Monster Energy Cup Series News

Monster Energy Cup Series News (15369)

Every Memorial Day weekend as the sport embarks on the Coca-Cola 600, the longest race of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, the NASCAR community pays tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice protecting the United States of America. Ty Dillon and Germain Racing honored the late PFC Charlie C. Anthony on the windshield of the No. 13 GEICO Military Camaro ZL1, while also hosting PFC Anthony's dear family and friends at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
After posting a solid qualifying effort of 20th on Thursday evening and having two successful practice sessions on Saturday morning, Dillon and the GEICO Military team were ready for 600 miles of racing action. Early in the first 100-lap stage, the 26-year-old reported a tight handling condition, prompting crew chief Matt Borland to make significant changes to the No. 13 Camaro Z L1. Dillon noted those adjustments "definitely helped" at the conclusion of Stage 1, while running in the 22nd position. The strong performance continued as the "geckoflage" machine stayed inside the top-25 for the majority of the second stage. When the caution slowed the pace on lap 200, Dillon was scored in 24th-place.
As the third stage began under the lights, the GEICO Military Camaro ZL1 came to life and continued to set pace inside the top-25. Dillon battled to put the Germain Racing entry in position to receive the Lucky Dog and the needed caution came on lap 273, allowing the No. 13 to return to the lead lap. On lap 300, Dillon held the 21st position and quickly moved into 17th-place by the lap 3
08 restart. During the fourth and final stage, Dillon ran no lower than 23rd, and in the closing 10 laps gained two additional positions to cross
the finish line in 21st-place.
"I've been telling everyone all season that we're constantly growing and improving as a race team, and we certainly showed everyone that this weekend," said Dillon, after the race. "We had speed on Thursday and had our best qualifying effort of the year. We worked hard in practice on Saturday and felt really good about our chances in the race. There were definitely challenges throughout the night, but it was a good race for us in comparison to other mile and a half tracks we have run at this year. I ran on the lead lap for most of the night, even battling back to get our lap back in Stage 3, and our GEICO Military Camaro ZL1 had a pretty good balance under the lights. There is obviously still more work to be done, but we're going to keep digging and getting stronger every week."
Dillon and the No. 13 GEICO team will now travel north to Long Pond, Pennsylvania, as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Pocono Raceway. Opening practice will take place on Friday, June 1st at 11:35AM ET, with qualifying scheduled for later that afternoon at 4:15PM ET.
The green flag will fly on Sunday, June 3rd at 2:00PM ET. FS1 will carry the live television broadcast, with the Motor Racing Network and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio Channel 90 carrying the live radio broadcast.
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To learn more about Germain Racing, please visit:
Special Tributes / Memorials Honored on the No. 72:
            Ssgt David H. Stewart (USMC)
            Sgt Charles Strong (USMC)
            Trooper Samuel N. Bullard (NCSHP)
Stage 1
Corey LaJoie rolled off the grid in the 33rd position in the No. 72 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 at Charlotte Motor Speedway to start the Coca-Cola 600
Lap 30:  Running 33rd, LaJoie had fallen one lap down from the leader. He relayed he did not have enough right rear lateral entry to center and lacked front turn.
Caution Lap 38 (incident): LaJoie was posted 33rd, one lap down from the leader. He pitted for four tires, fuel, air pressure and wedge adjustments. He returned to the field 31st, one lap down
Caution Lap 85 (incident):  "Loose" was the recurring challenge for LaJoie. Crew Chief Frank Kerr opted to keep LaJoie out on track to take the wave around, restarting 30th, one lap down
Stage 1 Completion Caution Lap 100: LaJoie completed the stage 31st, one lap down. He radioed he had food lateral grip around the corners but loose. He requested changes to provide more rear security. He pitted for four tires, fuel, air pressure and wedge adjustments
Stage 2
LaJoie took the Stage 2 green flag restart 30th, one lap down
Caution Lap 116 (incident): Crew Chief Frank Kerr requested LaJoie take the wave around posting him back on the lead lap. The field had just returned to speed upon the green flag restart when an incident occurred resulting in another caution on lap 121. Utilizing the opportunity, LaJoie came in for four tires, fuel, air pressure and wedge adjustments. He rejoined the field 28th on the lead lap for the restart
During a long green flag run, competitors began green flag pit stops. As the leaders were pitting for service, LaJoie stayed on track and was posted as high as 8th on the leaderboard
Lap 170: Under green flag, LaJoie came in for four tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment; cycling back to 31st, one lap down
Stage 2 Completion Caution Lap 200: LaJoie completed the stage 29th, two laps down. He relayed the previous changes had negatively affected the right rear lateral grip and the No. 72 was loose everywhere. He pitted for four tires, fuel, spring rubber in the left rear, air pressure and wedge adjustment  
Stage 3
LaJoie was scored 29th, two laps down for the start of Stage 3
Caution Lap 227 (spin): LaJoie stayed out on track to take the wave around and restart 28th, one lap down
Caution Lap 250: Under green flag, LaJoie came in for service of four tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment
Caution Lap 260 (incident): Having just pitted, LaJoie stayed out for the wave around to gain track position
Caution Lap 274 (spin): LaJoie continued to struggle with the handling reporting the front lacked turn and the rear lacked lateral grip
Stage 3 Completion Caution Lap 300: LaJoie completed the stage 26th, two laps down. He stayed out to take the wave around
Stage 4
LaJoie started Stage 4 in the 26th position, one lap down
Lap 316: LaJoie was running 25th, one lap down and reported a vibration. He immediately came to pit road under green flag for four tires and fuel. He continued to run 25th until pitting again under green flag on lap 370
LaJoie continued to maintain his positioning on track, securing a 26th place finish in the No. 72 in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway
TriStar PR

