The Frontstretch: Thinkin' Out Loud: Coca-Cola 600 Race Recap by Mike Neff -- Monday May 27, 2013

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Thinkin' Out Loud: Coca-Cola 600 Race Recap

Mike Neff · Monday May 27, 2013


Key Moment – Kasey Kahne stayed out on older tires when the caution flew on lap 384. Everyone else on the lead lap pitted and took either two or four. As a result, Kevin Harvick started alongside Kahne and got the jump on the restart. From that point on, it was just a matter of counting down the laps.

In a Nutshell – The overhead camera control rope broke, damaging cars, injuring fans and resulting in a red flag. The first three hundred laps saw five cautions. The last 100 laps saw six. Dominant cars early were wrecked, blew up, or got caught out by pit strategy. Mr. Where Did He Come From found the ol’ magic again and won the race by leading the last 11 laps. Can you say bizarre?

Kevin Harvick snuck by everyone Sunday night, pulling the victory burnout after sneaking in front over the last 50 miles of the race at Charlotte.

Dramatic Moment – After having the dominant car early in the race, even after receiving extensive damage from the camera rope, Kyle Busch saw another Charlotte Cup race go up in smoke as his engine expired. On the same lap, Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s engine gave up the ghost which resulted in Greg Biffle, Dave Blaney and Travis Kvapil all receiving damage in the incident.

There were several other hair-raising moments in the last 100 laps, in particular when a multi-car wreck wiped out Mark Martin, Aric Almirola, Jeff Gordon and damaged several other cars. But this race will be known as the one with the rope, where falling debris from FOX’s camera cable was lucky not to injure fans more seriously.

What They’ll be Talking About Around the Water Cooler

The CamCat broke – Apparently, that is the name of the aerial camera contraption that is hung from a couple of boom cranes and spans the length of the front straight. The rope that moves the camera from one end to the other snapped near Turn 1 and fell to the front straight, causing chaos. Kyle Busch and Marcos Ambrose both received damage from the rope, while it took NASCAR a good 30 seconds to figure out what was going on and then throw the caution flag. Once the dust cleared, those cars were hurting, along with ten fans who received various minor injuries. Seven were treated at the race track and released, while the other three fans were transported to a local hospital. As the evening wound down, the assembled press was informed that all three fans were treated and released.

It’s clearly one of the most bizarre incidents we’ve seen, ever and FOX has no reason yet for the collapse. The cabling was used before, including this year’s Daytona 500 but there’s certainly concern anytime that type of equipment breaks on the racetrack. The usage of those types of cameras, with rope hanging overhead has been suspended pending a full investigation of what went wrong. On the flip side, kudos to NASCAR for not only throwing a red flag but allowing those cars with damage to repair themselves. It reeks of inconsistency, yes but it was also the right thing to do when things fall out of the sky and on top of race cars on the speedway.

12 drivers led the race 24 times – While there were only four on-track passes for the lead, there was a lot of leading by a handful of drivers. Kasey Kahne was the dominant car in hindsight, out in front eight different times for 161 laps. Matt Kenseth led three times for 112 before his night went sour. Kyle Busch was in first place twice for 65 laps prior to his powerplant self-destructing, while Kevin Harvick led three times for 28 laps. The other eight drivers led nine times for a total of 34 laps.

The night was full of misfortune for many of the drivers who looked like potential winners. We already spoke to Kyle Busch blowing up and interacting with the power rope for the aerial camera. Marcos Ambrose also wound up with a wad of rope under his car. He finished the race in 10th position, but it is hard to say where he might have been without the rope shenanigans. Kenseth and Jeff Gordon got caught out by a caution flag that stuck them back in the pack. They both ended up receiving damage in separate incidents on laps 334 and 326, respectively. Jimmie Johnson was far from the dominant car he was during the All-Star Race, but he was getting better before causing a melee in Turn 4 on lap 334. His misfortune not only took out his hopes and Kenseth’s but also Juan Pablo Montoya, Paul Menard and Tony Stewart.

This multi-car wreck eliminated a number of top contenders late in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600.

