Ryan Blaney scores emotional win at Charlotte for Team Penske

CONCORD, NORTH CAROLINA - MAY 29: Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 BodyArmor Cherry Lime Ford, celebrates with fans after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 29, 2023 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

Roger Penske is having a very good two days. A day after Team Penske won the IndyCar series Indianapolis 500 with driver Josef Newgarden, Ryan Blaney scored the team owner known as the Captain a NASCAR win in the sport’s longest race.

Blaney led a race high 163 laps in a rain delayed Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway for his first win in 59 races dating back to Daytona in the Summer of 2021.

The win also marked the first time Penske has scored an Indy 500 and a Coca-Cola 600 win in the same year. Like his fellow Penske driver Newgarden did the day before at Indy, Blaney went into the stands Monday night and celebrated with the fans.

“It’s just so cool,” Blaney said fighting back tears “What a weekend with Newgarden and Roger winning at Indy and us winning the 600, I mean that’s just so cool. That kind of snaps our winless streak right there and that’s even better. I’m just really thankful to everybody who stuck around with us.”

While there was chaos and a great deal of hard and entertaining racing behind, the class of the field was Blaney and William Byron. Byron won Stage 1 and led the second most laps on the night, 91, and having been awarded the pole due to a qualifying rainout earlier in the weekend had the choice of the number 1 pit stall. The team used that to their advantage laying down three of their fastest pit stops of the season and gaining Byron 18 positions on the night on pit road.

Seven times Blaney and Byron lined up on a restart and five of those Blaney came away with the lead including winning Stage 3 and the final restart that came with 20 laps to go after the races 16th and final caution.

With only a handful of laps remaining, and with the fastest car on short runs all race long, Blaney was able to stretch out his lead and win by .663 of a second. Martin Truex Jr. overcame a pit road penalty to finish third followed by Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick in the top five.

“We just needed a little bit,” Byron said. “Really happy for Ryan. He really deserves it. He’s a good dude. Cool to see him get a win.

“We just needed a little bit. I felt like there were enough restarts for him to get back to the front. He had that one pit road where he lost a few spots, and it was kind of between us and the 5. I knew the 12 and 45 were a little bit stronger than we were.”

NASCAR’s longest race on the schedule seemed to be more of a marathon event thanks to weather which delayed the start nearly 24 hours and another 30-minute red flag for rain before halfway.

Among those who didn’t make it were Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott who tangled just before halfway and could lead to further repercussions in the coming week for Elliott.

Before heading to France to check off a bucket list item with a run in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Legacy Motor Club co-owner Jimmie Johnson had hoped to finish in the top 20 in a third entry of his team but instead saw him spin twice the second time with contact to his team car of Noah Gragson that forced Johnson out of the race for the third time in his three starts in 2023.

“I just didn’t know we were put in that three-wide situation,” Johnson said. “There were a bunch of us cars that were wrecked and just trying to limp it home. Unfortunately, I ended up in a situation I wasn’t aware of and got turned around. It’s a bummer.”

That crash happened after the two team cars, Gragson and Erik Jones had a bizarre incident that saw both cars in the garage with busted radiators from the same debris on the track.

The race featured several rallies from drivers including Christopher Bell who overcame a pit road penalty and a solo spin only to be caught up in a crash in the last incident of the day brought out when Kyle Larson spun on a restart on lap 376. Bell finished 24th, Larson 30th.

Kyle Busch who also spun and took his car in reverse through Turn 3 and 4, was able to come home sixth; Ricky Stenhouse Jr. seventh, Chris Buescher who led 12 laps and won Stage 2 was eighth, Austin Dillon ninth and Truck series champion Zane Smith in just his sixth Cup series start scored his first career top-10 finish.

Another strong rally came from Kevin Harvick who started second and fell early going a lap down before his team made adjustments that got him back in contention. He then overcame a spin through the front stretch grass and finished 11th.

Perhaps the biggest rally came Kyle Larson and his Hendrick Motorsports crew who used the 30-minute red flag period to formulate a plan to put their Chevy back to the front of the field after he struggled in the opening laps. The team used two pit stops and worked under the hood to get their driver the speed to get him to the front. He was in the top five on the penultimate restart before he spun and set off the crash that ended his race.

