Race Weekend Central

The Big 6: Questions After The 2017 Coca-Cola 600

Who… gets the shoutout of the race?

It’s always special to see a driver get their very first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory, but Austin Dillon‘s win in the Coca-Cola 600 was even more special than most.

In his fourth season, Dillon has improved over the years, but had never broken through and gotten that first win until Sunday night. Driving for his grandfather, NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Childress, and as the first driver to compete in the No. 3 Chevrolet since Dale Earnhardt’s tragic death on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500, the pressure to perform has always been higher for Dillon than most.

The last 70 laps of the race came down to fuel mileage, as most teams decided to pit with roughly 40 laps to go. At the end of the day, it came down to Jimmie Johnson and Dillon, as Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. battled behind them, hoping the two drivers would run of fuel.

With two laps to go, Johnson ran out of fuel and Dillon inherited the lead, which he hung on to for the finish.

It’s the first win for the No. 3 since Earnhardt’s dynamic, 18th-to-first win at Talladega in 2000 and Dillon became the third driver to win in the RCR No. 3 behind Earnhardt and Ricky Rudd.

What… is my takeaway from this race?

Charlotte Motor Speedway has gone from being the most quintessential NASCAR track to the most generic over the last five years. This race was saved by the dramatic fuel mileage finish, otherwise, it was just entirely skippable. Truex was dominant again, although at least this year Kyle Busch seemed to have some answers to his dominance. After two laps, every restart became mostly single file racing. The fourth stage didn’t really change a lot.

At this point, the only things Charlotte has going for it is the history of the track and that at least it’s more exciting than Indianapolis when it comes to stock cars. The 600 also benefits from built-in marketing advantages by being on the biggest racing day of the year and from it being on Memorial Day Sunday. Other than that? There’s just not a lot to the track anymore.

At least the road course next year is something. I’d prefer the series just ditch the second Charlotte date altogether and just go to a purpose built road course like Laguna Seca, but Bruton Smith would probably spontaneously combust if he lost a date, so this will be the best we get. The 600 would be better in the day time, but then it goes against the Indianapolis 500 which television wouldn’t want to do.

But hey, at least there was some actual passing going on in the race. So it was automatically better than Monaco this year.

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

Kevin Harvick led 42 laps early in Stage 1 of the race, but overall had a bit of an under-the-radar kind of night. He ran in the top 15 for most of the race, battling a loose racecar, and almost sustained some damage after running over some fluid from Ty Dillon’s car in the middle of the third stage. Harvick ended up finishing sixth after battling back from a suspected loose wheel.

Truex led 233 laps, leading the most laps in the 600 for the third year in a row, but ended up finishing third after being passed for second by Kyle Busch on the last lap. Truex also won the second stage of the race, and took the points lead from Kyle Larson.

When… did it all get sideways?

The 600 this year had nothing like Scott Dixon’s horrible wreck at Indianapolis earlier in the day, but there was still a pretty bad one in the opening laps at Charlotte.

For the second straight Cup Series points race, there was fire. Chase Elliott ran over a piece of debris from Jeffrey Earnhardt’s car and was set ablaze. Brad Keselowski couldn’t stop from slamming into Elliott due to the oil being dropped by the No. 24 Chevrolet, and Elliott found air for the second time in May.

Keselowski and Elliott were both checked out and cleared, but did not continue due to the amount of damage sustained by both cars in the accident.

HENDERSON: Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski Out of Coca-Cola 600 After Fiery Crash

Why… did Austin Dillon win?

A rare mistake by Chad Knaus and exploiting the weakest part of Johnson’s game. Knaus waited too long to tell Johnson that they would be going for it, as Johnson admitted in his post-race interview on Fox. If Knaus had informed his driver at the start of the final run that they would be going for it, then there’s a good chance the No. 48 would have gotten win number 83 on Sunday.

How… do the winners all compare?

So, Austin Dillon ended up as the surprise winner on Sunday in NASCAR. But how does he compare to Sunday’s other two winners?

Sebastian Vettel is basically Michael Schumacher 2.0. Not even 30 yet, the German has already won four world driver championships, 45 grand prix wins and is in the third year of a four year contract with Ferrari that is worth $240 million. That’s only behind a few baseball players when it comes to monetary value for a single contract. For comparison’s sake, Tom Brady has made $196.2 million after 17 seasons in the NFL, according to Forbes. He enjoys rebuilding vintage motorcycles in his free time.

Takuma Sato basically washed out from Formula 1 racing 10 years ago after 92 races and one podium finish. Sunday marked his first ever win in an IndyCar race on an oval and his second overall win in the series; the Japanese driver also won a race at Long Beach in 2013 for A.J. Foyt.

Austin Dillon is the most American American who has ever lived. The first car he drove to a Cup win had a big American flag on the side, the first thing he did after winning a Cup race was dab to the crowd, and the second thing he did was slide across some infield grass. Eight hours after Sato celebrated with a glass of milk at Indy, Dillon celebrated by drinking a Coca-Cola.

I kind of want to see all three of these guys in the same room now.

