COCA-COLA 600 EVENT NOTEBOOK
EVENT NOTEBOOK - LONG NIGHT ENDS WITH SURPRISE WINNER
TURNS OUT THE THIEF WAS DILLON - Austin Dillon’s first Coca-Cola 600 was also his first Monster Energy Cup victory.
Surprisingly, this isn’t all that unusual. Other drivers whose first visit to victory lane was at Charlotte Motor Speedway were David Pearson (1961), Buddy Baker (1967), Charlie Glotzbach (1968), Jeff Gordon (1994), Bobby Labonte (1995), Matt Kenseth (2000), Jamie McMurray (2002), Casey Mears (2007) and David Reutimann (2009).
Dillon drove No. 3. It’s been a while for No. 3. Dale Earnhardt won at Talladega in the fall of 2000, late in the season before the seven-time champion’s untimely death. Richard Childress kept the number but held it back until four years ago, when he felt his grandson, Austin, deserved it.
It wasn’t dominating. Dillon only led the final two laps. Martin Truex Jr. dominated the race but couldn’t make it to the end without fuel that Dillon didn’t need. Jimmie Johnson led until his Chevy expired with three laps remaining.
Leaving … Dillon.
“It hasn’t sunk in, by no means,” the winner said.
“We’re not down,” Childress said. “We’ve got everything we need to win.”
“We did our job,” Dillon said. “We had a chance to win, and we did what it took to do so. The 600 is a lengthy race, and you can’t afford mistakes. We didn’t make them.”
Martin Truex Jr. dominated the race. He finished third.
“Two out of the past three (600s), we lost it on mileage,” Truex said, who was gracious.
THE MERRY, MERRY MONTH -- May is the best month of automobile racing because the events -- Grand Prix of Monaco, Indy 500, Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte -- are unique and extraordinary.
So much so, in fact, that even though the races were all on Sunday, they dominate the whole month. Making the field at Indy is similar to pushing legislation through Congress. Charlotte has an all-star race, and an all-others-seeking-stardom intro, and Hall of Fame inductions, and what is soon to be a major motion picture.
The course at Monte Carlo would be a challenge for a Honda Civic. It was designed for the age of Tazio Nuvolari, not Lewis Hamilton. The Indy 500 was once run on bricks. That was when somebody should have been saying "boogity, boogity, boogity."
Empires rise and fall. As no less a racing expert than Doris Day once noted:
... Whatever will be, will be / The future's not ours to see / Que sera, sera.
Let's set aside Monaco. What will be, will be. Let's talk Charlotte. Que sera, sera. A little bit country. Charlotte. And a little bit rock 'n' roll. Indy. What will be, will be.
I remember when the scariest development in Indiana was the possibility that the Brickyard 400 would outdraw the Indianapolis 500. Indy depopulated the infield to make sure it wouldn't happen. That, however, was two decades ago.
I remember when there were Indy-car snobs who called NASCAR "taxicab racing." Then I remember when there were NASCAR snobs who called Indy "boring" and commiserated the fact that they missed "the pass." The first NASCAR practice session at Indy, when they were sorting out a few stock cars to test their adaptability to racing on "the big track," had more fans than the actual, official, Cup race for at least five years.
Maybe it was free.
I remember when the Brickyard 400 was considered a fine race and when the Indianapolis 500 was considered a snoozer. Now Indy's as exciting as an episode of Wacky Races from the Saturday-morning cartoons of my youth, and Penelope Pitstop even migrated to NASCAR.
THE BRAT COMES OUT AGAIN -- Kyle Busch was so overjoyed to finish second that he threw a tantrum in the media center. After basically daring anyone there to give him an opportunity to bite off their head, he slinked away to a nearby swamp to feed on lizards.
Six words he spat out. “I’m not surprised about anything. Congratulations.”
Then there was a crashing sound.
Busch is an engaging winner. It’s easy to display grace in victory. Adversity reveals character.
IF IT CAN HAPPEN … The track went wet for an hour, 39 minutes, 56 seconds. As a result, the 600 ended at approximately 12:15 a.m.
The race was initially stopped by a threat of lightning. Then it rained heavily. Then the NASCAR track-drying corps went into action.
MEMORIAL WINDSHIELDS -- In observance of Memorial Day, each driver in the starting field carried the name of a fallen service member on the windshields of their cars. Jimmie Johnson took the initiative to visit the family of SPC Michael Rodriguez, a Sanford, N.C., native, at Fort Bragg.
Many others met the families of victims of war before the race
A BATTLE GOING ON -- Live music's role in the Coca-Cola 600 festivities was off track.
What with the annual "Invasion of the Tri-Oval" taking place, the concert stage was located in the the midway fashioned near turn one and the condos that overlook the track there. Country act Big & Rich was among the entertainers featured.
EDGY. AND HAIRY -- Kevin Harvick raised some eyebrows with his 193.513 mph pole lap on Thursday night at CMS. It was no contest. The Monster Energy All-Star Race winner, Kyle Busch, captured second at 192.513, almost a mile an hour slower. The rest of the top five were Chase Elliott, Matt Kenseth and Erik Jones.
"The car unloaded fast," Harvick said. "It was very edgy to drive. It was definitely a hairy lap, but the car went really well through (turns) three and four. That's always our goal: to be able to get the car in the middle of three and four and be able to stay in the gas."
Six hundred miles (400 laps) is a long time to stay out front.
"It's better to start up front, so we'll take it," Kyle Busch said. "It doesn't matter as much where you start as it does where you wind up. It's a long, grueling race."
For Harvick it was career pole No. 20 and his third in 2017. It was his second at CMS.
LIKE XFINITY, LIKE BUSCH -- Dave Blaney's only Busch Series victory occurred at CMS in 2006, so his son Ryan's victory in the Hisense 4K TV 300, was meaningful to both.
Now, of course, it's same series, different name, and Blaney races to Xfinity.
“To me, personally, he’s the best race car driver ever,” said son of father. “That’s how I’ve always looked at him and that’s how I’ve always thought of him, not only as my father but the way he drives a car – and not only his driving ability, but his mindset toward things. I think he’s one of the smartest people I know, personally, in the race car, outside the race car, building parts, coming up with inventions and ideas. He always just supports me and it was cool to have him here today."
WHILE ON THE SUBJECT OF XFINITY -- The Blaneys became the sixth father-and-soon combo to win in NASCAR's premier auxiliary series. Others were Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr., Bill and Chase Elliott, Bobby Hamilton and Bobby Hamilton Jr., Terry and Justin Labonte, and David and Larry Pearson.
Six Monster Cup regulars competed in the Charlotte Xfinity race. They finished first (Blaney), second (Kevin Harvick), third (Austin Dillon), fifth (Denny Hamlin), sixth (Brad Keselowski) and 18th (Ty Dillon).
The only Xfinity regular to finish near the front of the field was fourth-place Christopher Bell.
NUMBERS FOR THE RAILBIRDS -- In the final 600 practice, the top five were Kyle Larson (186.400 mph), Blaney (185.861), Matt Kenseth (185.046), Kurt Busch (184.856) and Erik Jones (184.818).
Ranking at the top five in "10-lap average" during practice were Jamie McMurray (180.914 mph), Kenseth (180.526), Chase Elliott (180.482), Larson (180.414) and Jimmie Johnson (180.370).