NASCAR Race Weekend Central

The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2021 Coca-Cola 600

Who… should you be talking about after the Coca-Cola 600?

Kyle Larson cruised to his second win of the season at Charlotte Motor Speedway Sunday (May 30) with a whopping 10-second lead on second place. With Larson’s victory, Hendrick Motorsports passed Richard Petty Motorsports to set a NASCAR record with 269 wins as an organization.

Only four times this season has the driver who led the most laps went on to win. Three of them have come via HMS, as Larson paced the field for 327 of 400 laps. He’s now second in the standings, just 76 behind Denny Hamlin, and has posted top-two finishes in four straight races.

Kyle Busch was the only driver to break up the Hendrick Motorsports juggernaut up front. After failing pre-race inspection, Busch started at the rear of the field and became a man on a mission. Busch worked his way up to sixth place by the end of stage one, slicing through the field. Showing consistent speed, he stayed inside the top 10 from that point on aside from green flag pit stops. Heading into the final stage, Busch exited pit road in second position and had himself one final shot at Larson. But Busch could not make a pass stick after the restart and had to settle for a third-place finish.

See also
Kyle Busch Breaks Up Hendrick Party With 3rd-Place Run in Coca-Cola 600

Honorable Mention: Richard Childress Racing had a solid showing this weekend with Austin Dillon finishing sixth and Tyler Reddick ninth. Reddick, who is on the playoff bubble, continues to impress as he stills sits on the right side of the cutline. With other playoff bubble drivers like Kurt Busch and Matt DiBenedetto having lackluster results, Reddick improved his cushion to 61 while jumping ahead of Chris Buescher into 15th on the 16-driver grid.

What… is the Silly Season buzz about?

The Silly Season dominoes keep falling earlier than usual this year as the Brad Keselowski story kept developing at Charlotte. Last week, rumors broke the Team Penske veteran nwould be moving over to Roush Fenway Racing in 2022. Keselowski nor Roush have confirmed the rumor, with both politely deflecting reporters with no comment.

Instead, it was Ryan Blaney who seemed to inadvertently confirm the news this weekend Keselowski would move to Roush Fenway Racing in 2022. With Keselowski expecting to take a seat at RFR, Ryan Newman reacted, sounding off that he was looking to still compete in NASCAR.

The move means the 2022 NASCAR Silly Season is now in full swing. There are still a lot more questions to be answered, though. Could Matt DiBenedetto still race with the Wood Brothers now, even with Austin Cindric‘s upcoming promotion to the Cup Series? Where will Kurt Busch be driving in 2022 after reports broke he may jump ship to 23XI Racing?

There are plenty of moves still to be made. But Keselowski appears to be the first one on the board.

Where… did the other key players wind up?

After starting on the pole, Larson was the dominant car of the day as he led 327 laps and won all four stages en route to the win. While Larson had to battle Busch and his Hendrick Motorsports teammates, the driver still scored the maximum of 70 points in one race weekend (10 more than usual due to an extra stage). It’s the first career victory for Larson in a race over 400 miles; keep in mind he had never led a lap in the Coca-Cola 600 before Sunday night.

Defending champ Chase Elliott had a solid day, even leading 22 laps during the middle stages of the race. On the final restart, Elliott passed Busch to move up to second, which is where he wound up. Elliott could not repeat his win at COTA but has scored five straight top-10 finishes to launch back into the championship conversation.

Point leader Denny Hamlin stayed out with two tires at the end of stage two, improving track position and held on from there. Hamlin stayed in the top 10 throughout most of the race’s second half, even leading three laps. Finishing in seventh, he maintains a 76-point edge over Larson in the standings but still remains without a victory 15 races into the year.

When… was the moment of truth in the Coca-Cola 600?

Larson had everything go right with this win. The moment of truth was when he started the engine and took the green flag.

With this season, Larson had multiple wins slip away especially at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway. The last pit stop under caution was the closest that a non-Hendrick car contended for the lead. In the end, there was no late-race caution that shuffled the field with strategy or Larson losing the handling of his car. Hendrick Motorsports is proving that it can win with any driver at any track as now it has more wins than Joe Gibbs Racing this season.

Why… should you be paying attention to lapped cars?

Lapped cars are a hot button topic this week as there were multiple times they nearly caused a wreck. With the 550 horsepower package, it causes slower drivers to be even more of a roadblock because they cannot keep up their momentum.

