us on the top.
“It’s chaos out there,” Byron added. “You can’t drive the car the slightest bit sideways or you’re wrecked. So, if somebody gets a little bit sideways, then we all wreck. It either takes out other people or they spin to the infield.”
Ryan Blaney added that he “was tucked up tight behind the 8 and he was kind of lower than I thought on the frontstretch and kind of ran through the turf, and then got to [turn] one and jerked right and I think he was up behind the 99 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. I hate that other cars got tore 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.” So far, only 13 cars have NOT been damaged in spins or crashes.
Daniel Suarez took the third stage win of his career with the second stage, followed by Chastain, Jones, Briscoe and Stenhouse.
Only 19 laps into the third stage, Kevin Harvick had a brush with the wall, bringing out yet another yellow and more pit stops. Ross Chastain led on the restart, followed by Joey Logano with Chase Briscoe passing Kyle Busch for third place with Christopher Bell and Denny Hamlin fifth and sixth.
Noah Gragson created the 13th caution of the race on lap 253 with a spin down the front straight, with Ross Chastain at the front of the pack for the restart. Chastain led most of the third stage, heading the race for 76 laps, with Daniel Suarez and Chase Briscoe swapping out after Joey Logano led for nine laps early in the stage.
Tyler Reddick, Ross Chastain, Kyle Larson, Chase Briscoe and Cole Custer were the first five off pit road after stopping for service.
Ross Chastain took over the lead on lap 323, leaving Tyler Reddick dropping back until his left-rear tire blew out on lap 339, flying the 16th caution of the race and setting up another round of stops, leaving just under a full fuel run remaining in the race.
Chastain pulled into a strong lead with a push from Cole Custer but Suarez spun and in the ensuing melee, Chris Buescher’s car tripped on the right front wheel after an impact with Suarez’ car in the right front seems to have caused the suspension to fold under and trip the car into several barrel rolls. Buescher climbed out of the car unaided after it was righted by the recovery teams.
After the restart, Kyle Larson led Chase Briscoe by over a second and Ross Chastain another half second back. The margin stabilized briefly at about 1.2 seconds, with Denny Hamlin running fourth, over three seconds back, but Briscoe closed to within less than a half second before the gap began to open up slowly, then just as slowly, close up again before Briscoe moved within less than a tenth of a second at the ten laps left mark.
At four to go, Briscoe got around Larson briefly, but Larson powered back on the outside before Briscoe spun attempting a pass to cause an overtime finish. The overtime led to another overtime with a seven-car scramble in the fourth turn, with Denny Hamlin taking the lead and heading to his first points win at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the longest ‘600’ ever at 413 laps.
“Yeah, it feels great,” said Hamlin after the race. “Obviously it wasn't looking good for about 398 laps. Considering our day, I was going to be pretty content with a fourth-place finish.
“I just knew with that number one pit stall we had an opportunity, if everyone pitted, that we could come out first. We didn't. But we were the first car on four tires.
“Yeah, it just worked out. Things worked out for us. They haven't worked out very well for the first 12 races in a lot of different ways. Certainly this one was one that we capitalized on the opportunity.
“We managed the race. We knew we didn't have the fastest car, the best car by any means, but we just stayed in the race. We didn't make any mistakes, gave ourselves an opportunity when the opportunity arose for us.”
“It was a tough, tough deal getting two of our guys on the pit crew suspended and Gabehart,” said McAulay. “We really did a lot of pit practice this week. JGR pit department worked a lot with Mike and Nate, our two fill-ins on the pit crew. They did a great job all night. On that side of it, a lot of hours put in, a lot of reps for them in their new positions.
Unofficial Results: 63rd Annual COCA-COLA 600, May 29, 2022, Charlotte Motor Speedway
Fin, Str, Driver, Car, Laps, ST1, St2, Tms Led, Laps Led, Playoff Pts, Pts, Status
1) 1, Denny Hamlin, No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota, 413, 10, , 3, 15, 5, 42, Running
2) 4, Kyle Busch, No. 18 M&M's Red White and Blue Toyota, 413, , , 3, 36, , 35, Running
3) 18, Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford, 413, , 7, , , , 38, Running
4) 15, Chase Briscoe, No. 14 Mahindra Tractors Ford, 413, , 4, 2, 2, , 49, Running
5) 3, Christopher Bell, No. 20 Yahoo! Toyota, 413, 3, 10, , , , 41, Running
6) 8, Tyler Reddick, No. 8 Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen Chevrolet, 413, 2, 8, 1, 19, , 50, Running
