Last week NASCAR drove twice at the Charlotte Motor Speedway – Chase Elliott won both a Cup and the truck race
NASCAR Cup Series
After the Wednesday-Sunday double header at Darlington Raceway, the teams headed to the epicentre of NASCAR: Charlotte. On Sunday, the legendary Coca-Cola 600 of the NASCAR Cup Series was on the agenda, followed on Thursday by the 500 kilometre race, which started late due to rain. The drivers and teams in the NASCAR Xfinity and Gander RV & Outdoors Series were also back in action.
Throughout the week, rain showers swept over North Carolina, so NASCAR had to keep looking for suitable windows for the races. Despite an interruption in the first stage, the Coca-Cola 600 went through on Sunday. The Wednesday race, however, had to be postponed to Thursday.
Keselowski wins the longest race in history
The Coca-Cola 600 started with dark omens, as dark clouds were gathering on the horizon. In Stage 1 there was a one-hour break due to light rain showers. Nevertheless, the race could be resumed afterwards. Clint Bowyer crashed violently into the wall early in the race and therefore had to retire early.
Hendrick pilot Alex Bowman won the first stage ahead of Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott and Tyler Reddick, who delivered a strong performance in the Childress Chevrolet as he did in Darlington. Joey Logano completed the top 5 in the first segment. Bowman also won the second stage and thus continued to secure bonus points. He crossed the finish line ahead of Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, William Byron and Elliott.
In the final segment Elliott in his Hendrick Chevrolet made his mark on the race. The 24-year-old was well on the way to winning the race in the final stage, but then his team mate Byron, of all people, spun and caused a yellow flag. Elliott came to the pits and as expected, his pursuers decided exactly the opposite strategy.
In the end, Brad Keselowski won the longest race in NASCAR history at 607.5 miles – thanks to overtime. The Penske driver had started from the very back of the grid due to unauthorized modifications to his Ford, and plowed through the field successively. In the end, he had the nose in front of Elliott, who finished second.
Ryan Blaney finished third ahead of Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick. The top 10 were completed by Truex Jr, pole setter Kurt Busch, Reddick, Christopher Bell and Chris Buescher. Jimmie Johnson, who had actually finished the race in second place, was disqualified due to a rule violation on the car that was found during the inspection after the race. The team will not appeal the decision.
Elliott strikes back in the second race
The second round of the NASCAR Cup Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway was again plagued by rain, so the race was postponed to Thursday. But even on the alternative date raindrops fell, so there was a longer break in Stage 1 again.
Byron led the race from pole position on the first lap. However, the Hendrick driver was then thrown back to the end of the field due to a collision with Corey LaJoie in the pit lane. In the end Logano won the long first segment ahead of Blaney, Matt DiBenedetto, Harvick and Bowman.
The second segment went off without any major incidents, which is why these 60 laps flew by. The winner was Bowman, who kept Blaney, Logano, Elliott and Harvick behind him. The final segment was dominated for a long time by Harvick in the Stewart-Haas-Ford, but then Elliott’s hour struck.
With 28 laps to go, the Hendrick driver took the lead for his first win of the season in the NASCAR Cup Series. Denny Hamlin was second, followed by Blaney, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kurt Busch, Logano, Keselowski, Dillon, Truex Jr., and Harvick, who has driven in the top 10 for 13 consecutive races across the season.
The following drivers have thus far won at least one race in the 2020 season and thus qualified for the playoffs: Hamlin (two wins), Logano (two wins), Bowman, Harvick, Keselowski and Elliott.
NASCAR Xfinity Series
Last Tuesday, the drivers and teams of the NASCAR Xfinity Series were also back at the track to continue the 2020 season. At the Charlotte Motor Speedway, 200 laps of the circuit were dedicated to scoring important championship points and winning the race, which is also the ticket to the playoffs in the second NASCAR championship.
So far, four regular Xfinity pilots – Noah Gragson, Chase Briscoe (two wins), Harrison Burton and Brandon Jones – have won races and thus secured their playoff ticket. In Charlotte, however, there was the first victory of a regular Cup rider: Kyle Busch beat the competition and drove to his first Xfinity victory in the 2020 season.
NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series
It has been a bit over three months since the drivers of the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Series held their last race in Las Vegas. The winner was once again Kyle Busch, who had won all of the last four races he had contested in the Truck Series.
The result: Kevin Harvick and the CEO of Gander RV & Outdoors Marcus Lemonis put a “bounty” on the two-time cup champion. The money should go to the cup pilot who beats Busch in a truck race.
At the return of the trucks on Tuesday in Charlotte, three drivers, Chase Elliott, John Hunter Nemechek and Brennan Poole, went on the hunt for the 100,000 US dollars. And indeed, Chase Elliott – who had a score to settle with Busch after the Coca-Cola 600 anyway – succeeded in his first race in the third NASCAR league since 2017 in ending the winning streak of the Gibbs driver and collecting the 100,000 dollars bounty.
After his victory, the 24-year-old bowed in typical Busch style. Elliott wants to donate the money to the fight against Covid-19. “It doesn’t make up for Sunday’s [Cup race] but it was a really good night. I was glad to win and do some good for the relief efforts for this virus”, said Elliott.
However, Busch made it anything but easy for the young Hendrick driver and started a furious chase in the final phase. “Kyle was a little better than I was at the end. I got tight and I don’t think we adjusted enough on that last (pit) stop”, said the 24 year-old. But in the end, Elliott prevailed by 0.627 seconds. Zane Smith was third behind Busch, Brett Moffitt came fourth in his comeback after his double broken leg. Sheldon Creed rounded off the top five.