Brad Keselowski denied Jimmie Johnson early Monday morning, winning the NASCAR Cup series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and extending Johnson’s losing streak to 102 races. He also kept Chase Elliott from winning with a pit gamble with two laps to go. Johnson would later see his second-place finish taken away when the Hendrick Motorsports Chevy failed post-race inspection and he and the team were disqualified.
Elliott seemed to have the race, and the win, well in hand but his Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron lost a tire and spun coming out of turn 1 with just two laps to go.
“That’s got to be a joke,” Elliott said over his radio.
The race’s eighth and final caution set up a green white checked flag finish and added enough extra laps to make the race the longest in NASCAR Cup series history.
The win was the first of the season for Keselowski and his first Coca-Cola 600 win.
“I feel like I’ve thrown this race away a handful of times and I felt we were gonna lose it today,” Keselowski said. “I know we’ve lost it the way Chase lost it and that really stinks, and today we finally won it that way and I’m so happy for my team.”
Under the caution Elliott’s crew elected to bring him in while the crew of Keselowski kept their driver out. Elliott had only a few others join him on pit road and when the race restarted Elliott was mired in 11th place.
Johnson had also stayed out but had nothing for Keselowski over the final two laps and had to settle for second. Only days after he was wrecked by Kyle Busch while racing for the win at Darlington, Elliott was able to rally but fell short and had to settle for third place.
“You just try to make the best decision you can,” Elliott said after the race. “Those guys are just going to do the opposite of whatever we do. That’s just a part of it. You make decisions and you live with them. It wasn’t the pit call—I think being on offense is fine.
“Like I said, those guys are going to do whatever’s the opposite of what you do.”
Johnson’s runner-up position is his best finish since winning at Dover in the 13th race of 2017. However, Johnson was later disqualified when Cup Series director Jay Fabian said the No. 48 car’s rear alignment failed in the Optical Scanning Station (OSS) portion of technical inspection after the race. Johnson and the team were relegated to a last-place finish in the 40-car field.
Ryan Blaney and Kyle Busch rounded out the top five.
NASCAR’s longest race was made even longer by a rain delay of just over an hour 50 laps in. Kurt Busch, who had won the pole during NASCAR first qualifying session since returning to racing, led most of the first 54 laps.
It was Alex Bowman however, who took control for much of the race winning the first two stages, running second in the third stage and leading a race high 164 laps. Last year’s winner Martin Truex Jr. led the second most laps, 87, but had to settle for seventh ahead of Kevin Harvick in sixth.
Polesitter Busch was eighth followed by Tyler Reddick and Christopher Bell in tenth.
Wednesday night’s Darlington winner, Denny Hamlin, had a major issue before the race even began. On the pace laps, two blocks of tungsten ballast fell off the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, forcing Hamlin to the pits to have the weight replaced.
By the time Hamlin exited pit road, he was eight laps down, scored 40th. Additional post-race penalties are likely, given how serious an infraction NASCAR deems the failure to secure ballast.
The race was the first to be held on its original date on the calendar as NASCAR tries to get its season back in sync after postponements due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Cup series will make up another missed race with a return to Charlotte Wednesday night for a 500-kilometer event. Like all races through June it will be run without fans and minimal crews.
As for Johnson, the No. 48 crew chief Cliff Daniels speculated early Monday morning when the penalty was announced that something may have broken on the car and that the team would investigate.
NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Annual COCA-COLA 600
Charlotte Motor Speedway
Concord, North Carolina
Sunday, May 24, 2020
1. (9) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 405.
2. (3) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 405.
3. (26) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 405.
4. (11) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 405.
5. (22) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 405.
6. (8) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 405.
7. (1) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 405.
8. (5) Tyler Reddick #, Chevrolet, 405.
9. (15) Christopher Bell #, Toyota, 405.
10. (19) Chris Buescher, Ford, 405.
11. (14) Erik Jones, Toyota, 405.
12. (28) Cole Custer #, Ford, 405.
13. (7) Joey Logano, Ford, 405.
14. (6) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 405.
15. (40) Aric Almirola, Ford, 405.
16. (25) John Hunter Nemechek #, Ford, 405.
17. (33) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 405.
18. (27) Michael McDowell, Ford, 405.
19. (12) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 405.
20. (10) William Byron, Chevrolet, 404.
21. (21) Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 403.
22. (29) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 403.
23. (24) Corey LaJoie, Ford, 403.
24. (17) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 402.
25. (16) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 401.
26. (4) Matt Kenseth, Chevrolet, 401.
27. (18) Ryan Newman, Ford, 400.
28. (37) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 399.
29. (13) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 398.
30. (35) Brennan Poole #, Chevrolet, 398.
31. (31) Gray Gaulding, Ford, 397.
32. (36) BJ McLeod(i), Ford, 393.
33. (38) Garrett Smithley(i), Chevrolet, 391.
34. (32) Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, 390.
35. (30) Quin Houff #, Chevrolet, 390.
36. (39) Joey Gase(i), Ford, 385.
37. (34) JJ Yeley(i), Chevrolet, DVP, 251.
38. (23) Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, Vibration, 164.
39. (20) Clint Bowyer, Ford, Accident, 96.
40. (2) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 405.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 135.042 mph.
Time of Race: 4 Hrs, 29 Mins, 55 Secs. Margin of Victory: .293 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 8 for 52 laps.
Lead Changes: 20 among 11 drivers.
Lap Leaders: K. Busch 1-54;A. Bowman 55-159;J. Johnson 160-162;J. Nemechek # 163;R. Preece 164;R. Stenhouse Jr. 165;A. Bowman 166-223;M. Truex Jr. 224-255;B. Keselowski 256-262;M. Truex Jr. 263-277;J. Logano 278-302;A. Bowman 303;M. DiBenedetto 304-306;J. Logano 307;M. Truex Jr. 308;M. DiBenedetto 309-311;M. Truex Jr. 312-350;J. Johnson 351-353;B. Keselowski 354-362;C. Elliott 363-400;B. Keselowski 401-405.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Alex Bowman 3 times for 164 laps; Martin Truex Jr. 4 times for 87 laps; Kurt Busch 1 time for 54 laps; Chase Elliott 1 time for 38 laps; Joey Logano 2 times for 26 laps; Brad Keselowski 3 times for 21 laps; Matt DiBenedetto 2 times for 6 laps; Jimmie Johnson 2 times for 6 laps; Ryan Preece 1 time for 1 lap; John Hunter Nemechek # 1 time for 1 lap; Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 88,19,9,8,22,18,3,48,24,1
Stage #2 Top Ten: 88,19,18,24,9,20,22,3,12,48
Stage #3 Top Ten: 22,88,12,48,19,18,20,2,3,24