You can’t fool Mother Nature. Try as they might, NASCAR was unable to keep the racetrack dry after the final of four rain showers that doused the speedway today. After 227 laps, 340 and a half miles, the race was called official and David Reutimann played pit strategy, staying out when the rest of the field came in for their pit stop on what turned out to be the final caution.
Coming from 14th place to the lead, Reutimann scored his first victory in NASCAR’s top series. Reutimann is now the 20th driver to have completed the NASCAR trifecta, winning a race in Cup, Nationwide and Trucks.
The race started under threatening skies and was able to run until lap 8 before the first caution flag flew for rain. It restarted on lap 11 and ran until lap 18 when Kevin Harvick blew a right front tire and hit the wall in turn 1. The race restarted on lap 20 and ran until a competition caution on lap 42 for teams to check tire wear. The race went back to green on lap 44 and ran until a second caution for rain on lap 72. The race restarted on lap 79 and ran green until lap 164. At that time NASCAR threw a caution flag and all team members stepped out onto pit lane. The cars were brought around to the front stretch and stopped and turned off their engines. Everyone in attendance and on the teams had a moment of silence at 3:00 p.m. to commemorate all military personnel, living and deceased. The engines refired but before the race could resume, there was a rain shower so the caution period was extended until lap 179.
The race finally restarted and ran until lap 222 when the caution flag flew for the final time. At that point, Kyle Busch was leading, Kasey Kahne was second, Carl Edwards was third, Joey Logano was fourth and Juan Pablo Montoya was fifth.
Not only was this Reutimann’s first victory, it was also the first victory for Michael Waltrip Racing and the first victory for a Toyota team not owned by Joe Gibbs. This was Robby Gordon’s first top five since Watkins Glen in 2007 and his first top five on an oval since a fourth-place finish at Darlington in 2004. This top five marks Newman’s fourth top five in a row, the first time he’s done that since 2005.
In the post-race press conference, Newman was asked about the decision to stay out on the final caution:
“We talked about it on the backstretch. We decided to stay out and then when we got close and everyone was coming in, Tony called me in. I said, ‘we can’t chicken out’ and I stayed out. If it had gone back to green we’d have had to come in and start last and then it might have rained 20 laps later.”
Robby Gordon was questioned about his decision to stay out as well, “We were probably a 15th-place car. We ran for a long while with Kyle on that one run. We were running 21st when that caution came out,” he said. “We were watching the computer. We figured if we came in and went back out we’d be 21st so we took a chance and it paid off.”
On the decision to stay out, Reutimann said: “Rodney said I’m either going to get us a win or lose us 10 spots. We decided to stay out and it paid off. I wanted the sun to come out or just pour and it never did either. Mike told me that’s just what it needed to do and it did it. I keep waiting for Mike Helton to come down and say hold on, we’re going to go back out and run it some more.”
When it was all said and done, Reutimann got to put his name on the 50th anniversary Coca-Cola 600 trophy that weighs 225 pounds. He found out in the post race that he gets a copy of it to take home for his very own. Whether it was a strategy call or not, he will always be the winner of the 50th running of the Coca-Cola 600.
The top five consisted of Reutimann, Newman, Gordon, Edwards and Brian Vickers. Sixth was Kyle Busch, who led the most laps during the race with 173. Seventh was Kahne, eighth Montoya, ninth Logano and 10th Matt Kenseth.