Mark Martin wrecked a whole bunch of cars on lap 326. In a typical sign of the times, the intensity picked up during the last 100 laps and on the restart on lap 324, drivers were going for all they could get. As the field came through the quad-oval on lap 326, Aric Almirola looked under Martin and was almost past him. Martin turned left into Almirola’s right rear and turned him straight to the outside. Almirola immediately collected Jeff Gordon before the sliding, spinning and sparking led to four other cars being involved. Martin claims he was squeezed but, since Charlotte has lines painted on the track, it is pretty easy to see that Mr. Martin has a revisionist view on the whole event.

There were 36 infractions during the race, along with three prior to the event. Two engine changes and a transmission change sent the cars of Danica Patrick, Trevor Bayne and Joe Nemechek to the back of the pack. As the race began, it looked like a typical event with a few speeding penalties and the usual cars pitting too soon and heading to the garage. Then, lap 308 hit. Over the final 92 laps, there were 25 NASCAR violations. A ton of them were for pitting before the pits were open, while several more were for too many crew members in contact with the car. The full gambit of penalties were used; heck, there was even one for running the stop and go paddle. You know when there’s that much red ink on the paper that you’ve had an eventful show…

Kasey Kahne was good all day and night. The 600 is usually the tale of two races. The cars that are good early lose it when the transition to night occurs and don’t make it back until the very end if at all. Well, Kasey Kahne not only led at lap 100 but also lap 300. He was clearly the car to beat until Harvick stole it away.

This race resembled an old school Cup race more than most in the last 10 years. If you finished on the lead lap, you were guaranteed a 13th-place finish. No one ended up one lap down. Two laps down put you in the top 15. Three laps down had you in the top 18 and four laps down all but assured you a top 20. The carnage over the last 100 laps of the event was more reminiscent of a short track than a mile-and-a-half speedway.

Kevin Harvick has to be second guessing his decision to move to Stewart-Haas Racing at the end of the season. Harvick just notched his second points win of the season while Stewart-Haas has been running, to quote a fellow media member, like a “bag of ass.” Everyone involved in the mix is saying all the right things, but it has to be disconcerting to Harvick looking over the fence at his future home and seeing the futility they’ve been showing. To be fair, however, Sunday night Ryan Newman finished sixth and led the race while his boss Tony Stewart ran one spot behind.

The Hindenburg Award for Foul Fortune

Kyle Busch looked to be a major player in his pursuit of his first win at Charlotte in the Cup Series before his engine folded its cards on lap 257. That sent him heading to the house well before most everyone else at the track did.

Travis Kvapil was certainly not going to win the race, but he was soldiering along to an OK finish before unceremoniously getting taken out of the event when Dale Earnhardt, Jr.‘s engine let go. Greg Biffle also suffered from a weird series of events that saw two top teams (JGR and Hendrick) see engines fail at nearly the exact same time.

Brad Keselowski’s night was hardly going according to plan, but the defending champion was making strides when he was taken out on lap 317 by Danica Patrick. Keselowski was above Patrick when she broke loose and had to chase her car up the hill. As a result, she collected the defending champ, killed his racecar and his hopes for a win.

Jeff Gordon got caught out by a caution, was stuck back in traffic with all sorts of insanity going on around him, and eventually was caught up in someone else’s mess. Not exactly what the former 600 winner had in mind considering he’s fighting for a spot inside the top 10 in points.

Danica Patrick’s rough day ended with flat tire after flat tire after damage from her wreck with Brad Keselowski left the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet with bent-up sheet metal.

Danica Patrick had a long day. She started 24th, quickly fell back into the mid-30s, clawed her way back to the upper 20s, nearly led on a round of green flag pit stops, and then wrecked the 2012 champion Brad Keselowski. From there, things got worse as the crew was trying to fix her car to send her back into the fray. Every lap they sent her around, she would blow a right front tire in a series of embarrassing moments. When the checkered flag waved, she was 15 laps down in 29th place.

Joe Nemechek, who isn’t racing for points and just does it because he loves it was trying to run the full distance but couldn’t. An electrical problem relegated him to a 41st-place finish, completing just over half of the 400 laps scheduled.

The “Seven Come for Eleven” Award for Fine Fortune

You may be wondering why we didn’t list Marcos Ambrose in the bad luck section of the column. The simple fact is, he ended up with a top 10. There is no way to know for sure where he would have ended up without the misfortune that happened with the aerial camera. However, the Australian still dueled his way back from one of the most bizarre incidents we’ve ever seen.

