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Everything That Happened in the Coca-Cola 600

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What’s Happening?

It’s the greatest day in racing! Every race fan circles Memorial Day Weekend for three of the year’s biggest events. We started the morning with the Monaco Grand Prix, then ran the 108th Indianapolis 500, and wrapped up the day with the Coca-Cola 600. As NASCAR ventured home to Charlotte Motor Speedway, there were many storylines that needed bookends, and what better place than during the longest race of the season to do so? How did the drivers handle 400 laps in NASCAR’s backyard? Let’s talk about it.

  • Due to an over four-hour rain delay for the Indianapolis 500, Kyle Larson missed the start of the 600 to run the 17 McLaren in Indy. While the talk all week was that Larson would prioritize NASCAR over the 500, Larson chose to stay in Indiana to run the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. Justin Allgaier started the five-car for Hendrick Motorsports, while Larson finished the Indy 500.
  • Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was hit was a $75,000 fine for punching Kyle Busch after last week’s All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro. Many wondered if the feud would continue or be left in Wilkes County. Both Stenhouse and Busch said that they’ve put the incident behind them, including Richard Childress, though he did warn Stenhouse not to wreck his cars again.
  • The Coca-Cola 600 is NASCAR’s second crown jewel race of the season. William Byron won the first crown jewel, the Daytona 500, back in February and was a favorite to win the 600 going into the night.
  • Former President Donald Trump attended the Coca-Cola 600. He became the first current or former president to attend NASCAR’s longest race, as he spent time with Richard Childress and the 3 team in the pits.
  • During every Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR brings the cars onto pit road for a special Memorial Day remembrance. The race is stopped at halfway for a moment of silence to honor the men and women who sacrificed their lives for America.

Ty Gibbs vs. William Byron For Stage 1

Ty Gibbs wasted no time setting the pace at the drop of the green flag as he pulled away from the pole position. Gibbs opened the race leading 64 of 74 laps, with only Byron in the same zip code as the 54 Camry. Unfortunately for Gibbs, his car couldn’t cut through lap traffic like the 24 could, which Byron used to his advantage on lap 72 to take the lead. Byron would be chased by an army of Toyotas, who made up five of the top six spots but not the top spot.

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Byron used his lead to help his teammate, Allgaier, get him back on the lead lap before the first caution came out with 13 laps to go in Stage 1. This would be huge, as it kept the five car on the lead lap while Kyle Larson returned from competing in the Indy 500. While Byron came onto pit road in the top spot, Gibbs took advantage of the number one pit stall by winning the pole to get ahead of Byron for the restart, ensuring a thrilling finish to the opening stage between the 54 and 24.

Byron restarting on the high side proved to be the stage-winning decision. While Gibbs resumed the race in first, it was Byron who finished the stage in first, as the outside line propelled him to his first stage win of the season, just tenths ahead of Ty.

Issues for Last Year’s Winner

Trouble for the defending Coca-Cola 600 winner came during Stage 2 when Ryan Blaney was penalized for an uncontrolled tire, but that would be the least of his worries. Blaney’s right front tire wasn’t tightened during the pit stop, causing him to slam the Turn 2 wall, causing heavy damage. The defending champion would retire from the race, relinquishing his chance of going back-to-back at Charlotte. Blaney’s car got stuck on pit road, which brought out the third caution of the night a few laps later.

Trouble for Noah Gragson

The race’s fourth caution came when Noah Gragson spun on the backstretch and hit the inside wall. Gragson made contact with Stenhouse Jr. coming off Turn 2, which sent him head-on into the inside wall and out of the race. It was a tough break for the Las Vegas native, who spent much of the race inside the top 15.

Christopher Bell Wins Stage 2

Christopher Bell ran inside the top five for most of the race’s first half. The driver of the 20 finished Stage 1 in 4th and picked up right where he left off in Stage 2. Bell tracked down Byron and took the lead from him on lap 189, but the 24 and the 23 stayed within one second of him with less than five laps left in the stage.

Harrison Burton hit the outside wall, bringing out the race’s fifth caution. Any chance Byron or Bubba Wallace had at chasing down Bell was thwarted as the 20 took the green and white checkered flag under yellow for his third stage win of 2024.

