With the focus on America’s military, past, present and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for freedom, here is what was surprising and not surprising from the Memorial Day running of the Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Surprising: NASCAR’S elite Cup drivers had to face surprising battles of their own, as unfortunately did some fans in the stands, when an overhead camera cable, utilized by Fox Sports to cover the race, broke.
Several drivers and race cars were impacted, as well as ten fans sustaining injuries, with three taken to the hospital for evaluation and further treatment.
The race was red flagged to allow fans to be helped, as well as to surprisingly allow the drivers and teams an opportunity to evaluate and then work on their wounded race cars.
“At this time, we do not have a cause for the failure of the camera drive line that interrupted the Coca Cola 600 and our concern is with the injured fans,” Fox Television said in a statement issued shortly after the incident.
“We apologize to the racers whose cars were damaged and offer a sincere ‘thank you’ to the staff at Charlotte Motor Speedway for attending to the injuries and keeping us informed,” the statement continued. “A full investigation is planned and use of the camera is suspended indefinitely.”
Not Surprising: In a race that was fraught with several ‘weird’ incidents in addition to the camera failure, it was not surprising that race winner Kevin Harvick focused on not just celebrating in Victory Lane.
“Well, first off I want to say I hope everybody is okay from that cable,” the driver of the No. 29 Budweiser Folds of Honor Chevrolet said. “That was quite a weird incident there.”
“Second, I just want to say thank you to all these guys at RCR (Richard Childress Racing),” Harvick continued. “To win at Charlotte is something that we had to overcome for a long time.”
“Just got to thank everybody from Budweiser, Sprint, all the fans and this great promotion with the Folds of Honor special beer cans,” Harvick said. “Five cents from every can goes to Folds of Honor.”
This was Harvick’s 21st victory in 442 Cup starts, his second victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway, as well as his second victory of the 2013 season.
Surprising: While Chevrolets tend to be dominant at Charlotte Motor Speedway, there was one five-time champion Chevy driver noticeably absent from the front of the pack this weekend.
In fact, Jimmie Johnson, the driver with the best rating at Charlotte, with a 111.7 average out of a possible 150, finished 22nd. The driver of the No. 48 Lowes Patriotic Chevrolet fought loose conditions all evening and finally spinning out of contention.
“Yeah, we were like a fifth place car,” Johnson said. “And then we got pulled around in Turns 3 and 4 and spun.”
“That really affected our finish from that point,” Johnson continued. “It was a long night with a lot of issues.”
Not Surprising: As so often happens in big-time motorsports, the dominant car did not finish first, especially since there was some strategy involved. That is exactly what happened to Kasey Kahne, who had by far the strongest car in the field, and ended up not pitting when everyone else in the field did so.
“Well, there was a couple of guys that had just got tires so we thought they would stay out,” Kahne said. “Instead the whole field pitted.”
“We had a great Time Warner Cable Chevy all night,” Kahne continued. “We were just in a tough spot there.”
Kahne finished in the runner up position, his 11th top-ten finish in nineteen races at Charlotte and his sixth top-10 finish of the season.
Surprising: Kurt Busch, who has struggled to close out strong at the end of the race, surprisingly overcame great adversity to finish third in his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing/Sealy Chevrolet.
“Still shell shocked,” Busch said. “We picked up the lead and the battery went dead.”
“We battled back, Busch continued. “The guys changed it as fast as they could and we got third.”
“It was a great night to run up front and showcase what this team is made of.”
This was Busch’s seventh top-ten finish in 26 races at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Not Surprising: Denny Hamlin, behind the wheel after his back injury, not only qualified well but also ran well in the top five, capitalizing on every situation possible to get himself and his team back into contention.
Hamlin, behind the wheel of the No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota, started from the pole and was the highest finishing Toyota Camry driver in the race. Hamlin scored the fourth spot when the checkered flag flew and moved up three positions in the point standings to 24th.
“Proud of our effort,” Hamlin said. “We need solid runs like this.”
Surprising: In an incident that looked like Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Danica Patrick wrecked each other, Brad Keselowski, who was also involved, surprisingly threw himself under that bus.
“Yeah, I cut Danica off,” Keselowski said. “I didn’t know we were still three-wide and I caused a big wreck.”
“I feel bad for her and I send my apologies to her,” Keselowski continued. “It was a long night for the Miller Lite Ford.”
Keselowski finished 36th and fell three spots to 10th in the point standings.
Not Surprising: In a battle for the lucky dog after being trapped in the pits when a caution came out, Jeff Gordon became the unlucky dog yet again.
“We were a victim of the caution coming out while we were on pit road,” Gordon said. “We were going for the Lucky Dog and had to be real aggressive.”
“We were racing three-wide and that’s what’s going to happen,” Gordon continued. “I hate we were back there.”
“We had an awesome Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet.”
Gordon finished 35th and fell three spots to 15th in the point standings.
Surprising: Stewart Haas not only had a surprisingly good finish for at least two of their drivers, with Ryan Newman finishing sixth and Tony Stewart finishing seventh, but they also gained some hope for the remainder of the season.
“It was a solid night for Stewart-Haas Racing,” Newman said.
“We finally got some stability in the car,” Stewart said.
“All three of our cars made big improvements this week in terms of performance,” Greg Zipadelli, Competition Director, said. “Danica had a bad day, but overall we ended up with a couple of good finishes, which was certainly an improvement.”
Not Surprising: Given the length of the race, it was not surprising to see some engines fail under the pressure.
One such failure happened to Kyle Busch, who had again been dominant, until his car was injured by the camera cable. He was able to get repaired and was still performing at the front of the field when the engine let go, ending his day in the 38th position.
“We had been running first, second or third most of the evening, but just catastrophic engine failure,” Busch said. “It seems to be that time of the year again.”
“I hate it for all my guys,” Busch continued. “It’s just so frustrating to see it end on a short note like that and not getting the finish that we needed.”
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. also suffered an engine issue in his No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet, relegating him to a 39th place finish. NASCAR’s most popular driver, however, put it all in perspective.
“We had smoke in the cockpit for three laps and we started losing power before it broke,” Junior said. “We didn’t have a really good car.”
“But I want to wish everyone a happy Memorial Day weekend,” Earnhardt Jr. continued. “I take a lot of pride in the National Guard and hope everyone shakes a soldier’s hand and thanks them for what they do.”