Thursday, March 30, 2023

Coca-Cola 600 Tall, Unexpected and Highly Entertaining

CONCORD, NC ( Associated Press) – The Coca-Cola 600 was many things – insanely long, wildly unpredictable and, perhaps above all, insanely entertaining.

It was, as William Byrne described it after being caught in a 12-car accident, “chaos outside.”

In a race that took five hours, 13 minutes to complete and included 18 warnings and 17 cars that ended up in garages in various states, the first Next Gen race at Charlotte Motor Speedway saw many take their hands on the night’s events. Moved the head. Denny Hamlin eventually won the longest race in NASCAR history (619.5 miles) by beating Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch in double overtime by 0.014 seconds to the finish line.

At one point things were so crazy that Fox Sports Racing analyst and longtime Cup Series driver Clint Boyer said, “This is the wildest and craziest 600 ever!”

And he was right.

A few cars survived the race altogether, with Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch and Bubba Wallace, many of whom ran sideways and exited while driving alone, often ending up harmlessly in the infield turf and draw a yellow flag.

Others were not as lucky.

Chris Bucher was involved in a scary wreck that saw his Number 17 Ford flip five times before landing on its hood. Security personnel had to carefully turn their car over before Busher could exit the vehicle. He went away with pain, but remained relatively unaffected.

“Thanks to everyone who worked for not returning this,” Busher said. “It was nice to be able to pass out. The blood is running over your head a little bit.”

And it wasn’t even the craziest wreck of the night.

Last weekend’s All-Star Race winner, Ryan Blaney, got too low on the apron at the bottom of the track on lap 192 and spun to the right towards the track, where he collected 11 other cars in a scuffle and continued through the night. signed off. Brad Keselowski, Wallace, Kurt Busch and Chase Elliott, whose damaged cars were driven behind the pit wall.

The costliest wreck, at least for defending race champion Kyle Larson, came when Chase Briscoe crashed with two laps to go while trying to overtake him, setting up overtime and adding to the madness.

Larsson, who appeared on the verge of becoming the first driver to repeat as champion of the Coca-Cola 600 since Jimmy Johnson in 2005, then got stuck in a wreck minutes later when Austin Dillon ran from behind and went four wides. to head for. Larsson crushed Dillon, causing another multicar collision and taking the race even further.

Hamlin somehow made it through the carnage without a nick and stopped Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch on the second restart for the win.

“The (next gen) car has less side force and less normal downforce,” Hamlin said of all the wreckage. “In our old car you could kind of hang out. There was a billboard on the right, it was flat, so it caught air. Whenever you put your hand out the window, you can feel it. All is round. The moment it turns sideways, it just goes out. You don’t have as much aerodynamics that keeps the car on track.”

It was a disappointment for Byron, a Charlotte native.

“It’s chaos out there,” Byron said. “You can’t even drive the car to the side for a little bit or you’re doomed. So, if someone goes sideways for a little bit, we’re all doomed. It either kicks other people out or They roam the infield. Just chaos.”

Cup veteran Kevin Harvick expected just as much after seeing the uncertainty of the next gen car this season.

“I’ve been through this race a lot and I knew the way the mile-and-a-half went in this particular year, it was going to be a battle,” Harwick said. “There weren’t as many tire issues as I thought there were going to be, but it just wound up being a spinout because the cars would just become an incredibly big fist as you approached the end of the run.”

Harwick shook his head, “It was certainly interesting, to say the least.”

More interesting than the often 600-mile races at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the past. For example, in 2016, Martin Truex Jr led 392 laps out of 400, repeatedly driving away from the pack in clean air. It was an impressive feat but didn’t move the entertainment meter further.

Meanwhile, Sunday’s race saw 31 major changes involving 13 different drivers.

“For me, that was the funniest Charlotte race I’ve ever run,” Briscoe said. “The racetrack was awesome. You could run over the fence. You could run in the middle. You could run down. You could throw the slider.”

He also praised the next gen car a lot.

“In the past it looked like we were kind of single-file,” Briscoe said. “It was a lot of fun. I’ll definitely run another 600 miles.”

Hamlin acknowledged there is still a lot that teams need to know about the next gen car, but said it would come in time.

“Every time we change cars it takes a long time to fix it,” Hamlin said. “It was a major overhaul of a car. Plus it had a steering wheel and four tires, not much in common with the previous generation car. That car was long respected. There’s still some work to do on it.” . We had to do some tests to try to fix it in some areas. But in the meantime, we’re still doing some good racing.”


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