Who’s in the headline – Martin Truex Jr. and Kurt Busch dominated the race, leading almost 250 of the 400 laps. The eighth and final caution of the race flew with 62 laps to go, and five cars chose to roll the dice and try and stretch their fuel mileage for all of those laps. In the end, it was Carl Edwards who put himself in front of the other four drivers on that strategy and he found himself in Victory Lane for the 56th running of the Coca-Cola 600.
What happened – The green flag flew and cars were quickly running from the bottom of the track to the top. For some ridiculous reason (supposedly they washed turns 1 and 2 on Saturday night) NASCAR threw a competition caution on lap 27. Jimmie Johnson spun twice, drilling the inside wall the second time to put a damper on his night. There was a green-flag run of nearly 100 laps that ended with a caution for Trevor Bayne caressing the turn 4 wall. Ryan Blaney blowed up and Michael Annett spun on the back straight. In between Truex, Busch and Denny Hamlin led 300 laps before Edwards stretched his fuel for the win.
Why you should care – The first third of the season has seen mile and a half tracks dominated by Kevin Harvick and Johnson. Joe Gibbs Racing has at least shown some ability to run with them and Truex Jr. has led the most laps during the last two points races. It is a long way to the Chase but having more than two drivers strong on Intermediate tracks will provide some hope that the championship won’t be a fight between two drivers.
What your friends are talking about – The 2016 Hall of Fame class was announced. Once again there is discussion and debate over who should have gone in versus who did. Raymond Parks, whose financial commitment to the sport kept it afloat for the first five years was snubbed again, as was the original champion Red Byron. Short-track fans got to see a second driver named. Unfortunately it is another modified driver. The late model folks are going to have to wait at least another year to see if Larry Phillips name is called. The fact that Bruton Smith and Curtis Turner both were selected might indicate that past history against the France family isn’t counting against people. That should bode well for Smokey Yunick in the near future.
Coca-Cola has renewed their partnership agreement with Speedway Motorsports Inc through 2020. That means the 600 at Charlotte will carry the Coca-Cola name through the first year of the next decade. The agreement covers all of the SMI race tracks except Bristol, which has been a Pepsi partner since before the acquisition by SMI.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his sister Kelley Earnhardt Miller were awarded a key to the city for Mooresville, NC. It is on behalf of JR Motorsports, the organization they co-own, within the city limits. The award was prompted by the Xfinity series championship won by Chase Elliott in 2014.
The Fox Sports Studio in Charlotte, N.C., where Race Hub has been taped for years, was dedicated to Steve Byrnes this week. Byrnes was not only influential in shaping the show but also in molding much of the young talent that worked on the show with him. It is another of the many honors that have been bestowed since his untimely passing.
Speaking of Byrnes, in a very classy move by the NASCAR Hall of Fame, his votes for this year’s class were delivered by his son Bryson. Byrnes was given his ballot in advance of the voting, considering his failing health. He completed it shortly before his death.
ESPN posted a story this week drawing into question Patricia Driscoll’s used of Armed Forces Federation funds. Frontstretch‘s own Jerry Jordan unearthed much of the information during his investigative research during the Busch v. Driscoll domestic abuse case.
Rumors have been rampant that Tommy Baldwin Racing is going to merge or sell. Fronstretch spoke to a well connected source this weekend that says there is no chance that will happen.
Who is mad – Truex Jr. once again lost out on a fuel-mileage race. The racing gods continue to seem hell-bent on keeping Truex out of Victory Lane. The Mayetta, N.J. driver has been a contender on most of the intermediate tracks this season and, as previously mentioned, led the most laps in Kansas and Charlotte. He was upbeat in the post race interviews acknowledging that it was good to be mad about finishing fifth. Provided he does finally break through for a win he’ll be a contender when Chase time rolls around.
Kurt Busch was another driver who looked like he was ready to make a run at the win on Sunday however, as the night darkened, his car got tighter and he slid down the list of contenders. Busch and Harvick still are contenders week in and week out, so the anger from the Busch side of things should be short lived.
David Ragan was a darkhorse pick for many people when the green flag flew. He started in seventh and was quick through most of the practice sessions. During the race the team made a bad call that took a while to work back out of the car. When they finally got it squared away the engine ran hot and something failed internally. Ragan is hoping to find a home at Michael Waltrip Racing. He doesn’t need engine failures making it difficult to succeed.
Who is happy – Greg Biffle has been struggling to get back to competitive. While his second-place run on Sunday night was fuel-mileage related, he felt like the car was a legitimate top-10 car. The team has been making small gains in multiple areas with the car so this run could be a springboard to greater things. It was especially encouraging to Biffle that the car had speed. He thinks that bodes well, especially for when they get to Michigan.
Kyle Busch has multiple reasons to be happy. His son Brexton came into the world Monday with all of his fingers and toes. He then went out and ran 11th in the longest race of the season in his first points race back in the car after debuting last week in the All-Star race. In addition Busch was the fastest JGR car for most of the night. If he continues to run quickly, it won’t be long before he is in the top 30 in points and has a win to his name.
Elliott started the race in 28th and managed to come home in 18th. He was the second car one lap down when the checkered flag flew. When a new driver makes their first few starts in the Cup series they want to run all of the laps and stay out of trouble. Unlike Martinsville, Elliott has now run two races and completed all but one lap, finishing 16th and 18th. The future pilot of the No. 24 for Hendrick Motorsports is making solid strides toward his full-time debut in 2016.
When the checkered flag flew
Edwards win was his 24th triumph in 385 starts. The win puts Edwards in a tie with Dale Earnhardt Jr. for 31st on the all-time wins list. This was Edwards first point victory at Charlotte, although he does have an All-Star win to his credit. This was Edwards second top 10 of 2015.
Biffle’s second-place run was his first of the season. It was his 10th runner-up run of his career.
Earnhardt Jr.’s podium finish was his sixth of the season. He has the win at Talladega and five third-place finishes. Earnhardt’s third gave him 85 career podiums, which is 28th all-time. He is one behind Rex White for 27th.
Brett Moffitt finished 31st to claim the Rookie of the Race.
Harvick, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Johnson, Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Earnhardt Jr. and Edwards all have wins in 2015. Harvick and Johnson are locked into the Chase assuming they attempt the rest of the races or receive an exemption should they miss any events thanks to multiple wins.
The drivers who are currently eligible for the Chase after 12 races without wins and their standing in points:
- Martin Truex Jr.
Takin’ it to the Bank
Cup winners this year have pocketed $5,007,683 in the first 12 races, while the last-place finisher has taken home $1,000,700.
In the Xfinity Series it has been $884,660 for the winners and $173,381 for last place after 11 races.
After five Truck races the winner has $286,711 and the last loser has banked $51,901.
What is in the cooler
A second week at Charlotte Motor Speedway and a fuel-mileage race took the focus away from aero sensitivity. The car that was able to get out front was basically locked onto the point until they pitted. The racing before the sun went down was enjoyable with a lot of competition in the pack since there were multiple lines involved. There were multiple green-flag runs that saw green-flag stops so that added a little excitement but, when it all shook out in the end, there were four on-track passes for the lead and the only real excitement was who would make it to the end on fuel. The spectacle around the race makes it a great event but the racing only earned three cold Carolina Blondes from Foothills Brewing Company.
Where do you point your DVR for next week – The traveling circus is rested up from two weeks at home. They are packing their bags and heading to the first state for 400 miles at Dover International Speedway. The green flag flies at 1:00 p.m. ET. The race can be seen on FOX Sports 1. The remainder of the season is on FS1. It can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate or SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90.
About the author
What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.
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