Through Bob Pokrassen
FOX Sports NASCAR Writer
AGREEMENT, NC — Denny Hamlin sat on the pole and won the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway — but the start of the race and the end of the race on Sunday was especially the one time he looked like he had a winning car.
Hamlin won a 619.5-mile marathon — the longest race in NASCAR history in terms of miles thanks to two overtime restarts — by swapping the lead with Kyle Busch on the final two laps.
This was an attrition race, with 18 warnings for 90 of the 413 laps, and Hamlin won for the first time in his career in the 600, a signature NASCAR race.
“We weren’t very good all day,” Hamlin said. “We’re just in the right place at the right time.”
Here are my takeaways from a wild night on the 600:
Chris Buescher was going on a wild ride when he hit the tri-oval grass and rolled tons, leaving him on his roof when the car came to a stop.
“Looks like the tire, the wheel was damaged, the suspension broke as we were sliding and just pushed the car into the air,” Buescher said.
Buescher had to wait about five minutes before the security crew could get his car back on four wheels. It was the first time NASCAR had to overturn a car on its wheels.
“I think it was the first time with this car – they have to figure that out, right?” according to Büscher. “Of course you always want it to go a little faster, but you appreciate that. They did a good job.”
NASCAR’s responded to those involved that it took too long to turn Buescher’s car over.
†[The] security team communicated with Buescher all the time. Once it was confirmed that he was in good health, they deliberately went out of their way to make sure there were no further problems.”
Kyle Larson, who had struggled for the first half of the race, appeared to be in control late in the event when Chase Briscoe was able to chase after him.
Two months ago on the dirt track in Bristol, Briscoe made a bold move on the last lap to try and win and knocked out both himself and leader Tyler Reddick.
That was on both the minds of Briscoe and Larson late in the race. And on Sunday, almost the same thing happened, except he turned himself away without picking up Larson.
“As soon as I went in there” [to the turn]It just spun me out,” Briscoe said. “I ran 110 percent. …Looking back, if I had probably only run 95 percent, I probably would have won the race.
“That is inexperience and unacceptable on my part.”
Larson felt Briscoe did a good job of being aggressive and giving him space for most of their fight.
“He’s aggressive — I’m not saying it in a bad way,” Larson said. “You know who you’re racing with. … I heard him run really fast and then I heard him spin. Too bad.”
Blaney, Dillon causes big ones
In the first overtime, Austin Dillon had four new tires while the leaders had only two, allowing Dillon to make a bold move to take the lead.
He challenged the leaders when his car bobbed, knocking Joey Logano out of the race and damaging the leaders at the restart – Larson and Ross Chastain.
“I thought with four tires it would stick there and that one wobble killed us,” Dillon said. “I had to go for it. We needed a win. It was a bit of those things. I got stuck there in the middle and couldn’t finish the corner, and then it’s three-wide and you’re in for the ride .”
Ryan Blaney had also hoped not to cause a wreck, and was as surprised as anyone to cause an accident that knocked out six cars.
On lap 192, Blaney went to the platform and his car hooked up on the right. Blaney, Chase Elliott, William Byron, Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski and Bubba Wallace were all disabled in the accident.
Blaney had taken to the platform to comment on what he thought was a spin or accident from other cars developing in front of him.
“I just hit the apron and got myself loose,” Blaney said. “I hate that other cars broke down. I just didn’t know where I was.” [the other cars] And you see that sometimes.”
Wallace’s race ended a few laps later due to a quirk in the rules. When a car is involved in a wreck, a team is given six minutes to work on the car and three laps to reach a preset minimum speed to continue.
Wallace wasn’t using his six-minute clock, so his team thought he could come back to the pit lane, and they could work on it more if necessary. But he was on old tires and ran three laps without making a minimum of speed. That ended his day because he had reached the maximum of three laps to reach the minimum speed.
Usually it’s not a problem, as a team will often use up the six-minute clock before going back out on the track if it’s close to falling short of the speed limit.
“It was a mistake on our part,” said Wallace’s crew chief, Bootie Barker.
Bob Pockrass has devoted decades to motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s. He joined FOX Sports in 2019 after stints with ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @bob pokras†
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