In another “glass half full” moment, Kurt Busch lost a battery under the last red flag. While most people might find that horrible, the fact is he was able to fix all of it under caution and fight his way back to the front. The problem may have cost him a win, but he still finished on the lead lap, in third place and proved once again why he is still one of the best drivers in the series.

Kevin Harvick didn’t have the car to win when the caution flew on lap 385. Fortunately for him, when coming down pit lane to take on two tires, everyone who was behind him did as well. When the dust had settled from the pit stops, he found himself on the front row for the restart and just had to beat Kasey Kahne with four older tires. The rest, as they say, is history.

Worth Noting

  • Kevin Harvick has now won 21 races in his career. This victory was his second win this season and second win ever at Charlotte. Based on developments this week, he’s only 11 wins shy of making it into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
  • Kasey Kahne finished second on an intermediate track for the third time this season. While Johnson is your point leader and Kenseth has notched the most wins, the fact that half of the Chase race are on these style tracks has to make Kahne look like he’s going to have a lot to say about who ends up being the champ.
  • Kurt Busch finished in the top 5 for the third time this season. In the 199 races prior to this year that Furniture Row racing had competed in, they had scored exactly three top-5 finishes. While Kurt is most assuredly pissed off about the fact that he didn’t win the race, he can take solace in the fact that he’s elevated his organization to an entirely different level.
  • Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. was the Rookie of the Race again. Depending on your viewpoint of the incident, he may have helped his love interest dump the defending champ, thus ensuring his name being on the award for another week.
  • The Coca-Cola 600 has been contested 54 times, but this is the first one that ever delayed by a television broadcasting apparatus falling on the track.
  • David Ragan’s average finish this season is 26.7. Just imagine what it would be without his improbable win at Talladega?
  • The top 10 finishers by manufacturer:

Chevrolet – 5
Toyota – 3
Ford – 2

  • Charlotte is always about celebrating our military and thanking them for their service. This weekend was truly no exception. The speedway hosted somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 military personnel this weekend. As part of the activities, Papa John’s served the troops and their families over 3,000 pizzas and provided musical entertainment.

What’s the Points?

Despite a disappointing finish of 22nd, Jimmie Johnson still holds the point lead over Carl Edwards by 32. Edwards is still the only driver within one race of the leader. Matt Kenseth, who could have gained a bunch of points actually gained just eight and is now just 51 out of the top spot. Clint Bowyer is still doing Yeoman’s work in staving off the Runner-up jinx, sitting in fourth just 60 points off of the lead. Kasey Kahne rode another strong finish to a one-spot gain in the points while his teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. slipped two spots to be left in sixth.

Kevin Harvick scored the win and with it moved up three positions in the standings. He is now a solid seventh. Paul Menard came home 13th in the race, despite crash damage but that was good enough to move him up three spots in the rankings to eighth. In the ninth spot is Martin Truex, Jr. who was the big gainer of the evening, adding five spots to his tally. Rounding out the top 10 is your 2012 defending champion Brad Keselowski. He has a lot of work ahead of him so I don’t have to find anything.

Overall rating (On a scale of 1-6, where one is a stinker and six is the finest of brews and a instant classic.) — This race started out like the usual ho-hum Saturday morning. But while the early stages made you feel like another intermediate debacle was at hand, the ending pulled out a bit of a surprise. As the final 100 laps unfolded, Mr. Where Did He Come From pulled his usual stunt and swept to the lead on the final restart. From there, it was just a matter of driving smart. In the long run, that saved Harvick, who had something in the tank for the guys who were up front all day while they came to pit. So, with the strangeness of this race overall I’m going to give it three cans. Was it the most competitive we’ve ever seen? Absolutely not. But a lot of stuff just “happened.” We’ll leave it at that.

What’s Next

The series moves off to Dover, the one-mile, high-banked concrete track which is named the Monster Mile for a reason. We will see some cars devoured and others killed by their owners. In the end, it should be a great show and don’t be too surprised if Jimmie Johnson runs away with the show this time. Coverage starts at 1:00 PM on Sunday on Fox Sports and MRN.

