NASCAR Barometer: Hamlin Wins NASCAR's Longest Race

NASCAR Barometer: Hamlin Wins NASCAR's Longest Race

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

Unpredictable and unexpected are perhaps the two best words to describe Sunday night's marathon Coca-Cola 600 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The scheduled distance is already NASCAR's longest race, but throw in the night's two overtime restarts and the distance actually totaled 619.5 miles. Denny Hamlin started the race from pole and went on to survive the 18 caution periods to cycle into contention for the win on just the final restart. Success in the race required survival and perseverance, and the Joe Gibbs Racing stable did just that to finish with all three drivers inside the top five. That statistic becomes all the more remarkable considering both Kyle Busch and Christopher Bell suffered their fair share of trouble, and a whopping 17 cars failed to finish in the highest attrition seen yet this season. The win makes Hamlin the third driver to score multiple victories this season and leaves five playoff positions available for nonwinning drivers to enter the championship battle on points.

Teams and drivers will need to take a deep breath and recover from the wild race, but they'll have to immediately get back on their game for a first-time stop for the series at World Wide Technology Raceway. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has raced at the track almost annually since 1998, while the Xfinity Series last raced there in 2010. Multiple drivers have scored wins at the track in the past, but the new circuit will likely continue this season's unpredictable outcomes.

UPGRADE

Denny

Unpredictable and unexpected are perhaps the two best words to describe Sunday night's marathon Coca-Cola 600 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The scheduled distance is already NASCAR's longest race, but throw in the night's two overtime restarts and the distance actually totaled 619.5 miles. Denny Hamlin started the race from pole and went on to survive the 18 caution periods to cycle into contention for the win on just the final restart. Success in the race required survival and perseverance, and the Joe Gibbs Racing stable did just that to finish with all three drivers inside the top five. That statistic becomes all the more remarkable considering both Kyle Busch and Christopher Bell suffered their fair share of trouble, and a whopping 17 cars failed to finish in the highest attrition seen yet this season. The win makes Hamlin the third driver to score multiple victories this season and leaves five playoff positions available for nonwinning drivers to enter the championship battle on points.

Teams and drivers will need to take a deep breath and recover from the wild race, but they'll have to immediately get back on their game for a first-time stop for the series at World Wide Technology Raceway. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has raced at the track almost annually since 1998, while the Xfinity Series last raced there in 2010. Multiple drivers have scored wins at the track in the past, but the new circuit will likely continue this season's unpredictable outcomes.

UPGRADE

Denny Hamlin – Hamlin went from winning the pole to winning the race Sunday at Charlotte, however, his race wasn't that straight forward. Despite starting from pole, he failed to lead the first lap by less than 100th of a second. He finished 10th in the first and third stages, but seemed out of touch with the win until two overtime restarts gave him the shot he needed at the lead. He survived the first of those two restarts, avoiding the carnage that affected many of those at the front, to set up a showdown for the second between him and teammate Kyle Busch. A picture perfect launch gave him the edge over Busch for the final two laps, earning Hamlin his second win of the season as the series prepares for a new venue at World Wide Technology Raceway this week.

Kevin Harvick – Harvick earned his third top-five of the season Sunday at Charlotte, his second in the last four races. Stewart Haas Racing has been a bit behind the competition much of this season to date, but the trio was competitive Sunday night. Harvick's experience paid dividends in the long race, as he struggled with his car much of the night, only earning stage points in the second segment. By working on the handling throughout the race and avoiding the crashes that took out many contenders, Harvick found himself in position to race for the win on the final restart. While he didn't have the speed to jump to the lead, he held on for his best finish since his second-place run at Richmond. Harvick has two Xfinity Series victories at World Wide Technology Raceway, which could play to his advantage again this week.

Tyler Reddick – Perseverance enabled Reddick to overcome the challenges and setbacks thrown at him Sunday at Charlotte and finish sixth for his sixth top-10 of the season and second in the last four races. Despite not having a victory, his fight back to a top-10 result late Sunday night moved him from 18th in the standings and 22 points out of the playoff positions to occupying the 16th and final playoff position with a slim eight-point gap to Aric Almirola in 17th. A win would make the playoff picture much more comfortable for him and the team, but if they continue to dig deep and grab as many points as possible, this team could be on its way to a playoff appearance. A level playing field in this week's inaugural series trip to World Wide Technology Raceway could play into the No. 8 team's hands.