7) 29, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 47 Kroger/Reese's Chevrolet, 413, 7, 5, , , , 40, Running
8) 10, Michael McDowell, No. 34 Fr8Auctions.com Ford, 413, , , , , , 29, Running
9) 36, Kyle Larson, No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet, 413, , , 3, 51, , 36, Running
10) 9, Alex Bowman, No. 48 Ally Patriotic Chevrolet, 413, 9, , , , , 29, Running
11) 17, Harrison Burton #, No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford, 413, , , , , , 26, Running
12) 14, Martin Truex Jr., No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Red White and Blue Toyota, 413, 8, 9, , , , 30, Running
13) 28, Ty Dillon, No. 42 Black Rifle Coffee Company Chevrolet, 413, , , , , , 24, Running
14) 25, Erik Jones, No. 43 FOCUSfactor Chevrolet, 413, , 3, , , , 31, Running
15) 22, Ross Chastain, No. 1 Advent Health Chevrolet, 413, 4, 2, 6, 153, 1, 48, Running
16) 30, Todd Gilliland #, No. 38 Boot Barn Ford, 413, , , , , , 21, Running
17) 24, Aric Almirola, No. 10 Smithfield Ford, 412, , , , , , 20, Running
18) 33, Cody Ware, No. 51 Nurtec ODT Military Salutes Ford, 412, , , , , , 19, Running
19) 31, BJ McLeod, No. 78 Circle B Diecast Ford, 407, , , , , , 18, Running
20) 23, Joey Logano, No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, 405, , 6, 1, 9, , 27, Accident
21) 21, Cole Custer, No. 41 Chicken Cock Whiskey Ford, 405, , , , , , 20, Accident
22) 16, Austin Dillon, No. 3 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Chevrolet, 405, , , , , , 17, Accident
23) 34, * Kaz Grala(i), No. 50 SEGI TV Chevrolet, 400, , , , , , 0, Running
24) 27, Noah Gragson(i), No. 16 Charlotte Knights Chevrolet, 386, , , , , , 0, Throttle
25) 12, Daniel Suarez, No. 99 CommScope Chevrolet, 346, , 1, 4, 36, 1, 28, Accident
26) 19, Chris Buescher, No. 17 Fifth Third Bank Ford, 346, , , , , , 14, Accident
27) 20, Justin Haley, No. 31 LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevrolet, 343, , , , , , 10, Engine
28) 7, Bubba Wallace, No. 23 McDonald's Toyota, 200, 5, , 1, 1, , 15, DVP
29) 11, Ryan Blaney, No. 12 BodyArmor EDGE Ford, 195, 6, , 1, 2, , 13, Accident
30) 35, Brad Keselowski, No. 6 Kohler Generators Ford, 193, , , , , , 7, Accident
31) 2, Kurt Busch, No. 45 Monster Energy Toyota, 191, , , 1, 2, , 6, Accident
32) 5, William Byron, No. 24 Liberty University Patriotic Chevrolet, 191, , , 1, 1, , 5, Accident
33) 13, Chase Elliott, No. 9 NAPA Chevrolet, 188, 1, , 4, 86, 1, 14, DVP
34) 6, Austin Cindric #, No. 2 Menards/Cardell Cabinetry Ford, 145, , , , , , 3, Accident
35) 37, Corey LaJoie, No. 7 The USO & Coca-Cola Chevrolet, 60, , , , , , 2, Accident
36) 32, Josh Bilicki(i), No. 77 Zeigler Auto Group Chevrolet, 31, , , , , , 0, Accident
37) 26, Ryan Preece(i), No. 15 Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford, 16, , , , , , 0, DVP
(i) Ineligible for driver points in this series, (#) Rookie
Race Length: 413 Laps, 619.5 Miles
Time of Race: 5 Hrs, 13 Mins, 8 Secs.
Average Speed: 118.703 MPH
Margin of Victory: 0.119 Seconds
Stage 1 Top 10: 9, 8, 20, 1, 23, 12, 47, 19, 48, 11
Stage 2 Top 10: 99, 1, 43, 14, 47, 22, 4, 8, 19, 20
Stage 3 Top 10: 1, 14, 5, 8, 99, 22, 41, 17, 3, 11
Comments: Denny Hamlin won the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, his 48th career NASCAR Cup Series victory.
Prior to the start, the following cars dropped to the rear for the reasons indicated No. 5, 10, 41, 47, 50 (unapproved adjustments) and No. 7 (backup car).
Cautions: 18 for 90 laps;
Laps: 19-22 (No. 15, 16 and 17 Incident in Turn 4 );
34-38 (No. 77 Spin in Turn 3 );
47-50 (No. 18 Spin in Turn 2 );
62-67 (No. 7 Incident in Turn 4 );
102-107 (Stage 1 Conclusion );
127-131 (No. 23 Spin in Turn 4 );
147-151 (No. 2 Spin in Turn 3 );
167-170 (No. 5 Spin in Turn 4 );
188-191 (No. 9 Incident in Turn 4 );
193-196 (No. 4, 6, 9, 11, 12, 16, 19 21, 23, 24, 34, 38, 45 Incident on the Frontstretch [None]);
202-208 (Stage 2 Conclusion );
221-224 (No. 4 Incident in Turn 2 );
255-258 (No. 16 Spin in Turn 4 );
302-307 (Stage 3 Conclusion );
341-345 (Debris in Turn 1 from No. 8 );
347-352 (No. 14, 17, 38 and 99 Incident on the Frontstretch [Red Flag: 11:00] );
400-404 (No. 14 Spin in Turn 1 );
406-411 (No. 1, 3, 5, 19, 22, 41 and 47 Incident in Turn 4 ).
Lead Changes: 31 among 13 drivers;
D. Hamlin 0;
K. Busch 1-2;
D. Hamlin 3-9;
K. Busch 10-39;
B. Wallace 40;
K. Busch 41-45;
D. Suarez 46-62;
C. Elliott 63-66;
W. Byron 67;
C. Elliott 68-110;
R. Chastain 111-128;
C. Elliott 129-148;
R. Blaney 149-150;
K. Larson 151;
C. Elliott 152-170;
R. Chastain 171-196;
D. Suarez 197-204;
J. Logano 205-213;
D. Suarez 214-220;
R. Chastain 221-251;
D. Suarez 252-255;
R. Chastain 256-259;
C. Briscoe 260;
R. Chastain 261-303;
T. Reddick 304-322;
R. Chastain 323-353;
K. Larson 354-395;
C. Briscoe 396;
K. Larson 397-404;
D. Hamlin 405-411;
K. Busch 412;
D. Hamlin 413.
Busch Light Pole Award: Denny Hamlin, No. 11
Sunoco Rookie of the Race: Harrison Burton, No. 21
Long-time RIS staffer, beginning in the mid-80s. Charlotte, NC area local contact.