History was made under the lights at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday, May 30, as Kyle Larson raced his way to a dominating victory in the Coca-Cola 600 and made Hendrick Motorsports the winningest team in the NASCAR Cup Series. The Elk Grove, California, native led a race-high 327 of 400 laps from pole position, including the final 49 laps, to muscle away from his teammates and the competition before recording the biggest victory for himself and for HMS on Memorial Day weekend.
Qualifying occurred on Saturday, May 29, and Kyle Larson captured the pole position with a pole-winning speed at 180.282 mph. Joining him on the front row was Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in his No. 47 JTG-Daugherty Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE.
Prior to the event, Kurt Busch and B.J. McLeod dropped to the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments.
When the green flag waved and the race commenced, Larson was able to squeak ahead with the top spot as he led the first lap while teammate Chase Elliott battled Stenhouse for the runner-up spot. Behind, a series of side-by-side battles occurred as William Byron battled Kevin Harvick for fourth place while Austin Dillon overtook Alex Bowman for sixth place.
Through the first 47 laps of the event, it was Larson and his No. 5 MetroTech Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE that was leading the field and dominating.
Shortly after, the first round of green flag pit stops occurred as Martin Truex Jr. and Ross Chastain pitted. They were soon followed by Bowman, Christopher Bell, Joey Logano, Austin Dillon, Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Chris Buescher, Larson, Elliott and others. During the pit stops, Chastain remained on pit road and his crew pulled the hood up on his No. 42 AdventHealth Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE to address a broken oil pump belt.
With most of the pit stops completed, Brad Keselowski, who was trying to stretch the fuel in his car to the fullest, led six laps before Matt DiBenedetto and rookie Anthony Alfredo led the following three laps. Afterwards, Larson returned to the lead.
With five laps remaining under the first stage, Daniel Suarez made a pit stop under green due to a flat right-front tire.
Back on the track, Larson was able to set sail at the front and cruise to the first stage victory on Lap 100, thus claiming his seventh stage victory of the season. Teammates Elliott and Byron crossed the start/finish line in second and third followed by Harvick and Austin Dillon. Kyle Busch, teammate Truex, Reddick, Stenhouse and Bowman were scored in the top 10.
Under the stage break, the leaders pitted and Larson retained the lead following a stellar service from his pit crew.
The second stage started on Lap 107 with teammates Larson and Elliott on the front row. At the start, Larson pulled ahead on the bottom lane to maintain the lead ahead of Elliott and Harvick through the first two turns.
By Lap 110, Larson was ahead by half a second over Elliott while Harvick and Byron engaged in a fierce battle for third place. A few laps later, Harvick prevailed over his battle with Byron as Kyle Busch went to work on Byron for fourth place.
On Lap 132, Elliott, coming off his victory at the Circuit of the Americas, was able to move his No. 9 NAPA Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE into the lead for the first time of the event.
On Lap 140, Kurt Busch took his No. 1 Gear Wrench Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE to the garage after reporting a broken belt issue to his machine, a similar issue that eliminated teammate Chastain from competition.
Not long after, another round of green flag pit stops occurred as Brad Keselowski pitted followed by Stenhouse, Byron, Kyle Busch, Bowman, Truex, Bubba Wallace, rookie Chase Briscoe, Larson, Elliott, Harvick and others. While entering and exiting pit road, Larson and Elliott battled dead even to be on top of one another before the former prevailed.
By Lap 153, Larson returned to the lead after Bell pitted.
Twenty laps later, the caution returned when Kurt Busch, who had returned to the track while multiple laps behind, retired due to an engine failure when smoke billowed out of his car. Busch’s retirement was his third of the season and his seventh finish outside the top 20 through the first 15 events of this season.
Under caution, the leaders returned to pit road and Bowman emerged with the lead following a two-tire pit stop. Hamlin and Logano, both of whom also took two tires, exited in second and third followed by Larson, the first competitor with four fresh tires.
With 23 laps remaining in the second stage, the race restarted. At the start, Bowman was able to retain the lead, but Hamlin moved his No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry to the top spot three laps later. Behind, however, Elliott was quick to move into the runner-up spot followed by teammates Bowman and Larson.