Ross Chastain – The Trackhouse Racing Team flexed its muscles Sunday at Charlotte. Chastain battled his teammate in the early stages but got out front to win the third segment. As the miles wound down, Chastain looked to be stuck in third position with no hope of going for the win until a late caution set up an overtime finish. The first overtime restart was Chastain's best shot at getting back out front, but he was one of the many cars impacted by the next crash just seconds before the field took the white flag. Chastain won at World Wide Technology Raceway in the Camping World Trucks Series in 2019, which could give him an added edge this week in the first visit to the track for the Cup Series.

Daniel Suarez – Suarez battled teammate Chastain on the final restart of the second stage to claim the third segment win of his career and second of the season. Like many other drivers, he became a victim of the heavy attrition, though. He collected the nose of Chase Briscoe midway through the final stage and was then clouted by multiple cars behind as he spun down the front straight, taking him out of the running. Suarez was 20th in the standings with a gap of 49 points to the playoff positions prior to Sunday night's race, which is exactly where he stands after, too. Trackhouse Racing is demonstrating the capacity to win with both cars, and it seems only a matter of time before Suarez gets that long-awaited triumph.

DOWNGRADE

Chase Elliott – Elliott picked up the first stage win at Charlotte to make for a quick recovery from an early exit a week prior in the All-Star Race. The former champion drove to the front in the back half of the stage and carried right on through to pick up the segment win. That was the highlight of his night, though. A broken toe link caused him to spin in the second stage. The team spent significant time trying to make repairs on pit road and ultimately couldn't get it all done before the damage clock expired, forcing them out of the race completely. Mercifully, Elliott has a victory and remains well within playoff contention. In fact, he led the points prior to the Charlotte race. After three weeks of poor finishes, he will be desperate to turn things around this week.

Ryan Blaney – Blaney was unable to carry the success of winning the All-Star Race into Sunday's Coca-Cola 600. Despite having a fast and competitive car throughout the early miles of Sunday's race, Blaney was not immune to the problems that plagued most of the field. While running close behind the cars ahead on a restart, he found himself clipping the inside grass and then the turn 1 apron. That incorrect car placement sent him out of control, and his spinning car collected many drivers behind him in one of the biggest wrecks of the night. Blaney was able to make one or two more laps under caution as the track was cleared, but his car was in no condition to return to race speed, and that was the end of his night.

Austin Cindric – Team Penske rookie Cindric said before the start of Sunday's race that he goal was to run all 600 miles. He said heading into the race weekend that he was just starting to feel comfortable in his first full-time season in the Cup Series and was looking to gain as much experience as possible in NASCAR's longest race. Things didn't go as planned, though. He suffered a tire failure midcorner and spun hard into the outside wall and out of the race. It was a tough race for everyone, but the missed opportunity to gain seat time and increase his comfort level will be a heavy blow as the races before the playoffs begin to wind down. Cindric's Daytona 500 win puts him in the playoff picture, but he needs some confident race finishes under his belt before then.

Joey Logano – Sunday was not a good night for Team Penske. For much of the race it was left up to Logano to carry the team's hopes, as he avoided the early carnage and ran consistently in the top 10. After earning stage points in the second and third segments, Logano set himself up for a respectable top-10 finish. It all seemed to be in his hands until the race went into its first overtime finish. The No. 22 was one of the many cars up front that was involved in the final crash, and Logano exited his car unable to make the final restart. It was Logano's second finish of 20th or lower in the last four races. From a playoff perspective, the team has its Darlington win on which to fall back, but the momentum from the All-Star weekend Team Penske had seems to have abandoned them all too quickly.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Kyle Larson – There wasn't much that could hold back Larson Sunday at Charlotte. The defending champion overcame multiple pit penalties, a spin and even a pit fire in the first half of the race to make himself a fixture in the top five in the second half. It was an up and down day for the team that persevered to put themselves into position to capitalize by the end of the 600 miles. As the laps ticked down he successfully battled Briscoe for the lead only for the No. 14 to bring out a late caution and set up an overtime finish. Larson got a good jump on that restart until Austin Dillon made a banzai move and lost control and took out Larson along with a number of other cars just feet before taking the white flag, which ultimately pushed Larson back to a ninth-place finish after the final overtime laps.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C.J. Radune
Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2012 and 2015.
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