Martin Truex Jr. won his third race of the season on Sunday, taking the checkered flag at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the Coca-Cola 600. It's the third win of Truex's career in the Queen City.
The No. 19 team had to overcome an early setback in Stage 1 after they lost a tire and hit the wall. However, crew chief Cole Pearn and Truex devised a strategy that would put them in the lead before the final stage. Truex was then tasked with holding off the likes of Chase Elliott, Joey Logano and Kyle Busch to name a few drivers, but had no problem managing the lead in the final laps.
It's the 22nd career win for Truex, a NASCAR champion and Hall of Fame hopeful. The win is also the first for Joe Gibbs since it was announced that he'd be joining the 2020 NASCAR Hall of Fame class.
In addition to the three wins, Truex now has four consecutive top five finishes at Charlotte and seven in his past eight appearances. His last win prior to this year's Coca-Cola 600 came in 2017.
Brad Keselowski won the first two stages after starting outside the top 20. Keselowski added two more playoff points to his total and in doing so, he now has four green-and-white-checkered flags this season. Truex won Stage 3.
2019 Coca-Cola 600 results
- Martin Truex Jr.
- Joey Logano
- Kyle Busch
- Chase Elliott
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
- Chris Buescher
- Alex Bowman
- Jimmie Johnson
- William Byron
- Kevin Harvick
- Aric Almirola
- Corey LaJoie
- Ryan Blaney
- Paul Menard
- David Ragan
- Ryan Newman
- Denny Hamlin
- Daniel Suarez
- Brad Keselowski
- Matt Tifft
- Daniel Hemric
- Michael McDowell
- Ty Dillon
- Clint Bowyer
- Bubba Wallace
- Parker Kligerman
- Kurt Busch
- Quin Houff
- BJ McLeod
- Reed Sorenson
- Ryan Preece
- Joey Gase
- Kyle Larson
- Austin Dillon
- Bayley Currey
- Ross Chastain
- Landon Cassill
- Cody Ware
- Matt DiBenedetto
- Erik Jones
Here's how it all went down
Stage 1: Cautions, cautions and more cautions
William Byron started NASCAR's longest race from the pole ahead of Aric Almirola and Kyle Busch. Byron had no problem leading the first 24 laps before Erik Jones got into some trouble, blowing a right front tire and hitting the wall hard.
Jones' No. 20 suffered heavy damage and he retired from the race as a result. He had one of the top cars in final practice and was a popular option in DraftKings at $8,700. Prior to Jones' wreck, Kyle Larson brushed the wall but was able to recover.
Kyle Busch won the race off pit road and led the field back to green ahead of Kevin Harvick and Byron. Harvick took the lead for a moment on Lap 34, but Busch wasn't having any of it and passed the No. 4 moments after.
Just about halfway through the stage as Busch was leading, Matt DiBenedetto lost a right front tire -- similarly to Jones -- and went hard into the wall. DiBenedetto's fate was the same as Jones as well, as he saw his day come to an end early.
Chase Elliott and Aric Almirola were penalized for pit road infractions under yellow. Elliott was dinged for speeding while Almirola suffered an uncontrolled tire penalty. Kyle Busch restarted from the lead ahead of Harvick.
Busch surrendered the lead to Harvick with 42 laps to go, falling back to third place with Martin Truex Jr. moving into second. Four laps later, Truex took the lead away from Harvick as Brad Keselowski moved his way into the top five.
After comfortably leading his fellow competitors, Truex became the third Toyota tire victim of the day. Fortunately for his team, Truex's damage wasn't heavy enough to knock him out of the race.
Most of the leaders came down pit road during yellow however a handful of drivers opted to stay out with 24 laps left in the stage including Daniel Hemric. The No. 8 became the race leader after the strategy call, while Harvick and Busch restarted eighth and ninth.
Hemric led for a few laps before Keselowski -- on fresh tires -- navigated through the top 10 and claimed the top spot with less than 20 to go. With 15 laps to go, Kyle Busch got into the back of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and sent him spinning through the infield grass.
A few cars elected to stay out under yellow and Hemric was one of them. This time, the move did not pay off for the No. 8 as Hemric fell through the pack and eventually lost control, spinning and hitting the wall hard to bring out the caution.
The field restart with five laps to go in Stage 1, Keselowski took the lead off the bat ahead of Harvick and Busch. Despite a strong run from both drivers, Keselowski had no problem driving on to win the stage.
Stage 1 results:
Martin Truex Jr.
Stage 2: Keselowski dominates
Keselowski and the rest of the top five stayed out between stages in an effort to preserve their team sets of tires for the 600 mile race. Ryan Blaney and Corey LaJoie were both penalized under yellow for speeding on pit road.
While the No. 2 led the field to green, it was Denny Hamlin taking the lead on the restart. As Hamlin led, Landon Cassill's car started smoking and he took it to the garage. Chris Buescher also kissed the wall with his No. 37 Chevrolet but was able to drive on. Buescher tried to ride things out after scraping the wall but that damage came back to bite him as he lost a tire and hit the wall again a few laps later to bring out the caution.