After leading the next three laps, Hamlin lost the lead to Elliott. Five laps later, however, Larson reassumed the lead. From there, he was able to cruise to the second stage victory on Lap 200 and claim his eighth stage victory of the season. Teammates Elliott and Byron settled in second and third followed by Kyle Busch, Reddick, Harvick, Bowman, Buescher, Hamlin and Austin Dillon.
Under the stage break, the entire field drove down to pit road and paused for a moment of silence in remembrance of the fallen during Memorial Day weekend. When the competition resumed, the leaders pitted and Larson was able to retain the lead ahead of his Hendrick Motorsports’ teammates.
The third stage started on Lap 207 as Larson received another strong start to retain the lead ahead of his teammates and the field.
By Lap 210, Larson held a narrow advantage over Byron followed by Elliott, Harvick, Kyle Busch, Bowman, Hamlin, Logano, Reddick and Wallace.
On Lap 231, Byron emerged with the lead, where he went on to lead 17 laps. By Lap 253, though, Larson returned to the lead.
With five laps remaining in the third stage, the caution flew when Ryan Newman lost a right-front tire and pounded the outside wall in Turn 3. The incident was enough to end the third stage under caution, with Larson claiming his third stage victory of the 600-mile event and the ninth of this season. Teammate Byron followed in the runner-up spot and ahead of Kyle Busch, Elliott, Bowman, Reddick, Hamlin, Austin Dillon, Wallace and Harvick.
Under the stage break, the leaders pitted and Larson retained the lead after exiting in first place followed by Kyle Busch. Following the pit stops, Wallace was assessed an equipment interference penalty while Blaney was caught speeding on pit road.
With 94 laps remaining, the final stage commenced as the two Kyles led the field to the green flag. At the start, Kyle Busch challenged Larson for one lap, even leading a lap, before Larson cleared Busch for the lead entering the backstretch during the following lap. In the process, Elliott retook the runner-up spot and Busch got loose while battling Byron for third place.
Down to the final 90 laps of the event, Larson was ahead by half a second over teammates Elliott and Byron, both of whom were battling to keep up with their dominating teammate.
With less than 55 laps remaining and with green flag pit stops ensuing, Reddick led for three laps before Blaney took over the top spot for the following two laps.
Under the final 50 laps, Larson moved back into the lead after Blaney pitted.
Twenty laps later, Larson, who was lapping traffic in front of him, was out in front by a reasonable margin over teammates Elliott and Byron, with Kyle Busch in fourth and Bowman in fifth.
Under the final 10 laps, Larson continued to lead by a big margin over teammate Elliott. With seven laps remaining, Larson’s advantage to Elliott was more than 10 seconds.
With five laps remaining, Larson remained as the leader by more than 10 seconds over Elliott. Meanwhile, Kyle Busch battled and overtook Byron for third place.
When Larson started the final lap of the event, he stabilized his advantage to more than 10 seconds over Elliott. With no challenges lurking behind, Larson was able to come back around and claim the checkered flag for the win.
In his seventh full-time season and career start No. 238, Larson captured his eighth NASCAR Cup Series career victory, his second win of the season and his first crown jewel event in NASCAR with his first Coke 600 title. He also joined teammate Bowman and Truex as the only competitors to win multiple races through the first 15 races of this year’s Cup season.
“It feels good,” Larson said on FOX. “It was not easy. I felt like I had to fight off William [Byron] and Chase [Elliott] a lot. It kind of worked out there that last run. [Erik Jones] had to pit and pulled out in front of me. I just towed with him for a while and stretched my lead out. We had a good car there that last run. Awesome, it feels great to be the guy that helped Mr. [Hendrick] break that record finally. This is awesome…Just very lucky that Mr. H was able to put a deal for me. It’s just awesome. I’m living dream, for sure.”
With Larson’s victory, Hendrick Motorsports achieved its 12th Coke 600 title and surpassed Petty Enterprises with the most victories in the Cup Series with career win No. 269, an achievement that left team owner Rick Hendrick beaming on pit road.