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Ken Smith
05/27/2013 11:19 AM

What a Danica hater you must be!! Saying that she got loose up the track and took Keselowski out!! It was very evident that she got “loose” because she got hit in the side by boyfriend Stenhouse!! Even Keselowski didn’t blame her for it!! Maybe time for Mark Martin to have his eyesight checked also, as it was very evident that Amirola was past him when he turned left into his rear quarterpanel. Maybe you and Martin can get a two for deal at the eye doctor’s office !!

The Truth
05/27/2013 11:42 AM

What race did Ken Smith watch? Stenhouse never touched Danica. Danica moved up, Brad came down. They wrecked. As for Martin, he arced it down through the quad oval and hit Almirola. Martin had at least a car width of room to work with on his outside. He didn’t use it.

05/27/2013 11:58 AM

you know, when they showed hammond on top of that camera during end of pre-race show, wonder if that had any impact on the cable issue.

race was on, i fell asleep when kenseth was leading and before jr’s engine blew or the wrecks. was surprised to see harvick won, and i too, wonder what kevin is thinking about shr. they’re struggling cause of 3 cars, and i think i read an interview where zipadelli said the 3rd team caught them short as they weren’t prepared for that this year. i can’t see stewart taking kevin’s criticism as gallantly as rcr has done so over the years.

loved end of indy race. wonderful seeing tk win and vassar as his owner and his buddies there (alex z and max papas) cheering him on.

Kevin in SoCal
05/27/2013 01:20 PM

I wonder what Jeff Gordon had to say about NASCAR allowing the cars to be fixed, after they denied him the chance to repair his car after the concrete came loose at Martinsville a few years back?

05/27/2013 01:29 PM

How many “debris” cautions does it take to get Danica back on the lead lap?

How many laps does it take for Danica to get back down a lap?

As Johnson was spinning in the grass I was thinking he was going to cause another accident and get away with it, so I was hoping for someone to hit his car. Thank you Montoya. You’re back in my good book.

I hope Danicky stays together until the banquet. One of them will hold the Rookie of the Year trophy while the other one drives them home. I bet Brian has the trophy ready now with her name on it.

Ken Smith
05/27/2013 02:13 PM

I will wager that “The Truth” also believed Mike Joy when he said the stands were full !!

05/27/2013 03:12 PM

There is a huge difference between the Martinsville racetrack incident and the overhead camera problem. The racetrack was a result of erosion due to racing as well as time, weather, upkeep by track employees, and the stress added by the race going on at the time. The camera incident was due to an outside organization with no real connection to the track and controlled by those other than track employees. Apples and oranges.

05/27/2013 03:42 PM

ken smith – i laughed when i heard mike joy say that. 120,000 people when back stretch was empty. and infield camp grounds full maybe cause the track offered all kinds of discounts to get people there.

05/27/2013 06:21 PM

Weaning myself after 40 years as a fan. Watched till the camera debacle, turned over to baseball, only to hear John Kruck in the booth… Decided I’d rather read a good book than listen to Kruck and Waltrips all night so I flipped off the TV and flipped on the Nook to read a John Sandford novel.

Good decision by me as I didn’t miss a thing apparently.

05/27/2013 07:10 PM

After watching nascar races for 30 years, I’ve had enough. I didn’t watch the charlotte race. And it used to be one of my favorites. You’ve done it, Mr. France. In my case apathy has settled in.

05/27/2013 07:19 PM

After watching the Indy 500, watching NASCAR was about as exciting as watching paint dry.

another Andy D
05/27/2013 09:33 PM

if you look at he 3 cars behind Sten/Pat/Kes, the middle car had enough sense to back off rather than push going through the middle.
She just figured it out too late.

05/27/2013 09:54 PM

Little Ricky did get the run up on his little He seems to be doing that alot, Ricky and the media must have a super secret pact cause nobody ever mentions it. Old Jaws did last night, maybe hoping to pave the way for himself by causing trouble..hehehe. Mark Martin is getting predictable in placing blame or playing dumb as to how these wrecks happen around him. Martin Truex, yet no win. Kevin Harvick gets super lucky…again…sigh.