About the author

Michael has watched NASCAR for 15 years and began covering the sport five years ago. He is a graduate of Salisbury University and a proud member of the National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA).

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kb

I did not watch the race, and found out hours later Dillon won, I laughed my ass off!

I am still laughing at this late hour! Does my heart good that the Toys did not win!!!! The only weird thing with this, I was shocked at THE NUMBER 3 and what it means to the sycophants! Calling Dale SR into many a comment! Let AUSTIN enjoy this moment without the insane DALE SR. (need med people) putting their utterly useless fantasy bs with AUSTINS win!!!! Whether you like it or not..and it seems some insane nuts are pissed the 3 won and it wasn’t DALE SR. Come on….Jesus H. Christ. Did he win dominating? Hell no, but did he win YES, suck it up Snowflakes. he WON! And hell no, I can’t stand stand any thing Dillon!

salb

The #3 was iconic with another driver behind the wee. It is now another number for another driver to make his mark.

Al Torney

Ho-hum race at best.
No one has mentioned that Gibbs’ Toyotas all finished in the top seven.
The traction compound put down on the track did not provide much side by side racing.
Surprising how many supposed great cars are just not competitive at all.
Look for NASCAR to increase the number of stages in all races. Maybe not this year but definitely next year. The only time we see great racing is coming to green after a caution. And that’s for maybe two laps.
Johnson’s correct, the rule book is too thick.
I always enjoyed attending races at Charlotte. I liked the entire experience. Haven’t been since Kenseth’s first win there a few years ago. I won’t attend anymore races there I can go to sleep at Dover which is a seven hour shorter drive.
Nice to see Childress win another but overall his cars are still not up to snuff. Like they say ” better to be lucky” and a win is a win.
I could Car less about anything regarding the number three on a race car.

DoninAjax

I almost felt sorry for JJo when he ran out but then I remembered all the wins due to “debris” cautions at the end of races. I could hear Chad yelling all the way in Ajax, “Brian! Make the phone call to the tower! There’s a hot dog wrapper on the track!” You could see it in his face at the end that he was in a panic as he waited.

Remembering my F1 Ferarri history I was pretty sure they would find a way for Vettel to win. They’ve done the same thing before. Not surprised. Ask Ruben.

Now that Austin has a win I’m sure he thinks he right up there with Ralph Jr.

The Nationwide Dale Jr. “Performance” report was another joke. It showed him in 15th place and being passed by Danica.

I thought when Sato took the lead that there would be a last lap pass. Glad it didn’t happen.

russ

What was the call from Red Bull to Vettel and Webber to ensure that they finished in the “correct” order back when they dominated? Getting old and don’t remember now. But you’re right think Ferrari’s little stunt in Austria left a bad taste in peoples mouth for a long time.

Yet I do find it a little hypocritical when Smokey, and Jr. (Johnson) are worshipped as “innovators”, Penske’s band of merry men by andlarge get a free pass, while Chad K. and the 48 are “cheaters!”. Guess its who you are I guess.

DoninAjax

My comment of Ferrari was based on past experience watching THEIR antics. Can you imagine Colin Chapman telling Jim Clark or Graham Hill to let the other win? Isn’t progress wonderful!

rg72

Now on the heels of all the stories about Roush being back after Stenhouse’s win at Talladega, I guess we’ll be treated with countless stories about RCR’s “resurgence”.

janice

I find it interesting that princess sparkle pony has lead more laps than Jr. I haven’t read or seem so much coverage to a 10th place finish than the 88’s performance last night/this morning.

Found it interesting in what fox decided to air during rain delay. The race that caused the use of restrictor plates.

Both Waltrips are horrible, but Michael has to go. I think the brothers got a bogo special on their shirts and ties.

Onto Dover. Johnson will probably win. Another afternoon nap.

Bill H.

Indycar is gaining viewers and putting more people in the stands, while NASCAR is declining in both respects. Why? Well, watching Indianapolis and Charlotte in one day made that really easy to figure out.

Watching cars competing with each other all over the track, or watching a single file parade? Not hard to choose.

Listening to announcers talking about driver performance, history, and personality, or being told endlessly that a car is “loose in, tight off and twitchy in the middle of the turn” and that they are “adjusting the air pressure. taking one turn on the track bar and giving it a little more whatever?” Not a difficult choice.

Capt Spaulding

add to that, showing an ESPN classic race with expert commentary and aerial camera shots of the racing action which included the entire field, during the rain delay, sure can amplify the reason NASCAR is in the tank. Just the race play by play by professionals, who don’t have to talk over each other or make sure they get in the last word (probably wrong) adds to the explanation why TV ratings are low.

rg72

I presume they skipped over the 1987 broadcast staples like the Hollywood Hotel, Grid Walk, and Dale Sr. Performance Update and of course, Bob Jenkins with Boogity, Boogity, Boogity.
On a serious note, the contrast between the 1987 broadcast and race with the modern-day “product” was astounding.
You can bet that was the last time rain delay filler was not from a race within a year of the delayed event.

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