From Reid Spencer | NASCAR Wire Service
Ryan Blaney breaks 59-race NASCAR Cup Series drought with Coca-Cola 600 win
CONCORD, N.C. – Finally.
Breaking a 59-race drought in Monday’s rain-delayed Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Ryan Blaney gave team owner Roger Penske his first same-year sweep of IndyCar’s biggest race and NASCAR’s longest.
With a dominant No. 12 Team Penske Ford that gained long-run speed as the race progressed, Blaney led a race-high 163 of 400 laps and held off polesitter William Byron for his first victory on the 1.5-mile Charlotte oval and the eighth of his career.
A day after Josef Newgarden delivered Penske’s 19th Indianapolis 500 victory with a last-lap pass, Blaney won for the first time since taking the checkered flag at Daytona on Aug. 28, 2021.
“I might shed a tear,” said Blaney, clearly emotional during his post-race interview on the frontstretch. “I just was able to get the lead, and that car was so good that I could kind of bide my time a little bit and then we were able to drive off. I was hoping no caution, just because you never know.
“I know we had the car to do it, but restarts can be crazy… You start to get to feel like you can't win anymore when you don't win in a while. It kind of gets hard. So just super thankful to the 12 guys for believing in me…
“It’s just so cool. 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.”
After a spate of cautions late in the race, Blaney led the field to green with 20 laps left and built a one-second lead over Byron before winning by .663 seconds. Martin Truex Jr. ran third ahead of 23XI Racing teammates Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick.
Blaney won the race’s third stage and is second in the NASCAR Cup Series standings, one point behind Ross Chastain, who finished 22nd.
Byron, who collected his eighth top-10 finish this season, pursued Blaney for the final 20 laps, but to no avail.
“We just needed a little bit,” said Byron, who led 91 laps and repeatedly regained the top spot from the No. 1 pit stall in a race that featured 16 cautions for 83 laps. “Really happy for Ryan. He really deserves it. He's a good dude. Cool to see him get a win…
“The car was great tonight. Just not quite good enough. Really proud of the effort. Pit crew was phenomenal on pit road. Those guys are just high energy, and that pit stall helps… Just proud of where our team is at. Just needed a little bit more.”
The wreck that set up the final 20-lap green-flag run was one of the race’s most severe. Kyle Larson slid sideways and after a restart on Lap 375 and bounced off other front-running cars like a pinball. Collected in the wreck were Christopher Bell, who had shown early speed; Ty Gibbs; Joey Logano and Aric Almirola.
Just as significant was an accident on Lap 185 that knocked defending race winner Denny Hamlin and five-time most popular driver Chase Elliott out of the race.
After Hamlin crowded Elliott’s No. 9 Chevrolet into the outside wall, Elliott hooked Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota on the frontstretch. Hamlin’s car bounced off the wall after a brutal impact and collected Elliott’s Camaro on the rebound.
Both cars were damaged too severely to continue.
Hamlin and crew chief Chris Gabehart were convinced Elliott turned Hamlin’s Camry in retaliation.
“It’s a tantrum and he shouldn’t be racing next week,” Hamlin said after exiting the infield care center. “Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. I don’t care. It is the same thing that Bubba Wallace did with Kyle Larson. Exact same. He shouldn’t be racing. It’s a tantrum.”
Elliott denied the incident was intentional on his part.
“No, like I said, once you hit the wall in these things, you can’t drive them anymore,” Elliott said. “So, no, just unfortunate circumstances.”
NASCAR Cup Series Race - 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
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Photo's: NASCAR | Logan Riely, David Jensen & Jared C. Tilton (Getty Images) | Team Penske