It was a flashback to the 2013 championship run in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday night as Jimmie Johnson passed Matt Kenseth with nine laps to go to win his fourth career Coca-Cola 600. It’s Johnson’s 67thcareer victory.
Johnson showed his strength on the final restart as Johnson and his team were the second car on the restart who took four tires on the previous green flag pit stops and had very few laps on them. Johnson was fifth when the final caution flag flew on lap 378 for Alex Bowman blowing a tire but two cars ahead of him pitted. The race restarted with Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth on the front row. Gordon was on a two tire strategy and got eaten alive on the restart by both Kenseth and Johnson. Kenseth had a lead on the lap 383 restart but Johnson chased Kenseth down and on lap 391 Johnson made the final move to win the Coca-Cola 600.
Johnson beat runner-up Kevin Havick by 1.5 seconds. Matt Kenseth finished in the third position with Carl Edwards coming home fourth and Jamie McMurray finished fifth. Brian Vickers finished in the sixth position with Jeff Gordon coming home seventh, Paul Menard finished eighth, Kyle Busch finished ninth and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top 10.
The Coca-Cola 600 began with Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski on the front row. Johnson took the lead early and began to pull away from the field. Johnson led second place man Clint Bowyer by 1.8 seconds on lap 20.
Meanwhile in the middle of the field, Johnson’s teammate Jeff Gordon was coming through the field fast. Gordon started the race in a disappointing 27thposition, but by lap 22 Gordon was up to 16th. On lap 24 Brian Scott would hit the wall hard in his #33 Chevrolet, creating heavy damage on his #33 Chevrolet. Scott would continue but finish 32nd.
Meanwhile in the front of the field Johnson’s lead was shrinking. Clint Bowyer was closing fast on Johnson. Johnson’s lead was down to just a half of a second. However, Johnson stretched his lead again and by lap 43 his lead was 1.7 seconds.
The first round of green flag pit stops began on lap 46. Kasey Kahne would have issues getting into his pit stall on the round of stops when Ryan Truex blocked his enterance and it would cost Kahne a ton of time. Kahne wasn’t alone. Marcos Ambrose sped on his entry into the pits and would have to do a pass through penalty. The situations hurt both drivers.
While Kahne had dropped back his teammate Jeff Gordon was flying. Gordon found himself in the top 10 on lap 62 and continued to move up towards the front. Meanwhile, Gordon’s teammate Jimmie Johnson was losing the gap on his lead to Kevin Harvick, who had accumulated the second position over Bowyer after the stops.
Harvick chased down Johnson and passed him for the lead on lap 76. Harvick began to pull away as the track cooled down and his car began to handle better. By lap 86 Harvick’s lead was 1.5 seconds.
Another set of green flag pit stops began on lap 92. Denny Hamlin had trouble after his stop as it was discovered he had a loose wheel. Hamlin would pit under green to resolve the issue which cost him laps to the leader which
The races’ first caution flag flew on lap 103 for debris in turn two.
The leaders would pit again, as Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson beat the field off pit road. They led on the lap 114 restart. Kevin Harvick continued to lead after the restart and Jeff Gordon would continue to progress, finding himself in the fourth position.
Harvick was leading when the second caution flag of the race flew on lap 148 for debris. The leaders would pit again and it was again Johnson and Harvick in front on the lap 154 restart. Johnson was leading when the races’ third caution flag flew on lap 164 when David Gilliland blew a tire and hit the outside wall hard. Gilliland was un-injured in the accident and finished 43rd.
The leaders would stop under the caution and on the lap 170 restart Brad Keselowski and Clint Bowyer led the field to the green flag after pit strategy had two different cars in the front of the field.
Keselowski would pull out to a lead on the restart with Bowyer close behind. However, things went downhill for Bowyer quickly when the #15 Toyota developed a vibration. Bowyer and his team decided to pit and bring his car down on pit road for a two tire stop. Bowyer and his team would change those tires on lap 185. Bowyer’s vibration would continue and he was forced to pit again on lap 193 changing the left side tires on the stop. Bowyer lost three laps in the exchanged and ended up finishing one lap down in 17th.
