Kyle Larson dominates Coca-Cola 600, Hendrick becomes winningest team

Hendrick Motorsports has officially surpassed Petty Enterprises for the most wins in NASCAR Cup Series history. Kyle Larson dominated Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, leading 311 of 400 laps and sweeping the four stages to secure the team’s 269th victory.

Larson won the pole in qualifying on Saturday ahead of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Kurt Busch and B.J. McLeod were sent to the rear for unapproved adjustments.

Stages #1 and 2

Larson dominated the opening stage as Hendrick Motorsports team-mates Chase Elliott and William Byron followed.

The first stage ran completely green as Larson led all but eleven of the 100 laps. The exceptions came during the mid-segment pit stops under green following Larson making his stop on lap 49, with Byron, Brad Keselowski, Matt DiBenedetto, and Anthony Alfredo leading laps before it cycled back to Larson. Meanwhile, Ross Chastain exited the race with a broken oil pump valve.

Larson, Elliott, Byron, Kyle Busch, Tyler Reddick, Kevin Harvick, Alex Bowman, Chris Buescher, Denny Hamlin, and Austin Dillon rounded out the top ten.

Stage #2 began with Larson leading Elliott. Elliott finally broke his team-mate’s on-track stranglehold on lap 132, leading until the next pit cycle commenced and he pitted on lap 149. Reddick and Christopher Bell spent time at the top until Larson returned to the spot. Prior to the stops, Chastain’s Chip Ganassi Racing partner Kurt Busch suffered an oil pump belt failure. David Starr, running his first Cup race of the year, was penalised for failing to meet minimum speed.

Although Busch was able to return to the track, his race ended in smoke when his engine expired on lap 172 and produced a caution. Bowman and Hamlin changed two tyres during the yellow to lead the field to green on the ensuing lap 178 restart. Hamlin took the lead two laps later before losing it to Elliott on lap 183.

Larson reclaimed the lead on lap 188. By lap 195, Hendrick drivers occupied the top four in a similar strong performance to Dover two weeks prior. Kyle Busch broke up the party when he took fourth from Bowman, but it was still a Hendrick 1–2–3 at the end of the stage with Larson ahead of Elliott and Byron. Reddick, Harvick, Bowman, Buescher, Hamlin, and Dillon also received stage points.

Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Stages #3 and 4

Larson, Elliott, and Byron resumed their battle as the race’s second half opened. On lap 212, Bell hit the wall and had to pit.

Byron overtook Larson for the lead on lap 231. Five laps later, Harivck pitted due to a loose wheel, while green-flag stops started approximately ten laps later. After Byron pitted on lap 247, Reddick, Dillon, and Alfredo enjoyed leading laps. The stops concluded with Larson back on top and he would lead until Ryan Newman‘s right-front tyre went down with five laps left in the stage and sent him into the wall.

Newman’s wreck ended the stage under yellow as Larson won his third consecutive stage. He was the second driver to win three stages at the 600 since Kyle Busch in 2018, the first year that the race was divided into four segments instead of the usual three. Byron, Busch, Elliott, Bowman, Reddick, Hamlin, Dillon, Bubba Wallace, and Harvick comprised the rest of the top ten.

A pair of Kyles in Larson and Busch led the grid to the start of the fourth and final stage. Despite a brief challenge by Busch, Larson kept the lead. On lap 320, Joey Logano pitted to address a flat tyre, a similar fate that befell Martin Truex Jr. twenty laps later.

Larson hit pit road on lap 347. Reddick and Blaney led a combined five laps before they pitted and Larson re-assumed first. As the lap counter crossed 372, he led 300 total laps in a Cup race for the first time; his previous best was 284 at Darlington in 2018, while his 269 at Atlanta in March were his most on a 1.5-mile track.

As Byron and Bowman faced challenges from Busch, Larson easily pulled away from Elliott and his Hendrick compatriots. By the end of the race, his advantage on runner-up Elliott had peaked at over ten seconds. Hendrick drivers occupied the top five with Busch—himself an ex-Hendrick member—preventing a top four HMS sweep as he finished third.

In addition to being Larson’s eighth career win and second of 2021, he notches his first at Charlotte. It is also perhaps fitting that the #5 car was responsible for Hendrick becoming the winningest team as the number holds sentimental value for the organisation, being its first car number with Geoff Bodine in 1984; the #5 has forty total wins.

Race results

Finish Start Number Driver Team Manufacturer Laps Status
1 1 5 Kyle Larson Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 400 Running
2 3 9 Chase Elliott Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 400 Running
3 20 18 Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 400 Running
4 4 24 William Byron Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 400 Running
5 7 48 Alex Bowman Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 400 Running
6 6 3 Austin Dillon Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 400 Running
7 14 11 Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing Chevrolet 400 Running
8 27 17 Chris Buescher Roush Fenway Racing Ford 400 Running
9 15 8 Tyler Reddick Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 400 Running
10 5 4 Kevin Harvick Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 400 Running
11 13 2 Brad Keselowski Team Penske Ford 400 Running
12 2 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet 400 Running
13 11 12 Ryan Blaney Team Penske Ford 400 Running
14 18 23 Bubba Wallace 23XI Racing Toyota 400 Running
15 9 99 Daniel Suárez Trackhouse Racing Team Chevrolet 398 Running
16 19 43 Erik Jones Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet 398 Running
17 16 22 Joey Logano Team Penske Ford 398 Running
18 22 21 Matt DiBenedetto Wood Brothers Racing Ford 398 Running
19 26 7 Corey LaJoie Spire Motorsports Chevrolet 398 Running
20 24 34 Michael McDowell Front Row Motorsports Ford 398 Running
21 23 41 Cole Custer Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 397 Running
22 31 10 Aric Almirola Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 397 Running
23 21 14 Chase Briscoe Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 397 Running
24 17 20 Christopher Bell Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 397 Running
25 29 38 Anthony Alfredo Front Row Motorsports Ford 397 Running
26 28 37 Ryan Preece JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet 397 Running
27 25 6 Ryan Newman Roush Fenway Racing Ford 396 Running
28 30 77 Justin Haley* Spire Motorsports Chevrolet 395 Running
29 8 19 Martin Truex Jr. Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 391 Running
30 34 53 Cody Ware* Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet 389 Running
31 33 78 B.J. McLeod Live Fast Motorsports Ford 389 Running
32 32 00 Quin Houff StarCom Racing Chevrolet 389 Running
33 35 15 James Davison Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet 388 Running
34 36 51 Garrett Smithley* Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet 387 Running
35 37 52 Josh Bilicki Rick Ware Racing Ford 382 Running
36 38 66 David Starr* MBM Motorsports Toyota 369 Running
37 10 42 Ross Chastain Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet 359 Running
38 12 1 Kurt Busch Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet 139 Engine
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for Cup points

Source link