Dillon captures wet Coca-Cola 600 for 1st Cup win
CONCORD, N.C. -- Despite being told he was five laps short on fuel to complete the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway Sunday night, Austin Dillon got to the checkered flag to claim his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win.
His team had to push his car to victory lane.
"It hasn't sunk in yet. I can't believe it," Dillon said. "I was just really focused on those last laps. My fiancee wrote in the car, 'When you keep God in the first place, he will take you places you never imagined.' And I never imagined to be here at the 600 victory lane.
"Praise the Lord and all these guys who work so hard, and my pit crew is the best on pit road. I love it for them. We're in the Chase. It's awesome."
The race included an interruption of 1 hour, 40 minutes because of rain and lightning.
Kyle Busch finished second, and Martin Truex Jr. was third after leading 233 of the 400 laps that made up the race. Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top five. The race winner was the only non-Toyota driver in the top-five.
"That stings a little bit, but can't say enough about the guys on the team and everybody in Denver," Truex said. "Everybody on this Bass Pro Toyota did a heck of a job today. We just -- we missed it a little bit on our last adjustment. I think if not for that, we probably could've gotten the 3 (Dillon).
"And then, lapped traffic is just so tough here. There's a few guys out there that you don't ever know where they're going to be when you get to the corner, and it costs you so much time trying to pass them. Ultimately, that's what got us. It is what it is."
After everyone pitted during the last caution of the race that came when Danica Patrick hit the wall on lap 328, most drivers returned to the pits under green in the final 35 laps.
Jimmie Johnson and Dillon were among a handful of drivers who stayed out. Drivers on newer tires, led by Truex and Busch, caught those who stayed out, except Johnson and Dillon, in just a few laps.
Johnson led the way and Dillon ran second until Johnson ran out of fuel with two laps to go. On the final lap, Busch passed Truex for second.
"I didn't know we were thinking fuel," Johnson said. "I could have done a lot better job with the front side of the run to put us in a better position. Then, when I got the news about saving fuel, I did all that I could from that point and just came up a little bit short. A strong performance for the car. had a couple of weird things going on on some restarts where I lost some track position."
Busch took the race lead from Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Hamlin, and Truex moved into second on the restart at the beginning of the fourth and final 100-lap stage. On the final restart, Truex took the lead and ran up front until the final cycle of green-flag stops.
Hamlin was up front on the third stage, followed by teammates Busch and Kenseth in second and third. Fellow Toyota drivers Truex and Erik Jones rounded out the top five in the running order.
Truex dominated the third stage, much like the stage that preceded it. He lost a couple of positions to Hamlin and Busch on pit road, though, during a lap 292 caution for a Kyle Larson wreck resulting from a tire issue. When the race restarted for the last few laps of the stage, he lost third to Kenseth.
Truex was the leader at the end of stage two at the halfway point of the race, with Johnson and Kenseth in second and third.
Already the race leader when a weather-related red flag was lifted at lap 143, Truex got off pit road first before the green flag waved for the restart, and he maintained his lead through the remainder of the second stage.
Bad weather caused the lengthy stoppage on lap 143.
The race was already under caution for a Matt DiBenedetto wreck when the red flag was waved.
Harvick got off pit road first during the yellow flag between the first two of the four 100-lap stages. However, when the race returned to green early in the second stage, Truex took the lead.
Harvick went down a lap because of an unscheduled stop for a loose left rear wheel on lap 125, but he got the free pass to get back onto the lead lap during the DiBenedetto caution.
Busch won the first 100-lap stages, while Truex and Harvick ran second and third, respectively.
Busch retook the lead from Truex inside the final 10 laps of the opening stage. Truex had taken the lead through a cycle of green-flag pit stops that began on lap 63. Harvick and Busch combined to lead all the laps to that point, but Truex was among the first to pit under green, and he gained time with a few extra laps on new tires.
Harvick was the polesitter but lost the lead to Busch on lap two. Harvick retook the lead by getting off pit road first during the first caution of the race on lap 20.
The yellow flag waved for the first time when something flew out from under Jeffrey Earnhardt's car and hit the front of Chase Elliott's car. Brad Keselowski then slid in fluid on the race track and hit Elliott's slowed car.
"I saw parts and pieces flying," Elliott said. "I don't know if he blew a tire or something, and I ended up in something that he had on track. I hit it pretty hard. It was really solid, so I knew it was rough. I saw some fire, tried to get stopped and get out of the way, and I guess Brad got in my oil and couldn't get slowed down, so I hate it. Man, it is so just ridiculous. I wish I knew what to do to try to fix things like that, but at the end of the day, you really can't."
Johnson and Kenseth rounded out the top five at the end of stage one, while Chip Ganassi teammates Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray raced from the back into the top 10 by the stage's end.
Larson, the points leader, started in the back because a problem getting through pre-qualifying inspection prevented him from getting on the track for qualifying. McMurray ended up in the back after a pit-road speeding penalty.
NOTES: Martin Truex Jr. dominated the 2016 Coca-Cola 600, leading all but eight laps (12 miles) en route to the win. ... Jimmie Johnson won the most recent points-paying race at Charlotte in October 2016. Johnson has eight wins at CMS, including season sweeps in 2004 and 2005. He is a four-time winner of the Coca-Cola 600. ... Joey Logano won the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday. Fellow Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers Kevin Harvick and Austin Dillon were second and third, respectively. ... Kyle Busch won the Monster Energy All-Star Race at Charlotte the previous weekend. It was his first win at CMS in a Cup Series car. ... The same sticky resin used at Bristol Motor Speedway the last two races there was applied to the upper groove in all four turns at Charlotte to encourage another line of racing. ... Unlike the normal three-stage race format, NASCAR added a stage to the Coca-Cola 600, splitting the 400-lap distance into four equal 100-lap stages.