On lap 192, Keselowski, who stayed out on old tires on the restart, would lose the lead to Matt Kenseth and Kenseth would pull away. Green flag pit stops began on lap 214 and during the stops Kyle Larson would have a tire come apart and would pit before he would want to.
After the green flag pit stops would cycle around Danica Patrick would experience issues. Patrick started the race in the fourth position and quickly moved to second two laps into the race. However, the handling on her #10 Chevrolet went away and she would steadily fall back. On lap 220 Patrick said her car was losing power and thought she had a cylinder going down.
Meanwhile the race’s fourth caution flag flew on lap 223 for debris on the backstretch. Right after the caution flag flew, Justin Allgaier was pushed behind the wall with an issue. Allgaier finished 37th.
Different strategies put different drivers in front after a few of the lead cars would pit. Dale Earnhardt Jr, Brian Vickers, Jamie McMurray and Tony Stewart stayed out and they led the field on the lap 228 restart. Earnhardt would pull away on the restart. Earnhardt led when the races’ fifth caution flag flew on lap 235 when Marcos Ambrose spun off of turn two. Ambrose wouldn’t hit anything but Brian Scott, Josh Wise, Landon Cassill and Danica Patrick would get a piece of the incident. Scott finished 32ndwith Wise ending up 41st. Patrick, Cassill, and Ambrose would continue.
On the lap 241 restart Jamie McMurray was in front with Matt Kenseth alongside. Kenseth would pull away on the restart and he would lead until the races’ sixth caution flag flew when Kurt Busch blew an engine on lap 273. Busch was running his second race of the day on Sunday after finishing sixth in the 500 mile Indianapolis 500 earlier in the day. Busch was experiencing a vibration and lost power before blowing up for good on lap 273. Busch finished 40th and could not become the second driver to ever complete all 1,100 miles of the double.
The race restarted on lap 283 with Johnson and Harvick on the front row. Johnson pulled away after clearing Kenseth. Johnson led until lap 286 when the races’ seventh caution flag flew when Danica Patrick's engine finally let go. Patrick finished 39th.
The race restarted after the leaders stayed out under yellow meaning Johnson was still in front. The race restarted on lap 292 as Matt Kenseth passed Johnson on the restart. On lap 311 Dale Earnhardt Jr experienced issues on his Chevrolet. Earnhardt made an unscheduled pit stop after feeling a vibration.
Meanwhile in the front of the field, Johnson had chased down Matt Kenseth and made the pass for the lead on lap 312. Johnson was leading when green flag pit stops began on lap 329.
After the stops cycled around Johnson led Harvick by over a half of a second. However, Johnson, Harvick, Kenseth and the rest of the leaders needed to pit one more time, while Brad Keselowski and his team had a great strategy to try and stretch their gas and make it the rest of the way on field. Carl Edwards, Paul Menard, and Aric Almirola were on the same strategy.
However on lap 358 Keselowski pitted for a vibration, ending any hope of stealing a victory. The races’ eighth and final caution flag flew on lap 378 when Alex Bowman blew a tire.
Jeff Gordon found himself in front after a two tire green flag stop got him to the lead when Edwards and Menard would pit under the yellow. Gordon would get beat on the restart and would lose the lead to Matt Kenseth. Kenseth would pull away until Johnson caught him and made the race winning pass on lap 391. Johnson sped to victory from that point forward. He became the driver with the most wins ever at NASCAR's top level at Charlotte Motor Speedway by picking up his seventh overall win.
Other notables in the field included Aric Almirola in 11th, Joey Logano in 12th, Kasey Kahne in 14th, and Dale Earnhardt Jr in 19th. Greg Biffle finished 21st with Denny Hamlin finishing 22nd.
With the victory Johnson became the 10thdifferent driver to win a Sprint Cup race this season, joining, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Carl Edwards, Joey Logano, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch.
Matt Kenseth leads the drivers who haven’t won a race yet in the 2014 season with Brian Vickers, Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle, Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon joining him in that group. Those 16 drivers currently hold a Chase Grid qualifying spot after 12 races in the 2014 season.
The next race on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule is the FedEx 400 Benefitting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway on June 1st at 1 p.m. ET with coverage on FOX .Tags: Charlotte Motor Speedway, Coca-Cola 600, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Danica Patrick, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, matt kenseth, Motorsports, NASCAR, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series