Weather also caused the race to be the first 600 in history to start with no practice laps or qualifying. Blaney admitted that the lack of track time didn’t give him a great deal of confidence heading into the race.

We just kept working on it all night and I think the track took a change,” Blaney said. “I didn’t feel great at the end of Stage 3. I was kind of getting pressured by a couple guys and we had to work on our car, and it was getting cooler outside.

“We just did a great job. Jonathan (Hassler) did a great job of working on it all night and getting it close enough at the end to where we could really take advantage of restarts, and then once we got the lead was able to stretch it out.”

NASCAR’s shortened week has the Cup series in St. Louis Sunday at World Wide Technology Raceway, Joey Logano is the defending winner.

Photos: NASCAR at Charlotte Motor Speedway Monday May 29, 2023


NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Coca-Cola 600
Charlotte Motor Speedway
Concord, North Carolina
Monday, May 29, 2023

1. (8) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 400.
2. (1) William Byron, Chevrolet, 400.
3. (18) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 400.
4. (7) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 400.
5. (15) Tyler Reddick, Toyota, 400.
6. (5) Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, 400.
7. (10) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 400.
8. (11) Chris Buescher, Ford, 400.
9. (33) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 400.
10. (29) Zane Smith(i), Ford, 400.
11. (2) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 400.
12. (31) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 400.
13. (22) Ryan Preece, Ford, 400.
14. (27) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 400.
15. (16) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 400.
16. (36) JJ Yeley(i), Ford, 400.
17. (25) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 400.
18. (13) Harrison Burton, Ford, 400.
19. (3) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 400.
20. (20) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 400.
21. (17) Joey Logano, Ford, 400.
22. (14) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 400.
23. (24) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 400.
24. (9) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 400.
25. (23) Aric Almirola, Ford, 400.
26. (19) Ty Gibbs #, Toyota, 398.
27. (32) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 397.
28. (30) Michael McDowell, Ford, 396.
29. (34) BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, 392.
30. (12) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, Accident, 377.
31. (21) Austin Cindric, Ford, Accident, 369.
32. (26) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 341.
33. (35) Todd Gilliland, Ford, Accident, 265.
34. (6) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, Accident, 185.
35. (4) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, Accident, 185.
36. (28) Noah Gragson #, Chevrolet, Engine, 117.
37. (37) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, Accident, 115.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 120.468 mph.
Time of Race: 4 Hrs, 58 Mins, 50 Secs. Margin of Victory: .663 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 16 for 83 laps.
Lead Changes: 31 among 13 drivers.
Lap Leaders: W. Byron 1-13;D. Hamlin 14-32;C. Bell 33-36;D. Hamlin 37;W. Byron 38-41;R. Blaney 42-62;C. Bell 63-75;W. Byron 76-103;M. McDowell 104-107;W. Byron 108-116;C. Bell 117-147;C. Elliott 148-153;T. Reddick 154-181;R. Blaney 182-191;C. Buescher 192-203;K. Harvick 204;R. Stenhouse Jr. 205-208;K. Harvick 209-225;R. Blaney 226-232;K. Harvick 233;W. Byron 234-236;R. Blaney 237-276;K. Larson 277;W. Byron 278-281;R. Blaney 282-303;W. Byron 304-307;R. Blaney 308-344;K. Busch 345;W. Byron 346-359;Z. Smith(i) 360-362;W. Byron 363-374;R. Blaney 375-400.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Ryan Blaney 7 times for 163 laps; William Byron 9 times for 91 laps; Christopher Bell 3 times for 48 laps; Tyler Reddick 1 time for 28 laps; Denny Hamlin 2 times for 20 laps; Kevin Harvick 3 times for 19 laps; Chris Buescher 1 time for 12 laps; Chase Elliott 1 time for 6 laps; Michael McDowell 1 time for 4 laps; Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 1 time for 4 laps; Zane Smith(i) 1 time for 3 laps; Kyle Larson 1 time for 1 lap; Kyle Busch 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 24,20,12,45,19,11,8,6,5,47
Stage #2 Top Ten: 17,4,6,22,12,20,54,24,1,23
Stage #3 Top Ten: 12,45,19,24,54,5,8,4,47,48


Greg Engle