Hamlin lost four spots under yellow on pit road after a slow stop while Keselowski beat the group to the line following a four-tire stop. However it was Ryan Blaney got the run on the restart to take the lead. In the back of the pack, Bubba Wallace and Michael McDowell made contact on the restart and both elected to come down pit road afterwards.
A few laps after Blaney took the lead, he gave it right back to his Penske teammate Keselowski. As Keselowski led, Joey Logano made a pit stop for four tires and fuel about halfway through the stage. The rest of the field began to follow suit a few laps later.
During green flag stops, the fourth of five Joe Gibbs Racing (and alliance) cars suffered another tire issue and went into the wall. This time it was Hamlin. Fortunately for the No. 11 team, similarly to Truex, they did not suffer much damage and were able to drive on.
Byron won the race off pit road under yellow ahead of Keselowski and Harvick, leading the field to green with a little more than 30 laps to go in the stage. The No. 24 got a nice push from his teammate Jimmie Johnson on the restart and was able to contend with Keselowski for the lead. Keselowski would go on to take sole possession of it by the time the first lap was completed.
The tire issues continued at the end of Stage 2 however this time it was a Chevrolet feeling the wrath. Ryan Preece went into the wall after blowing a tire and couldn't make it to pit road before NASCAR threw the yellow. There were 12 laps left in the stage at the time of the caution.
Alex Bowman and Byron stayed out and restarted from the front row with seven laps to go. Keselowski began breathing down Bowman's neck with five laps to go on fresher tires, making a move on the inside and taking the lead back with two to go. Keselowski was then able to drive on unchallenged to win the second stage.
Stage 2 results
Stage 3: Truex takes over
Between stages, NASCAR flew the red flag and brought all the cars down pit road. The entire speedway then participated in a moment of silence in remembrance of those who lost their lives fighting in the United States armed forces.
After the tribute, NASCAR fired the engines back up and Kyle Busch led the field to green to begin the third of four stages. Busch managed the restart well and held the lead over Elliott and Harvick. Busch began pulling away from Elliott as the stage rolled along.
Green flag pit stops got going with around 50 laps to go in the stage however teams were afforded the opportunity to come down pit road under yellow as Bayley Currey went spinning and brought out the caution. The spin was caused by Truex, who got into Currey's rear and send him spinning.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Hard hit for Bayley Currey there <a href="https://t.co/4YkRXn9nen">pic.twitter.com/4YkRXn9nen</a></p>— Matt Mayer (@MatthewMayerCBS) <a href="https://twitter.com/MatthewMayerCBS/status/1132821588263485441?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">May 27, 2019</a></blockquote>
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Harvick had been caught a lap down as a result of the caution happening after his green flag pit stop however he was allowed to take the wave around under yellow to get back onto the lead lap.
As for Truex and Busch, they restarted from the front row with the No. 19 getting out to the early lead that he went on to swap with Busch multiple times. Eventually, it was Truex taking a firm grasp on the top spot. Truex had no problem going on to drive away with the lead and winning the stage.
Stage 3 results:
Martin Truex Jr.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Final Stage: Everyone gets a shot
Elliott beat Truex off pit road between stages thanks to an extremely fast stop by the No. 9 team. Hamlin missed his box and wound up exiting pit road outside of the top 20. Elliott and Truex would go on to battle for the lead on the restart.
Not long after the restart, Kurt Busch spun in the middle of the field which could have resulted in a massive pile up. Instead, just about everyone missed the No. 1 car, including Harvick. Kurt's younger brother Kyle Busch caught a bit of damage and had to come down pit road to make repairs under yellow. Both Busch brothers had been in contention for the lead at the time of the crash.
Elliott led the field back to green on the restart and immediately engaged in a battle for the top spot with Truex. Simultaneously, Larson dropped through the field like a brick and then went for a spin. This time, the field couldn't avoid the wreck as Austin Dillon was collected as well as his brother Ty Dillon, Ryan Preece, Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer. It ended the race for both Larson and Austin Dillon.
Again it was Elliott and Truex on the restart and this time it was the No. 9 car that controlled the lead. Elliott would lead for 30 or so laps before Truex eventually made the pass to reclaim the top spot. The two made contact while racing side-by-side for the lead, but both drivers were able to remain in control of their cars.
Bowman came down pit road three laps ahead of schedule with a rear tire going down. The rest of the field began following down for green flag stops shortly after. Just as Truex was about to pit from the lead, his teammate Hamlin blew a right front tire and brought out the caution. The caution marked the most yellow flags in a Charlotte race in the past 14 years.
Harvick had pit just before the caution and went a lap down as a result. Keselowski was awarded the free pass and wasn't quite as burned by the yellow. Truex won the race off pit road, beating Elliott to the yellow line. The No. 19 team elected to restart from the top line with Elliott on the bottom.
Truex got out to the lead as Logano and Blaney moved ahead of Elliott. Kyle Busch motored his way into the top five in the meantime. Just as it appeared Truex would drive on to an easy victory, Keselowski spun out with 10 laps to go to bring out the 15th caution of the day.
David Ragan, a 5000-to-1 liability at Westgate, stayed out under yellow and led the field to green. Ryan Newman took two tires and restarted second as a 300-to-1 liability. Both were non-factors on the restart however as Truex took the lead for good.
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