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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Kyle Busch Dominates to Win 1st Coca-Cola 600

Kyle Busch can knock Charlotte Motor Speedway off the tracks he’s won at NASCAR’s premier level. After Sunday evening’s Coca-Cola 600, there isn’t a single track on the circuit that he hasn’t been victorious at.

There also wasn’t a single driver within striking distance in one of his most dominant performances.

On restarts, Busch would pull away. On pit road, he did the same. In the midst of a long green-flag run, no one could keep up with him during Sunday evening’s (May 27) Coca-Cola 600.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver led a race-high 377 laps en route to his fourth Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series triumph of 2018. Starting from the pole, Busch only gave up the lead for a handful of laps in the midst of varying pit strategies throughout the evening. The victory marks his 188th career NASCAR national series victory, putting him 12 triumphs behind Richard Petty’s record of 200.

Busch defeated reigning Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. by 3.8 seconds to pick up the victory. Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top five. Truex had two pit road penalties on the night, but the No. 78 car was strong enough to charge back to the runner-up position. It’s the same spot he finished in at the end of stages two and three.

Busch started the race from the pole, his third of the season, and dominated stage 1, leading 94 of the first 100 circuits on the night. His No. 18 car set the pace early, and not much changed as the sun set and the stars came out.

Kevin Harvick entered Sunday evening’s race determined to win race No. 6 on the year. Most thought he would also be Busch’s major foil and for a time, they were right. Harvick started at the rear of the field after not posting a time during qualifying but shot inside the top 15 within 20 laps.

Come lap 83, though, Harvick’s day went sour within the blink of an eye. One of Harvick’s tires blew in the middle of Turns 3 and 4, causing the No. 4 machine to slam into the outside wall and ending his shot at winning the Coca-Cola 600.

Next came Ryan Blaney attempting to pull the upset. The Team Penske driver ran the majority of the first two stages inside the top five. However, late in the second stage, he began to drop back. At one point, he reported on the radio that his rear end was burning because something underneath his No. 12 machine was heating up. He told crew chief Greg Erwin that he’d run it until it quit on him, and that it did, dramatically ending his evening prematurely. With 21 laps left in stage 3, Blaney’s car erupted in flames.

Last year’s Coca-Cola 600 winner Austin Dillon did not have the race he anticipated either. The No. 3 team started 12th and was on track for a top-15 run until the 2018 Daytona 500 champion slammed into the wall. He had to bring his car into the garage, going 51 laps down before finishing outside of the top 30.

Richard Childress Racing’s tough night didn’t end there, either. Ryan Newman, who made his way into the top 10, headed into the garage just as the final stage began. The No. 31 car was running in ninth when Newman brought it into the garage after a wheel bearing issue put an end to his shot at a solid finish.

Johnson appeared to be heading in the wrong direction, too. On lap 121, Johnson got a tap from Hamlin, turning the No. 48 car around. As the seven-time champ spun in front of the pack, Team Penske’s Joey Logano did the same. Both drivers managed to avoid hitting the wall, but Logano had minor damage to the left-rear quarter panel on his No. 22 Ford.

Johnson would recover to earn his second top five of the season for Hendrick Motorsports. Logano concluded the evening in 22nd, but did make his way back inside the top 10 at one point before falling back.

MASSIE: JOHNSON SEES SPEED INCREASING IN NO. 48 CHEVY

Jamie McMurray earned his second top 10 of the year for Chip Ganassi Racing, finishing sixth. Next was Kyle Larson, who spun around on lap 274 by himself but stayed off the wall to avoid receiving any damage. The No. 42 car was riding high, wide and handsome when it got loose and lost it. Larson concluded the evening in the seventh position, recording his eighth top 10 on the year. Kurt Busch was eighth, Alex Bowman ninth, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. rounded out the top 10 as the first car one lap down.

Further back, Matt Kenseth ran 17th in his second points-paying start for Roush Fenway Racing. And while Kasey Kahne finished seventh at the end of stage 3, he ended the evening in 20th for Leavine Family Racing.

NASCAR returns to Pocono Raceway next weekend for the Pocono 400. The green flag is scheduled for June 3 at 2:18 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.

COCA-COLA 600 UNOFFICIAL RESULTS

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