05/27/2013 10:28 PM

the indy 500 was awesome… racing and passing and non manufactured drama. the charlotte soda pop 600 or whatever the hell it was.. was well, the “fiber” (for god sake it was a nylon ROPE) braking and another mark martin senior moment was about the most exiting part. yes exiting.

p.s. it seems nascar races are more dangerous for the fans than the drivers these days… who woulda thought?

05/27/2013 10:35 PM

GREAT comment, BD ; “non manufactured drama.” that just about sums it up.

Bill B
05/28/2013 07:41 AM

The fake debris cautions need to end. I can’t take them anymore.

Bill B
05/28/2013 07:45 AM

What if, let’s say, a pigeon flew in front of a car and caused damage, should the race be stopped and that car be allowed to fix the damage. It had nothing to do with the track or any organization.

Seems you are making the rules up as you go along just like NASCAR.

05/28/2013 08:20 AM

Thanks for props to KuBusch, Matt…I don’t know why I like that odd little dude, just do. Hope he wins one this year.

As for allowing work on the damaged cars after the cable incident, it was the right and fair call. Not the same case at all, but I recall a few years back an ESPN camera caught Harvick’s car on fire…it was too heavily damaged to continue.

Wayne V
05/28/2013 08:46 AM

Only one thing to look forward to, One more race with the Waltrips, the buffoonery, cornpone antics, boogity,schilling, lack of objectivity,bragging, hugely self centered approach. I know I missed many of their faults, but time is limited so I’ll mention just a few. Worst broadcasters in any arena, an HUGE embarrassment to racing in general!! I hope I made my feelings clear enought! Most fan that I know feel the same way.

05/28/2013 10:46 AM

Earlier in the article you mentioned Danica had to go to the rear to start the race.

In your typical “Bash Danica” section of the article, you mentioned she started 24th and dropped back? Did you do that for effect or did you not get your facts straight? Either way, it just shows your hatred towards Danica. And by the way, Kes took the blame for the incident, but nice try.

Looks like Indy once again trumps Nascar. Hope everyone had a good nap after the 500 Sunday.

05/28/2013 11:11 AM

I hope Brian France watched the Indy 500.
Sixty something lead changes!
I watched every lap and didn’t go to sleep!
Come on Brian! Figure out this “Fraud” you call “RACING”.

05/28/2013 05:01 PM

Bill B:
NASCAR made the right call in this case.
Birds have been flying in front of race cars at Daytona for years. That means complaining to God. The pigeon would therefore be “an act of God”. I’m not “making up rules” and in this case I don’t think NASCAR did. They simply made a judgement call and a good one at that.

Bill B
05/28/2013 09:53 PM

I agree that it was the correct decision and the fairest decision. Likewise I think it would have also been fair to let Gordon work on his car during the red flag when that piece of the track ruined his car.
Where was their sense of fairness on that one? And more importantly, in retrospect do YOU think they should have been able to work on the car during the red flag while they were fixing the track?

05/29/2013 02:26 PM

the Indy 500 has my vote. I saw an article by one of the guest writers for the Frontstretch who was bitching about it ending under caution and therefore it wasn’t “exciting” enough. Oh gee, forget about all those passes under green and overall a good race. If we can’t “manufacture” an exciting finish with multiple GWC attempts and a crashfest at the end, well, it’s not a good ending from NASCAR’s point of view. Funny thing – when the racing WAS the reason to watch, GWC’s weren’t needed.

I applaud Indycar’s choice to NOT have them restart again with 2 to go!

I’m with Bill on the red flag deal – I was at the martinsville race. He had the dominant car when the track came apart. That defect was squarely on the track AND NASCAR. It wasn’t a wreck, the track failed and Gordon should have been allowed to work on his car and restart the race in position.

05/29/2013 08:48 PM

It would appear that Mr. Neff wrote his article by simply reading the AP or something. Whether you like Danica or not you at least have to make a fair assessment. To say she “started 24th and quickly fell back” is not accurate. Due to the engine change she started at the back and worked her way up to 24th….


Contact Mike Neff

Recent articles from Mike Neff:

Thinkin' Out Loud – The Off Week Season Review
Special Winter Sprint Car Series set for January debut at Cocopah Speedway
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Kroger 250 postponed until Sunday afternoon
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