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Heading into Sunday's Coca-Cola 600, anticipation was high that NASCAR's longest race of the year would be one of its best. The last two events there had been wild -- 31 lead changes each with an average of 17 caution flags. Add in Kyle Larson's planned "double dip" after running the Indy 500 earlier that day and a sold-out crowd was ready to rumble.

By midnight, they were rumbling all right, openly booing as NASCAR lost a battle of its own making against Mother Nature. Roughly two hours after a thunderstorm consumed Charlotte Motor Speedway, the race was called with just 249 of 400 laps completed.

The move was as surprising to the winning team, Christopher Bell and Joe Gibbs Racing, as the many people trying to wait it out in the stands. The rain had passed through long ago and officials made clear a restart was imminent for one of the most important races on the schedule.

"I was told that they're going to call the drivers [to their cars] in 15 minutes," said winning car owner Joe Gibbs. "So, I got my jacket on, I was going out the door. But you're never quite sure."

Added winning crew chief, Adam Stevens: "Honestly, yes, I was surprised. We saw the radar looking like it was going to clear up, and it did."

NASCAR blamed the issue on humidity bearing down on the racetrack, complicating efforts to dry it. Their failure ruined expectations for fans who stuck around, wasting another few hours waiting rather than officials calling it when the thunderstorm came roughly 9:30 p.m. ET.

You wonder how much of their push had to do with Larson, already a victim of Mother Nature's wrath. A rain-delayed start to the Indy 500 kept him from making it to Charlotte on time; Justin Allgaier wound up driving his No. 5 Chevrolet instead.

After an 18th-place finish in his open wheel debut, Larson hustled back to Charlotte and made it to the track just as rain started pouring down. The team executed a driver change during the red flag and Larson would have restarted in a lead-lap car, in position to climb from the back of the field over the final 150 laps of the race.

Instead, everyone was left with a slate of what ifs, including runner-up finisher Brad Keselowski, who fell just short of a second straight points-paying win.

"I think everybody knew the situation," Keselowski said. "I can't claim ignorance to that. We were going as hard as we could. I feel like I needed another 10 laps or so to be able to make a pass.

"But that's not how it played out."

The night's big (and potentially only) winner? Bell, who led a season-high 90 laps and wiped the stink off a season that's included five finishes of 30th or worse. Despite the inconsistency, his second win elevates a playoff point total that's now fourth behind Denny Hamlin, William Byron and Larson.

"What a twist of emotions," Bell said. "I have never been through that emotion swing before like that in my life… I never in a million years thought that I was going to be winning that race on a rain-shortened event after they didn't call it whenever the rain stopped."

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Green: Denny Hamlin. A fifth for Hamlin at Charlotte gave him four straight top-five finishes since winning Dover at the end of April. That's enough for him to surge into the points lead with Larson getting a big fat zero for missing the race.

Yellow: Justin Allgaier/Kyle Larson. You've got to give the NASCAR Xfinity Series star credit, learning a totally different type of car and driving it into the top 15 from the back of the field. (It's the first Cup start for Allgaier since 2022). But Allgaier wasn't the main attraction for this race -- Larson was. We'll forever wonder how the double could have gone had rain not affected the race both here and Indianapolis.

Red: Ryan Blaney. Two straight wrecks for the reigning champ have created a dangerous slump. Still winless as Ford gets its act together with a new chassis, he's slipped to 12th in the standings, only 42 points above the cutline.

Speeding Ticket: NASCAR. Failing to dry the racetrack after no rain fell during the process was a major fail. Charlotte isn't just another event; it's looked at as one of the four biggest races to win alongside Daytona, Darlington's Southern 500 and the Championship finale out in Phoenix.

The sport could fix this problem in the future by guaranteeing its crown jewel events will be run to completion regardless if weather gets in the way. Could you imagine a World Series game shortened to just five or six innings? That's exactly what happened here.


One week after his run-in with Kyle Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. found himself sparking another on-track incident. This time, Noah Gragson got the worst of it as his No. 10 hit the inside wall hard once Stenhouse got into his left rear.

"Yeah, [Stenhouse] just misjudged his run and got us in the left rear," Gragson explained later. "Just a miscalculation. It sucks, but the sun will come up tomorrow."

The crash put a dent in Gragson's playoff hopes; he's now 21st in points, a daunting 105 behind Chris Buescher with 12 regular season races left to go.

As for Stenhouse? It rounded out a tough week where he was fined a whopping $75,000 for instigating a fight with Busch after the All-Star Race.