BRAD KESELOWSKI STEALS THE 600
A strong lead near the end of a race and a caution comes out to ruin everything; every driver’s worst nightmare. That nightmare came true for the NASCAR Cup Series’ most popular driver, Chase Elliott, during the Coke 600; allowing Brad Keselowski to steal the win.
For the first time since the return of NASCAR, there was normal qualifying on the track, in which Kurt Busch set a blistering lap time to take the pole with Jimmie Johnson taking second. As the cars went on track for the pace laps, a piece of tungsten fell out of Denny Hamlin’s car. NASCAR made Hamlin pit to fix it before the field went to green, he was put eight laps down and wasn’t a factor all night due to it. When the green waved, Busch kept the lead and would keep it with no issues until the lap twenty competition caution. Busch then came off pit-road first as Martin Truex Jr was right behind him. On the green, Johnson nearly got the wall and began dropping as the officials began looking for smoke from him and Tyler Reddick, who was reporting a tire rub as well. Busch had to start passing lapped cars; allowing Truex to make ground on him, but the run was halted after rain brought out the yellow. The rain stuck around, and the red was brought out for over an hour. When the yellow came back, the drivers pitted, and Alex Bowman took the lead with a two-tire stop. Bowman kept the lead on the restart, setting up a precedent for the rest of the night. As the race for the lead bunched up, Christopher Bell and Ryan Blaney made contact; both saved it and were able to avoid a caution. After laps of silence, the caution came out for Clint Bowyer losing a tire and slamming the wall with only five to go in the stage. The caution brought out the stage end for Bowman; continuing his strong year.
Bowman kept the lead under caution and was able to get away on the green while Bubba Wallace had to pit for a brake issue. Green flag stops began, and many drivers tried to stretch out their fuel mileage but to no avail as Bowman kept the lead after they cycled out. With no competition or issues to hold him up, Bowman easily won the stage.
After the cars came down pit-road for a moment of silence, the pit stops began. Bowman was first off again as Kyle Busch got a penalty and Elliott had to pit again. Bowman kept the lead on the restart but Truex and William Byron started to bear down on him for it. Truex eventually took the lead as John Hunter Nemechek and Ryan Newman both pitted for issues. Truex held on to the lead after green flag stops and continued on until Matt Kenseth spun and got the wall; bringing out the caution. Many drivers took two tires during the caution, including the leader, but Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, and Elliott stayed out to take the front. When the green waved with only twenty to go in stage three, Logano was able to get out ahead and hold off Bowman for the stage win.
Matt DiBenedetto took over the lead for the fourth stage start after taking two tires; Logano came out second. A log jam on the start, DiBenedetto kept the lead at first, but lost it soon after as Truex took it over. Caution out with fifty-two to go as Joey Gase spins but keeps going. Johnson drove off pit-road in first with Keselowski second as Logano was given a penalty. Keselowski, with help from a Truex push, took the lead on the restart. With thirty-seven to go, Elliott took the lead and started to pull away on his way to what looked like a surefire win. With two to go the disappointment hit when Byron spun and hit the wall with a flat tire, bringing out the caution. Chase and Truex pitted, leaving many drivers to stay out including Keselowski and Johnson for the overtime finish. On the start, Keselowski was able to hold off Johnson while Elliott, driving like a man possessed, drove back up to a second-place finish as Johnson’s car failed inspection and relegated him to a last place finish, ruining what many looked at as a feel good win. Keselowski’s win adds another crown jewel race to his wins and gives him the designation of having the win from the longest NASCAR race in history at 607 miles thanks to the overtime finish.