The totals at the back of the field were pretty lopsided. David Starr finished 31 laps back and over 45 miles behind race winner Larson. Ross Chastain, who spent 38 laps in the garage after an oil pump belt was loose, was closer to Starr than Starr was to the next car on the track.

While battling with Kyle Busch with 52 laps to go, Byron almost missed the car of Starr and Josh Bilicki in an incident that nearly wrecked all three.

Even though there were not any incidents causing damage between a lapped car and a lead lap car, the controversy they generated was nothing new. Back in 2019 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Garrett Smithley and Busch made contact going into turn 1 similar to what happened to Byron.

Racing is all about passing cars that are slower than you. When cars are slow enough to cause hairy moments on tracks, something needs to change. The 550 horsepower package and/or the PJ1 are not suited for this type of competition.

How… should NASCAR proceed with scheduling this 600-mile race going forward?

NASCAR’s lone 600-mile event has become a historic landmark on the schedule because of the many years stock cars have run at Charlotte. Due to stage racing, NASCAR’s longest event becomes four 100-lap races rather than one 600-mile marathon.

While stage racing has provided some interesting finishes and strategies, creating 10 extra bonus points in this case, endurance is lost in this format. But while there might be some discussion to move the 600-mile event going forward, it would attract the same allure for fans as Charlotte.

Sure, change can be refreshing, yet the prestige of 600 miles at Charlotte on Memorial Day Weekend cannot be replaced. The solution may simply be to remove stages for this event rather than adding them. Only then, the grind of 600 miles will be back in competition which is what used to make the Coke 600 a crown jewel event.

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43 Comments
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janice

the 600 should stay the 600. if they want to keep stage racing only have 3, 100, 125 and then remainder. I didn’t make it to the end of stage 1 before I changed station.

looks like hendrick is firing on all 8 cylinders after rebuilding. it will be interesting to see if any sponsors step up for the 5. hendrick still paying the freight for the team.

Carl D.

If Larson keeps running as well as he has been, someone is bound to step up and sponsor him. Not Coke, and not Nike, but somebody.

Echo

Think it’s Chad that has them firing on all cylinders !!
Kurt to Denny’s team is interesting. Denny commented over the weekend that the 23 is essentially the 5th JGR car. He attends the same meeting, his team gets the same input and everything as the current jgr drivers. Denny also said bubba already gets excellent advice from himself, Kyle and truex. Kurt doesn’t want to retire yet and it would be a step up for him in jgr 6th car.

Bill B

Too bad Denny doesn’t have faith in himself and drive for his own team. I assumed he’d be the second team when they were ready to expand. He doesn’t want to be the guy that has to build his own team around himself and experience the growing pains that comes with the territory. He wants to do it from the sidelines. What a tool.

Tom B

Bill B, I don’t understand your thought. Did you feel the same way about Dale Sr and DEI?

Bill B

Yeah, I kind of did.

Echo

” Chad “

Echo

Quite the young team Rick and Jeff have put together there. I venture to say Jeff was the driving force behind Larson being hired and I’d wager he put his money where his mouth was. Kyle is the old man of the group, 29 this summer. Young William at 23 is learning well.

Echo

ALL my posts this morning keep disappearing after a few minutes. 6 so far.

janice

me too. figured it was cause I was posting via phone and not computer.

Bill B

I keep finding that I have to continually clear the cache manually in order to see new comments.

Jo

Stop whining and reload the damn page!

Echo

I will, Jojo. How is your dog anyway !!!

Jo

@Echo, how’s Little Willie? Still not saluting?

Jo

Poor old “Echo!” Being canceled even by Fronstretch! LOL!

Christopher

It’s interesting that no journalists that I know of have pointed out the 5 team, so successful this year with Larson, was the 48 team with Johnson and contrasted the monumental difference in performance when only the driver and the number was changed. Perhaps everyone is too polite to say that Johnson was washed up as a driver 2 years ago.

rg72

Besides Johnson being washed up, this was also a team held back in recent years by other somewhat disinterested drivers such as Dale Jr. and Kahne.
Amazing what younger, hungrier drivers will do for a team.

Christopher

I don’t think Junior or Kahne were disinterested; I think they were also washed up as far as the Cup series. But certainly the young blood plus Knauss moving into competition management has seemingly, finally righted the HMS ship.

DoninAjax

The pole time for the Busch event was 29.350 and 183.986mph.