“Number one, Richard Petty is the king of NASCAR and he’s done so much for this sport,” Rick Hendrick said. “Man, this is so awesome. All I could think about was the first win, all the drivers. I wanna thank every driver that’s ever driven, ever won a race and the one’s that didn’t win. It’s unbelievable. I can’t really get it in my brain right now ‘cause I just thought something’s gonna happen. But man, what a good job [the drivers] did tonight. I’m just looking forward to the rest of the year when I’m glad [win No.] 269 is over. I’m glad it’s over.”
Elliott, who was making his 200th Cup career start and led 22 laps, settled in second place for the third time this season followed by Kyle Busch. Ironically, Elliott and Busch finished second and third in last year’s Coke 600 respectively.
“Yeah, I was happy for the boss [Rick Hendrick], happy for Kyle [Larson] and [crew chief] Cliff [Daniels], and everybody on the No. 5 team,” Elliott said. “They’ve been kicking ass since February. They deserve to win and rightfully so. They did a great job tonight, ran a great race, made no mistakes and the best car won. Proud of [Hendrick Motorsports]. Man, I feel like everybody’s, like I’ve been saying, been pulling in the same direction and it’s really showing. Just proud of our company and excited as the No. 9 team’s, specifically, for more opportunities ahead and try to get better, and see if we can get dialed in.”
“We had nothing for the Hendrick cars,” Busch said. “Overall, just a really good night for us. This M&M’s Camry was fast. [Crew chief] Ben [Beshore] and the boys did a really, really good job. I appreciate for what all we had, it was enough to be able to go out there, run strong and try to break’em [Hendrick drivers] up. I didn’t want them to finish one-two-three-four again, so at least I could get in the middle of them there, but overall, a good job…We had a solid night tonight. Hopefully, good for the points and hopefully, we can keep this momentum rolling.”
Teammates Byron and Bowman finished in the top five as all four Hendrick Motorsports’ competitors finished in the top five. Austin Dillon, Hamlin, Buescher, Reddick and Harvick completed the top 10.
Keselowski finished 11th followed by Stenhouse, Blaney, Wallace and Suarez. Logano fell back to 17th ahead of Matt DiBenedetto and Briscoe was the highest-finishing rookie competitor in 23rd. Martin Truex Jr., a two-time Coke 600 winner, ended his night in 29th following a late tire issue.
There were 23 lead changes for 13 different leaders. The race featured four cautions for 26 laps.
Denny Hamlin continues to lead the regular-season standings by 76 points over Kyle Larson and William Byron, with Chase Elliott trailing by 92 points.
1. Kyle Larson, 327 laps led, Stage 1 & 2 & 3 winner
2. Chase Elliott, 22 laps led
3. Kyle Busch, one lap led
4. William Byron, 19 laps led
5. Alex Bowman, five laps led
6. Austin Dillon, one lap led
7. Denny Hamlin, three laps led
8. Chris Buescher
9. Tyler Reddick, six laps led
10. Kevin Harvick
11. Brad Keselowski, six laps led
12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
13. Ryan Blaney, two laps led
14. Bubba Wallace
15. Daniel Suarez, two laps down
16. Erik Jones, two laps down
17. Joey Logano, two laps down
18. Matt DiBenedetto, two laps down, two laps led
19. Corey LaJoie, two laps down
20. Michael McDowell, two laps down
21. Cole Custer, three laps down
22. Aric Almirola, three laps down
23. Chase Briscoe, three laps down
24. Christopher Bell, three laps down, three laps led
25. Anthony Alfredo, three laps down, three laps led
26. Ryan Preece, three laps down
27. Ryan Newman, four łaps down
28. Justin Haley, five laps down
29. Martin Truex Jr., nine laps down
30. Cody Ware, 11 laps down
31. B.J. McLeod, 11 laps down
32. Quin Houff, 11 laps down
33. James Davison, 12 laps down
34. Garrett Smithley, 13 laps down
35. Josh Bilicki, 18 laps down
36. David Starr, 31 laps down
37. Ross Chastain, 41 laps down
38. Kurt Busch – OUT, Engine
Next on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the series’ return to the West Coast and at Sonoma Raceway following a one-year absence. The race will occur on Sunday, June 6, at 4 p.m. ET on FS1.