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MENCS: Busch wins it all

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CONCORD, NORTH CAROLINA†— Kyle Busch routes†the field to win the Coca-Cola 600, for his first points paying Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He has now won at every venue he’s raced at in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

“I donít know if itís ever been done before, but the first one to check off all the tracks and get it all done. I donít want to go to any new ones. That would just have to start the whole process over …”

Maybe it’s semantics, but one cannot simply say he’s won at every track because CMS will convert it’s 1.5 mile quad oval into a 2.28 miles long road course. The configuration will use the high banked turns CMS is known for but will also feature racing through it’s infield, as well as chicanes on the front and back straightaways.When MENCS returns for the roval, as some have termed it, the entire process won’t be restarted. It’ll just be one more box for the the championship winning driver to check off.

Though Martin Truex Jr. never led a lap, he came one position away from a win. Photo by Boyd Adams.

It was absolute domination, Busch led 94.25 percent of the race. Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, and Brad Keselowski were the only other drivers to get out front. The 12 laps led by Hamlin were the second most, juxtaposed against Busch’s 377. Had Hamlin not spun Jimmie Johnson on lap 120, he and Logano wouldn’t have been on an alternative pit strategy. The combined 21 laps could have meant Busch would have eclipsed Martin Truex Jr.’s race record of 392 laps led.

“This one’s very special,” said Busch in victory lane, though he conceded nothing can beat his 2015 championship win at Homestead-Miami speedway.†”The Coca-Cola 600 Ė Iíve dreamt of this race since I was a kid and being able to win this race. Always watching the All-Star race and then the 600 the following weekend and being able to come out here and now win the Coca-Cola 600 is just phenomenal.

Despite the cause for celebration, Busch didn’t forget about what makes Memorial Day weekend special to so many americans.†”Love the red, white and blue scheme and what it means. All of our heroes, whether theyíre fighting for us right now or whether theyíre fallen heroes, certainly want to give remembrance to (SGT) Eric Toth whoís with us and who is riding on our car tonight and his family who are with us here this weekend. Thatís very very special. Appreciate NASCAR doing that with NASCAR Salute the troops.

Blaney lights up the night

Ryan Blaney finished second in the first stage but during the second stage his No. 12 Ford Fussion lost a cylinder. He had been hovering around and outside the top-10 before his engine went sour. For more than 100 laps Blaney did what he could to stay competitive, “just trying to limp it home,” but on lap 280 his race was over. “When they go that early you donít expect it to last all race,” said Blaney, “but it lasted a lot longer than I thought and then it finally let go into (turn) one there.”

 

“That stinks,” said Blaney, “I thought we had a really good car.† I would have liked to see how the race would have progressed for us, but we wonít see that anymore.† Hopefully, we can go out and have a good run at Pocono and then at Michigan.”

The pit crew for Erik Jones gives him four tires and fuel during a late race pit stop. Photo by Boyd Adams.

Chevrolet continues to improve

When the checkered flag had flown, four out of the top-10 cars were Chevrolets, the most out of any manufacture. The highest finishing of those drivers was Jimmie Johnson.

“It feels good, but damn I want to win,” said Johnson.†”Iím tired of running fifth, Iím tired of running whatever it is. … We had to overcome a lot†tonight.† Really proud of these guys.† Wish that I could have got this special paint scheme into Victory Lane with the solider we were carrying on the car today.Ē

Alex Bowman, another Hendrick Motor Sports driver, finished 10th, good for his fourth top-ten of the season.†”To qualify 27th†and finish ninth it was definitely a good night,” said Bowman. “I feel like it was way more pit crew than anything.† My pit crew they killed it on pit road all night. They did a great job and got us a couple of spots on that last green flag stop.† Extremely proud of those guys.† Greg (Ives, crew chief) made good calls from on top of the box and our car was much better than it had been all week.† Happy for that. ”

Four wide racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway, even without a high-downforce aero package. Photo by Boyd Adams.

Included in the Chevrolet gang are Chip Ganassi Racing drivers, Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson. McMurray finished sixth, his second highest finish of the year. He said his team “had a really good car” and thinks they’ve “come a long way” on the 1.5 miles.

“Especially the Chevrolets from the beginning of the year … I think in less than a month we will contend to win. That’s a good feeling.”

His teammate, Larson had a spin on lap 273. He was able to woe up his car before hitting a retaining wall but not until after he had lost tremendous track position. “I’m bummed I gave up some track position when I got into the wall,” said Larson, “but I was glad to see our team stay with it and come back for a top-10 finish tonight. … This hasnít been a great race for me, so glad to see us come away with a good finish tonight.Ē

Below are the unofficial results of the the 59th annual Coca-Cola 600.

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