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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2016 Coca-Cola 600

Who… gets my shoutout of the race?

While Martin Truex, Jr. was busy stealing the show, there were a few drivers who put on quietly impressive performances.  Kurt Busch was impressive all weekend long, leading the way in two of three practice sessions and running inside the top 10 all night long after starting 13th.  There were times when it looked as though Busch was poised to make a run at the front, and he spent plenty of laps inside the top 5.

For Busch, who has seldom battled for the lead in 2016, the race was another mark in what has become a stellar season. He hasn’t finished outside the top 10 since Martinsville and sits second in the standings after Charlotte, the first driver without a victory. His season isn’t perhaps as flashy as some, but he’s getting the job done.

What… is the takeaway from this race?

Racing, at both its best and worst, is about much more than cars that go fast.  It’s about people — the men and women who work in anonymity at race shops, the drivers who overcome more than most fans realize during races and the fans who cheer them on no matter how well they’re running.  It’s about the small teams who have to do more with less, and the big ones who find something nobody else can.

Sunday, it was about men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice as well.  The winners’ celebration was made all the more sweet by knowing that some things matter more than winning, like Martin Truex, Jr. and longtime girlfriend Sherry Pollex spending time in Victory Lane — and anywhere else — after Pollex has fought a valiant fight against ovarian cancer.

It’s also about the drivers and teams who found themselves far from Victory Lane — the ones who had their hopes dashed but ran as hard as they could every lap anyway. Racing is about elation and heartbreak.  It’s about celebrations and tears and sometimes both.  It’s the people who make the cars go around, and the ones who cheer for them who matter. Cars don’t go fast without people.

Where… did the pole sitter and the defending race winner wind up?

Martin Truex, Jr. started on the pole and he finished in Victory Lane, shattering several race and NASCAR records in the process.  Truex’s 588 miles led is the most ever in a NASCAR race, breaking a record set in 1967. His 392 laps led set a record for the Coca-Cola 600.  The event also broke race records for both the average speed and time of race. Oh, and Truex had a perfect 150.0 driver rating, too.

Carl Edwards was in stealth mode early, inching his way through the field until a power play on pit road put him in second.  He lost a spot on track to Jimmie Johnson, but looked to be in good position to pounce late in the race if Truex or Johnson bobbled.  Then came a round of green-flag pit stops with just over 100 laps to go and it fell apart.

Edwards was penalized for speeding on entry, which draws a pass-through under green. He served the penalty, which would have left him at the back of the lead lap, and was too fast on entry again.  That drew Edwards a stop-and-go penalty, which cost him a lap, an event he failed to recover from. Edwards went on to finish 18th, far from indicative of his strength.

When… did it all go sideways?

It didn’t, but a lot of fans will complain about it anyway, because there was just one green-flag pass for the lead, and that was because Johnson got lucky on a restart and led for a few hundred yards, if that.  But what everyone said Sunday night was not an example of an aero package that doesn’t work or a tire that doesn’t wear, or anything else other than one team turning in a performance so dominant that nobody else had a chance.

There was plenty of racing through the field, and spotters earned their paychecks.  Sometimes, a dominating performance is part of the sport, and it should be.  Furniture Row Racing — a single-car team that has gained elite status in a sport full of mega-teams — didn’t win because of the aero package.

Not every race is going to look like the final segment of the Sprint Showdown last week, and that doesn’t make those races bad races.  A good race doesn’t just unfold up front, and a performance like Truex’s should be a thrill.  In any other sport, a performance that left the competition gaping wide-eyed at it’s sheer volume would be heralded.  And so should Truex’s race, which was truly one for the history books and the highlight reels.

Why… did Martin Truex, Jr. win the race?

The explanation doesn’t get any easier than it this week: he won because nobody could catch him.  So much happens in the course of a race, and the fastest car is by no means any guarantee of victory at the end of hundreds of miles of competition. Sunday, though, Furniture Row Racing brought a car that nobody — not six-time champion Johnson, not a hard-charging and hungry Kevin Harvick, and certainly not anybody else — could race with.  It was just that simple, even as the record books were being rewritten.

How… did the little guys do?

The three best:

AJ Allmendinger; JTG Daugherty Racing: Allmendinger started 15th and faded back to the low 20s early as his team. Like most others, he struggled with the reality of daytime practice sessions on a much hotter day.  Allmendinger fought a tight car early and while he fought to stay on the lead lap, ended up a lap down in 16th; a solid performance for a team that looks more and more like they could land a Chase berth as the season goes on.

Ryan Blaney; Wood Brothers Racing: Blaney had a decent qualifying effort, starting 18th, but his teams struggled with the day-night transition as well as facing a costly pit road speeding penalty which sent Blaney to the back of the pack on a restart.  A subsequent pit miscue, which forced Blaney to pit a second time after a wheel was left loose, sealed the No. 21’s fate — they still snagged a top 20, which is perfectly respectable, but it wasn’t pretty.

