On Sunday night, NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series drivers competed in the longest race of the season, testing both physical and mental endurance. As the track conditions changed throughout the evening, fans saw some drivers battle up through the field while others faded into the background. Carl Edwards won the fuel mileage game and scored his first win at Joe Gibbs Racing, but plenty of other action happened.
In case you missed it, here are the top-five stories from the Coca-Cola 600:
1. @MartinTruex_Jr Falls Short: Martin Truex Jr. dominated much of Sunday night’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but still was not able to capture the win. Despite having intermittent radio issues, he led 131 of the 400 laps – the most of the night. With around 20 laps to go, Truex was forced to pit from the lead for fuel. Carl Edwards claimed the lead then and successfully stretched out his fuel long enough to claim the win, relegating Truex to a fifth place finish.
“I didn’t even think fuel mileage strategy was an option,” said Truex. “I felt I only needed to pass the No. 11 (Hamlin). We had a very fast car all night. It really hurts knowing that you had the fastest car and didn’t win. I don’t know what to do about fuel mileage races. I’ve never ever in my entire career come out on the right end of them.”
2. @GBiffle Earns a Season-Best Finish: It’s been no secret that Roush Fenway Racing has struggled this year, but last night Greg Biffle was able to utilize the speed his team found last weekend to come home with a second place finish. Biffle consistently ran in the top-10 all night and is now looking to capitalize on the new speed next weekend at Dover.
“I’ve got my fingers crossed that we at least — with all the simulation and all the things we have, hopefully, we can pinpoint what we changed and what made the difference,” said Biffle. “And then continue to try and work in that same direction and then hopefully each racetrack is different, Dover is definitely different, so we’ll see if those changes we’ve made, improvements, will continue on.”
3. @JimmieJohnson’s Multiple Spins: Jimmie Johnson’s car was so loose Sunday night that he went spinning across the track not one, but two times. The first spin came within the first 100 laps of the race, but Johnson managed to make an incredible save and prevent any damage to the car. After racing his way back through the field, he found himself sitting fifth around Lap 273 when the car went for a spin again. This time Johnson made contact with the inside wall and was forced to visit the garage for repairs. He would return to the track, but finish in 40th place, 30 laps down.
“For us the car was just really loose. It was fast, but as soon as I would get close to somebody else, my car would bug out and get so edgy. Lost it twice, about had it saved both times. Once we would get in clean air and get strung out I could fly up through the field and went from last to fifth there,” said Johnson. “Then I had a lap car on the outside and a car I had been stalking on the bottom and then I tried to roll into the top behind the lap car. The thing just bugged out in the dirty air and around it went again. A tough day to try to get the balance right in the car.”
4. @DennyHamlin’s Rough Night: Denny Hamlin may have won the Sprint All-Star race, but he was unable to repeat that performance on Sunday. Hamlin ran up towards the front but dealt with a weird issue in his car where it acted like there was no exhaust pipe. He went on to lead 53 laps of the race but radioed over with about 60 laps to go saying he wasn’t feeling well. Also having to pit for fuel, Hamlin would finish the night eighth and then head straight for the infield care center. It was later released Hamlin was suffering from severe dehydration.
“I knew when my knee was sore afterward that it was probably fluids,” he said. “My off-day was 36 holes of golf and a full tennis match. Probably over did it a little bit this weekend. I think the dehydration led to a migraine and just felt nauseous the last 100 laps or so.”
5. @KyleBusch Makes All 600 Miles: Having just returned from the injuries he sustained in the NASCAR XFINITY season opener at Daytona, it was unclear whether Kyle Busch would make it through all 600 miles on Sunday night. The team had @Erik_Jones on standby in case Busch needed a reprieve, but it turned out to be unnecessary. Busch raced all 400 laps, getting as high as second place, before finishing the night in 11th place due to a late-race pit for fuel.
“I can’t say enough about everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing, everyone pulling for me and cheering for me and helping me get back into this race car, and to get out there and have a strong run means a lot. Real proud of my guys,” said Busch. “Adam Stevens made some great calls tonight and got ourselves in some really good spots and up towards the front. We raced up towards the front. We battled side-by-side, door-to-door with guys for a little while. Felt good. I feel good, and I admit I’ve probably got a little left foot soreness, but other than that, everything is pretty hunky-dory.”