The pole speed for the Cup event was 29.953 and 180.282mph.

It is ridiculous that the Busch cars are faster than Cup cars and that dirt cars and pavement cars and sprint cars that race on short tracks have more horsepower than Cup cars.

Jo

Thank God for Kyle Busch! He out-drove 2 of the much faster HMS cars. For those that think road course racing is boring, I DARE you to watch the replay of this snooze-fest from beginning to end.

Jo

I am a fan of an HMS driver. “Real car/people” fans want to see actual competition on the track, not a 600-mile parade.

Go shine your Chevy Nova for fun!

Jo

You must lead a very boring life!

Steven

BIG Congrats to Kyle Larson! After all the politically correct BS last year I prayed that he would get behind the wheel again and kick some ass.
Thank you for that Mr Hendrick. I’m hoping now for the 2012 Championship to that very successful team.

Echo

I think Jeff deserves a big thank you too. I think Jeff was pushing for a Larson hire hard. Rick probably said let’s see your money and Jeff put up. Jeff probably owns half that 5 team. Time will tell.

Tom B

I always thought Jeff Gordon owned half of the Jimmy Johnson’s #48 team. This new team started from the defunct Gordon/Evernham Busch Team.
I don’t what number it has now since they switched or dropped numbers.

Echo

Jeff does own half the #48. I think it will eventually come out that Jeff pushed Rick hard to hire Larson and had to put his money where his mouth was coming from.

Christopher

No it didn’t. It’s the 48 team, just anew driver and a changed number.

Jo

I knew Kyle Larson would become the hero of that segment of NASCAR fans who wave the Confederate Flag and consider themselves to be victims of the so-called “cancel culture.”

Steven

What a ridiculous thing to say, Jo. I bet your relatives hate to see you pull into their driveway. So very sad and pathetic.

Jo

Actually, they come to MY home, My driveway! LOL!

Echo

Jojo relatives have to go to her house. Senility doesn’t allow old ladies to drive. Jojo is her dogs name.

Jo

@Echo, take your Alzheimer’s meds and and let your caretaker tuck you in for the night in your white sheets or your Confederate flag. You seem to be the one who is living in the past and can’t accept the present.

I guess you’re just sad you’ve been “canceled” by reality.

Bill B

Ah quit your whining about Larson. Shut your mouth and watch the races.

See, anyone can use that tactic.

Jo

Bill, I’m just stating the obvious. You may be a diehard HMS fan, but the majority of Larson’s supporters see him as a poor “victim” for using a word that they use all the time.

Echo

she made a mistake signing in as Jojo in the beginning
I caught it, that’s her dog.

Jo

I never signed in as Jojo, I don’t have a dog, and you’re suffering from delusions. Post the proof and stop stalking me. How much of a loser can you be?

I could say you signed in as Adolf Hitler and used the swastika as your profile pic. Without posting proof, your attacks on me are no different than that. In fact, it’s actually more believable than what you have posted about me.

Jo

I think we already know who the 2012 Champion was: Brad Keselowski. It’s also not 1865, unfortunately for you, Steven.

Bobby

It is with sweet irony that Larson’s star shines brightly at this moment even though nascar threw him under the bus a year or so ago for having the audacity to utter in an innocuous way a word that practically every dark complected person in this country uses on a daily basis. Larson withstood the public pillorying with aplomb. In the meantime, desperate to get his face on every newsfeed, the Willy T. Ribbs of nascar jumped on his cash cow blm podium and proclaimed disingenuously how “shocked and hurt” he was. And the sweet irony continues as even with the JGR fifth team top tier equipment, Noose Wallace still stumbles, bumbles and fumbles in 20th place.

Jo

Bobby Boy, thanks for proving my point. Remember to wear your white sheet when you are burning a cross tonight!

Echo

jojo calls Georgia home now. The gibberish being thrown out is reverse psychology. Hide your tracks she thinks is being sneaky. I can bring up pages of her bigotry.

Jo

I live a thousand miles from Georgia. I live in a Blue State in the Midwest. Take that, you pervert!

Bring up those pages with IP addresses or stop slandering me, you moron!

Bobby

That’s the best she can do? Sheets? Crosses? As Mark Twain is ofttimes quoted as saying…..”Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”

Jo

Anyone who defends his racism by calling out others as “politically correct” proves he is both a fool and a liar.

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