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MENCS: Mid-Race Report

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CONCORD, NORTH CAROLINA†— Kyle Busch has won the first two stages of the Coca-Cola 600. Busch will have one extra chance to earn maximum points as this race is run with four stages, each 100 laps.

These stages also award the winner a playoff point, the rarest form of championship currency; each point is one less position Busch will have to battle for during the playoffs.

Kyle Busch leads the Coca-Cola 600. Photo by Boyd Adams.

As of the 200 lap mark, Busch had led 179 laps with no sign of easing up on the competition. Only three other drivers have held point, but Joey Logano is the only other to lead more than seven laps. Busch may have even led those laps if Logano, as well as Denny Hamlin, hadn’t pitted following a Jimmie Johnson spin. Those pair of drivers stayed out during a caution that flew shortly after, but if they hadn’t been put on a diverging strategy Busch very well could have led all green flag laps since he took the lead.

Austin Dillon brought out the first caution of the race when he blew a right-rear tire. Photo by Boyd Adams.

The defending race winner, Austin Dillon was among those with an issue early in the race, blowing a tire on lap 38. The Daytona 500 champion kept his Chevy Camaro ZL1 off the wall but his car had moderate damage to the wheel well. Dillon lost one lap under this caution period, the first of the race. About five laps after the race restarted, Dillon brought his car down pit road once again. Heavy smoke was bellowing out of the wheel well, so the team brought the car in to check for a fire.

 

Harvick wrecks out of winning streak

Kevin Harvick, the driver with six wins (including the All-Star Race), started from the rear of the field after his car failed to pass pre-qualifying inspection on Thursday. In 67 laps, or 100.5 miles, Harvick drove his way into the top-five — making him the highest running of the Stewart-Hass Racing drivers.

Six laps later, Harvick gave the turn-three wall a shunt; the 2014 MENCS champion thought he had a left-front tire go down. “Yeah,” Harvick said, talking about how his team had prepared the car, “I mean we did a great job. We definitely had a great car.”

Kevin Harvick grinds against the turn-three wall. Photo by Boyd Adams.

What exactly caused Harvick to hit the wall is up for speculation. “We stood in the garage and looked at it and I canít tell if we ran something over,” said Harvick. “Thereís enough things that could have happened right there, but Iím just really proud of everybody on our Mobil 1/Busch Ford.”

“The car was really, really fast. We came all the way through the pack and made it up into the top three there and sometimes those things happen. I canít complain about anything thatís happened this year. We have to take the good with the bad. The guys did a great job in basically guessing at where the car needed to be today with all the penalties, no practice and starting in the back. To come out and have the fastest car again was quite an honor to drive and theyíre doing a great job. It was just bad luck”

Last week, after winning the Monster Energy All-Star Race, Harvick spoke on what’s made his team such a threat week in and week out. “I think that the experience of the team and the organization and all the racers that come into that shop day after day kind of sets the tone of the expectations,” Harvick said, “but also having been in a lot of these situations before with each other, I think in our fifth year that experience is paying off, really being able to capitalize on the speed of the cars, especially when you look at the experience of the team, the speed of the cars, and the experience of the team, I think is what is making everything add up to the results that we’re having.”

William Byron ends first Coca-Cola 600 early

William Byron, the rookie Hendrick Motorsports driver, piloting the famed No. 24, crashed out of his first Coca-Cola 600. Thirteenth fastest in final practice, Byron was “trying to make the top work” during the opening stages of the 600-mile race, but he was battling “a really loose” race car.

“I just got loose,” said Byron, “the car came around and hit the wall and then we had a bunch of damage.”

The initial wreck didn’t end the night for the 20-year-old, but it did spell the beginning of the end. A tire rub began to hamper the handling, but it wasn’t spewing smoke or even constant.† It started rubbing on the tire and then it wasnít rubbing on the tire, it was cleared,” said Byron. “But it just felt like something broke going into (turn) 3 and we just hit the wall again and then we had an electrical issue. Unfortunate, but we will go to Pocono and figure it out there.Ē

William Byron pulls his car off the race track after twitching up into the wall. Photo by Boyd Adams.

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