Photo by Gerry Broome/AP Photo
After six-plus hours of rain-scares, strategic pit racing and quality passing during and after restarts, Brad Keselowski would come out victorious in the Coca-Cola 600.
The win gives Keselowski his first victory on the year, his first since Kansas Speedway in May of 2019 and his first Coke 600 victory. The victory also marks the first time a Ford has won in a Coke 600 since Mark Martin in 2002.
The first action of the night happened before the green flag was flown, as Denny Hamlin’s car dropped ballast onto the track. As a result, the 39-year-old was forced to pit road. The Toyota 500 winner on Wednesday re-entered the race, but was quickly six laps down from the lead lap. Hamlin would finish 30th.
The lead remained unchanged through the first 50 laps, with Kurt Busch maintaining the lead after starting on the pole.
Light rain would force the field to the pits for what would be a 68-minute delay. With the delay, there has only been one race weekend to not be delayed by weather (Phoenix from Mar. 6-8).
After the red flag was lifted and pit road opened, Alex Bowman would win the race off pit road and give Hendrick Motorsports their first lead of the day. After Clint Bowyer slammed into the wall with a lower control arm break, stage one would finish under caution. Bowman would collect his second stage win on the season. Bowyer would finish 40th in the race.
Bowman would continue to dominate and show off speed reminiscent to when he won in Fontana earlier in the season, as the 27-year-old would pick up the stage two victory. All four drivers for Hendrick would finish in the top 10 at the stage conclusion (William Byron in fourth, Chase Elliott in fifth and Jimmie Johnson in 10th).
Elliott, after getting spun out in Wednesday’s Toyota 500 by Kyle Busch, would drop back to 16th after he had to return to pit road a second time during the cycle to replace a spring rubber. Meanwhile, a Matt Kenseth caution, in addition to a close race off pit road, would push Bowman back to third behind Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. Logano would pick up the stage three victory to give the Team Penske No. 22 Ford its first stage victory of the year.
Matt DiBenedetto, after taking only two tires during the ensuing pit cycle, would vault up 13 spots to first at the wave of the green to begin the final stage. With 87 laps to go, though, both Truex Jr. and Johnson would overtake the 28-year-old. With 75 laps to go, all four cars for Hendrick would be in the top 10 again, with Elliott grinding back to seventh. After a Joey Gase spin-out, the flag would go green yet again with Keselowski finding the lead. Elliott, however, would take over the lead with 38 to go and pad his lead by over two seconds.
Elliott would maintain a comfortable lead until his teammate Byron would spin out with two to go. Elliott would then make the decision to go into pit while Keselowski would not. The decision caused Elliott to drop outside of the top 10. Despite a last-second push into third place, it would still not be enough. Elliott remains winless on the year.
Johnson would finish runner-up to Keselowski and give the 44-year-old his third-straight top 10 finish in the Coke 600.
The remaining Hendrick teammates in Bowman and Byron would finish 20th and 21st, respectively. The finish for Bowman is his fifth time this season he has finished outside of the top 10.
Kurt Busch, despite starting on the pole, would fall and find himself a lap down before rebounding and finishing eighth.
Kurt’s brother, Kyle Busch, would finish fifth. The fifth-place finish is his fourth top-five finish this season.
With a sixth-place finish, Kevin Harvick is seven-for-seven this year in top 10 finishes. The 44-year-old remains the only driver in the field to finish in the top 10 in every race this season.
Sunday night’s race was also the longest NASCAR race in history in terms of mileage: 607.6 miles.
The Cup Series continues Wednesday with the Alsco Uniforms 500. The starting lineup will be inverted for the 1-20 finishers and will air on FOX Sports 1.
Driver points will be posted when they become available.