Clint Bowyer; HScott Motorsports: Starting 26th and finishing 32rd is a solid day for the HScott Motorsports organization.  It’s the kind of finish the team was starting to get more consistently in 2015, and if they can get back to that over the next few weeks, it’s not unrealistic to think they could step up to some better finishes by fall.  While finishes like this one are often a bitter pill for Bowyer to swallow, they’re a step in the right direction for an organization that will need to fill the seat next season.

All the rest:

No.DriverTeamCarStartFinish+/-Points Position
47AJ AllmendingerJTG Daugherty RacingHarris Teeter / Bush’s Beans Chevy15th16th
Lost a couple of spots at start
-117th
-1
21Ryan BlaneyWood Brothers RacingMotorcraft / QuickLane Ford18th20th
Gained a few spots in opening laps; early speeding penalty on green flag stop; loose wheel forced a second stop under caution just past halfway; drove to a top 20 but 3 laps down
-215th
15Clint BowyerHScott Motorsports5-hour Energy Chevy26th23rd
Given that this is about where this team was in 2015, they’ve actually made some gains over the early part of 2016.
+325th
+1
38Landon CassillFront Row MotorsportsMDS Transport / We Hire Vets Ford33rd27th
Made some gains as night went on; decent finish overall
+627th
7Regan SmithTommy Baldwin RacingNikko / Toy State Chevy31st28th
Struggled with handling; car didn’t want to turn.  28th was an ok performance for the team
+331st
+1
13Casey MearsGermain RacingGEICO Military Chevy17th30th
Good in qualifying; 7th in final practice; dropped like a stone in opening laps; complained car was tight but never got it right—this team is capable of more and needs to figure things out.
-1328th
23David RaganBK RacingBubba Burger Toyota35th31st
A pair of penalties (restart violation and uncontrolled tire) left Ragan mired laps down
+430th
83Matt DiBenedettoBK RacingHope for the Warriors / Cosmo Motors Toyota34th32nd
Already fighting handling early and unscheduled stop for tire didn’t help cause
+233rd
95Michael McDowellCircle Sport-Leavine Family RacingThrivent Financial Ford32nd34th
Struggled to find balance all weekend; slapped the wall at lap 268
-232nd
-1
98Cole WhittPremium MotorsportsVydox Plus Chevy36th35th
Could race peers at times but cautght in situation where only one other car on same lap
+136th
46Michael AnnettHScott MotorsportsPilot Flying J Chevy38th36th
Team continues to struggle; is it time for wholesale change?
+237th
-2
34Chris BuescherFront Row MotorsportsCSX-Play It Safe Ford22nd37th
Solid in qualifying; slapped the wall just past halfway and drew penalty for too many men on unscheduled stop
-1334th
30Josh WiseThe Motorsports GroupCurtis Key Plumbing Chevy37th38th
The team is running every race because of low entries, but they need to pick up performance within this group
-139th
32Jeffery EarnhardtGO FAS RacingCan-Am Ford39th39th
Hit the wall hard to bring out third caution but was able to finish
40th
+1
55Reed SorensonPremium MotorsportsWorld Record Striper Company Chevy40th40th
Fell off lead lap by lap 12; behind the wall just past halfway. Official reason for DNF was clutch failure.
44th

 

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6 thoughts on “The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2016 Coca-Cola 600”

  1. At the risk of ruining the feel-good story of the day, it’s time to dispel the myth that Furniture Row is your standard single-car team. Let’s be honest. For all intents and purposes, it’s a fifth Gibbs team.

    • I guess that explains Gibbs in Victory Lane. I wonder if he led the 78 team in a “prayer” after the race. Kind of like Hendrick when a Herndrick-Stewart car wins.

      • Amen Donin!!! It was a big official “Welcome to the TOYS/BZF/NASCAR family Barney! A coming out party!!!!!!! Nascar made sure of it! It was a “big show” weekend and P.T. BARNUM delivered!!!!!!! Nothing was going to impede this debutantes debut at the big show flying in a Toys supercar!! And it didn’t! Pierre Debris was at the shore, so no worries there, but in reality he should have been on duty..a legitimate need for him was there at the end, but NASCAR muddled thru it, despite the faux debris caution earlier in the race. Shocker..not really. Pop the champagne! IMO. LOL!

        • Sorry Donin, he is now part of the Jesus Joe family. The 5th Gibbs car! Teammates, how cool…(sarcasm).

  2. Well I think its great Truex finally got an overdue Win, I sure would like to see that car get a thorough inspection based on that level of dominance…& notice Denny laying a congrat bang to the rght/frt…HHmm

  3. Truex is certainly part of JGR now. But as Amy refuses to acknowledge, her beloved Ryan Blaney is part of Penske as well. He is not a little guy any more than Truex is. This site was well and truly outed as amateur journalism last week by one of the few professional journalists left in the sport, and Amy is a great example of why. She leads with her heart, the facts be damned!

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