Kyle Larson Returns from Indy 500

Kyle Larson’s Memorial Day double was jeopardized when the Indy 500 was delayed over four hours due to a massive storm hovering over the area. The race began around 4:45 p.m., meaning Larson had to choose between running the Indianapolis 500 or starting the Coca-Cola 600. Ultimately, Larson chose to run the 500 and missed the first half of the 600. Allgaier drove the 5 while Larson finished his Indy duties and flew back to Charlotte. Allgaier stayed competitive despite his lack of track time, and most importantly, he stayed on the lead lap by the time Kyle took over driving duties for the 5.

Larson didn’t just bring himself, as the same storms that plagued Indianapolis followed him to wreak havoc on Charlotte, N.C. His plane tried to circle the storms while he was still far from landing. This put his 600 in more jeopardy as to when he would arrive at the race track. Larson arrived in Charlotte at 9:19 p.m. and immediately got in a helicopter to head to the race track, where he arrived with 55 laps to go in Stage 3. Larson relieved Allgaier after a lightning hold was put on the race. Per the NASCAR rulebook, a driver change during the red flag means the car has to start in the back, meaning Larson’s journey to the front would’ve began from the rear.

Rain Does Indy/Charlotte Double

As mentioned earlier, the same storm that hit Indianapolis, Ind., made its way to Charlotte during Stage 3. After a caution for Corey LaJoie, NASCAR informed the teams that the weather was 15 minutes away with 63 laps to go in Stage 3. This ramped up the intensity for the drivers, who believed there was a chance that the rain could mean the end of the race.

Rain hit the track just as Larson’s helicopter landed with 55 laps to go in Stage 3. While it was unclear who won the race from Indy to Charlotte, Larson took over driving duties when it was held for a lightning delay of lap 249. The track was shortly met with a massive rain shower that engulfed the speedway, and having reached the halfway mark, the race’s resumption was in question.

NASCAR Calls Race Early, Bell Wins 600

NASCAR began drying the track as soon as the heavy rain left the area. Jet dryers surrounded the racing surface in the hopes to get the race underway. Pit road was able to get dried but one factor NASCAR did not expect was humidity. The rain left dense humidity across the track, meaning the surface would take longer to dry. Racing wasn’t expected to resume until 1 a.m.

With all these factors in mind, NASCAR elected to declare the race official on lap 249 despite having started the drying process. Christopher Bell, who led at the time of the red flag, was declared the winner of the 65th Coca-Cola 600. It was Bell’s second win of the season and eighth of his career.

While Bell came away with the win, the race being called early meant that Larson did not get to race in the Coca-Cola 600. The storm that delayed his run in the Indianapolis 500 ultimately ended his hopes of running the 600. Justin Allgaier finished the race in 13th after starting in the back in a fantastic substitution drive from the Xfinity Series regular. While Larson was not granted a waiver at the time the race finished, it is expected that NASCAR will give Larson a playoff waiver at some point to keep him eligible for the playoffs.

In The Stands

Korey24Seven was willing to wait out the rain delay. With a sell-out crowd and Larson sprinting from Indy to Charlotte, it’s safe to say Korey’s right.

Honestly, with how the last two weeks have gone, Murilo_1604 might be onto something.

Chris_Hansen98 comments on Allgaier’s run driving the 5 in relief for Larson.

SlimJimJZ comments on Larson’s eventful Indy/Charlotte double

Ryanpistrana was not happy with NASCAR’s decision to call the race despite working to dry the track.

JOTT_Podcast commented on NASCAR’s decision to call the race. He stated that a crown jewel race should not have been handled the way it was tonight.

Conclusion

It’s never a good time when a race ends due to weather. After a fan favorite win in Monaco and a fantastic finish in Indy, it’s a shame that the final leg of the Memorial Day Triple Header had to end on a whimper. Larson was not able to run the double, but who would’ve thought it would be the NASCAR leg that he missed altogether? He’ll have another shot next year to complete 1100 miles.

Despite the lackluster ending, the race was what fans expect from Charlotte: fantastic racing and plenty of lead changes. Byron, Gibbs, and Bell all put on a show up front, while guys like Allgaier and Buescher sliced their way through the field. Fans, however, won’t be happy with how NASCAR chose to handle the ending of the race.

What did you guys think, DailyDownforce readers? Are you bummed for Larson? Should NASCAR have called the race sooner? Are you Bell fans happy your driver won, regardless of how so? Let us know! And be sure to come back here at DailyDownforce.com for all the latest news and discussions going on in the world of NASCAR!

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