Hamlin Survives NASCAR’s Longest Ever Race For Second win of 2022

CONCORD, NORTH CAROLINA - MAY 29: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 29, 2022 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Normally when a race winner is the same driver who started on pole, especially at the Coca-Cola 600, it makes for a pretty uneventful race.

Past 600 milers at Charlotte Motor Speedway have featured long green flag runs with one or two drivers dominating for the win.

Welcome to NASCAR’s Next Gen era.

Denny Hamlin scored his second victory of the season Sunday in what turned out to be the longest race in NASCAR history, and one of the most exciting.

Hamlin started from the pole but only led a total of 15 laps in a race that was settled after two crash filled overtimes and featured 18 cautions.

The first of the overtime attempts was led by last years race winner Kyle Larson, who started the day at the back of the field and had to fight back from the rear a total of four times. Three of those for pit road penalties and one for a bizarre fire that erupted during one of his stops and saw his Chevy make a lap with his fuel filler trailing flames forcing him to pit again and a spin.

Amidst all that chaos, Larson hit the wall twice but took the lead on lap 397 just after a caution, and red flag for a scary incident involving Daniel Suarez who had led 36 laps, won Stage 2, and seemed to have the fastest car. He was in contention for the win on several occasions only to have pit road issues thwart his efforts and send him back in the field and eventually see his night end in wild crash that forced a 14-minute red flag and left the Ford of Chris Buescher on its roof on the frontstretch, with Buescher okay after climbing out.

In the final laps Larson led with Chase Briscoe close behind. Briscoe spun however as he tried to get past Larson with the caution setting up the field for overtime.

On the first overtime, Austin Dillon, the first of the cars with four fresh tires, tried a bold four wide move exiting Turn 4 that ended up in carnage for seven drivers including Larson, and Ross Chastain who led a race high 153 laps and won Stage 3. On the second overtime Hamlin emerged with the lead with Kyle Busch soon on his door. Hamlin was able to pull ahead however and win his first Coca-Cola 600.

“It’s so special,” Hamlin said. “It’s the last big one that’s not on my résumé. It meant so much.

“Man, we weren’t very good all day. Just got ourselves in the right place at the right time. What a battle there.”

Busch had to settle for second though he felt lucky to even get that.

We didn’t have a good enough day to be even in that position, so just a strong fight all night by this M&M’s team,” he said. “I give honor to those we remember on Memorial Day weekend. I appreciate the opportunity and being able to do that. We had Sergeant Thiem on here with us this weekend. We tried to come with victory lane, and honor him, but unfortunately, one spot short.”

Kevin Harvick, Briscoe, and Christopher Bell completed the top five.

“I’m glad we were able to at least get back to fourth,” Briscoe said. “It’s unfortunate.  There are 100 different things I would have done differently if I could re-do it again, but obviously you’re racing in the moment and made a mistake and went too far.”

Unlike the 600s of years past there were no long green flag runs the longest being 35 laps. In all there were 31 leads changes among 13 drivers. Chase Elliott led the second most laps on the night, 96, but he was one of 17 cars that were caught up in crashes.

Tyler Reddick, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Michael McDowell, Larson, and Alex Bowman rounded out the top 10.

The race was 413 laps making it the longest race in NASCAR history surpassing the 2020 Coke 600 which ran 403 laps. The race took 5 hours 16 minutes to complete.

The NASCAR Cup Series’ next race is Sunday’s Enjoy Illinois 300 the circuit’s inaugural event at World Wide Technology Raceway outside of St. Louis.

Photos: NASCAR at Charlotte Motor Speedway Sunday May 29, 2022

NASCAR Cup Series Race Results COCA-COLA 600
Charlotte Motor Speedway
Concord, North Carolina
Sunday, May 29, 2022

1. (1) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 413.

2. (4) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 413.

3. (18) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 413.

4. (15) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 413.

5. (3) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 413.

6. (8) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 413.

7. (29) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 413.

8. (10) Michael McDowell, Ford, 413.

9. (36) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 413.

10. (9) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 413.

11. (17) Harrison Burton #, Ford, 413.

12. (14) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 413.

13. (28) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 413.

14. (25) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 413.

15. (22) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 413.

16. (30) Todd Gilliland #, Ford, 413.

17. (24) Aric Almirola, Ford, 412.

18. (33) Cody Ware, Ford, 412.

19. (31) BJ McLeod, Ford, 407.

20. (23) Joey Logano, Ford, Accident, 405.

21. (21) Cole Custer, Ford, Accident, 405.

22. (16) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, Accident, 405.

23. (34) Kaz Grala(i), Chevrolet, 400.

24. (27) Noah Gragson(i), Chevrolet, Throttle, 386.

25. (12) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, Accident, 346.

26. (19) Chris Buescher, Ford, Accident, 346.

27. (20) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, Engine, 343.

28. (7) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, DVP, 200.

29. (11) Ryan Blaney, Ford, Accident, 195.

30. (35) Brad Keselowski, Ford, Accident, 193.

31. (2) Kurt Busch, Toyota, Accident, 191.

32. (5) William Byron, Chevrolet, Accident, 191.

33. (13) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, DVP, 188.

34. (6) Austin Cindric #, Ford, Accident, 145.

35. (37) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, Accident, 60.

36. (32) Josh Bilicki(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 31.

37. (26) Ryan Preece(i), Ford, DVP, 16.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 118.703 mph.
Time of Race: 5 Hrs, 13 Mins, 8 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.119 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 18 for 90 laps.
Lead Changes: 31 among 13 drivers.
Lap Leaders: D. Hamlin 0;K. Busch 1-2;D. Hamlin 3-9;K. Busch 10-39;B. Wallace 40;K. Busch 41-45;D. Suarez 46-62;C. Elliott 63-66;W. Byron 67;C. Elliott 68-110;R. Chastain 111-128;C. Elliott 129-148;R. Blaney 149-150;K. Larson 151;C. Elliott 152-170;R. Chastain 171-196;D. Suarez 197-204;J. Logano 205-213;D. Suarez 214-220;R. Chastain 221-251;D. Suarez 252-255;R. Chastain 256-259;C. Briscoe 260;R. Chastain 261-303;T. Reddick 304-322;R. Chastain 323-353;K. Larson 354-395;C. Briscoe 396;K. Larson 397-404;D. Hamlin 405-411;K. Busch 412;D. Hamlin 413.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Ross Chastain 6 times for 153 laps; Chase Elliott 4 times for 86 laps; Kyle Larson 3 times for 51 laps; Daniel Suarez 4 times for 36 laps; Kyle Busch 3 times for 36 laps; Tyler Reddick 1 time for 19 laps; Denny Hamlin 3 times for 15 laps; Joey Logano 1 time for 9 laps; Ryan Blaney 1 time for 2 laps; Chase Briscoe 2 times for 2 laps; Kurt Busch 1 time for 2 laps; Bubba Wallace 1 time for 1 lap; William Byron 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 9,8,20,1,23,12,47,19,48,11
Stage #2 Top Ten: 99,1,43,14,47,22,4,8,19,20
Stage #3 Top Ten: 1,14,5,8,99,22,41,17,3,11

Greg Engle