Gaunt Brothers Racing (GBR) and Parker Kligerman completed NASCAR's longest race, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, on Sunday night, finishing 27th.

Kligerman reported early in the event that the No. 96 Toyota Camry was suffering from a tight handling condition and tagged the outside wall on lap 25 without sustaining heavy damage. The GBR crew remedied the handling on subsequent pit stops.

In the event's second stage, Kligerman encountered braking difficulties, pumping his brakes down the straightaways, something he continued through the end of the third stage. Similar maladies proved common throughout the field as the track conditions changed when daytime gave way to night; eight full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers crashed as a result of ill-handling racecars.

Kligerman's car remained in quality condition when he crossed the finish line over four hours and 23 minutes after he started, resulting in a 27th-place finish.

"Parker came in and ran a 600-mile race. It's a heck of an endurance race, and he did a great job," said Marty Gaunt, GBR owner. "It was our first race on a 1.5-mile track, the car has minimal damage and we had a solid day."

"[Crew chief] Mark Hillman and the guys did a great job, in their seventh race ever, to build a car that lasted 600 miles. That's impressive," said Kligerman, who completed the longest race of his career. "I'm not tired; I'm just sore. It wasn't pretty, but we got a result in the 20s, which was our goal. Barring some issues with the brakes and some things I could've done better, I think we had a top-25 car."


Paul Menard and the No. 21 Menards/Knauf team turned in 600 miles worth of solid performance and came away with a 14th place finish in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

And in doing so, they were able to pay an appropriate tribute to the late Lt. Leevi Barnard, the Patrick County, Virginia, native who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country while serving with the U.S. Army in Iraq on May 21, 2009.
Eddie Wood, who like the late Barnard is from Patrick County, said he was proud of the way his family-owned team represented Barnard, whose name was on the top of the windshield of the No. 21 Fusion.

 “I was glad we were able to run well the whole night for Leevi and his family,” Wood said. “His sisters were at the race, and it was the first time they’d been to a NASCAR race. 
“And we were honored once again to be a part of a program that represents what Memorial Day is all about. NASCAR and the people at Charlotte Motor Speedway have done a great job with that.”
Wood also said he was impressed with the determination displayed by Menard and crew chief Greg Erwin, who continuously adapted to track conditions that changed as the race went from daylight to dark and also a groove that appeared to shift around more that usual due to being treated with a traction-control compound.
“They kept making adjustments and made the car better and better,” Wood said. 

Indeed by the closing 100-lap Stage of the 600, Menard was running in the top 10 before a slide up the track and brush with the wall forced him to spend the final 10 laps trying to nurse his tires to the finish.
“Coming home 14th was a solid day,” Wood said.
Another highlight of the weekend for Wood and Menards/Knauf team was the success of their alliance partner Roger Penske, who was voted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Wednesday then scored his 17th Indianapolis 500 victory as a car owner on Sunday.
“We’re really proud of Mr. Penske,” Wood said. “Winning the Indy 500 and making the Hall of Fame in the same week is quite an accomplishment,” Wood said.
Menard’s finish at Charlotte, his sixth of 14th or better in the 13 races this season, moved him up one spot in the points standings to 17th. He’s now 33 points behind Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who is in 16th position, heading into the 400-miler at Pocono Raceway on June 3.


Defending Coca-Cola 600 Winner Austin Dillon's night hampered by Cut Tire Early at Charlotte Motor Speedway

"I'm a bit mad at myself for racing the No. 3 Coca-Cola Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 so hard, so early in the race. I was battling with the No. 48 car for position and ended up getting loose and hitting the outside wall. That really put a damper on our night. We cut a tire and all of the rubber wrapped around the rear suspension so the hub broke and we had to go to the garage to make repairs. We made it back on the track but we were multiple laps down and really just racing for knowledge at that point. I love Charlotte Motor Speedway and was really looking forward to trying to defend my win here, but it's on to Pocono Raceway next week."
-Austin Dillon 
Ryan Newman and Liberty National Team See Top-10 Finish Spoiled By Right-Front Hub Issue

"This team is in desperate need of some good luck. Tonight we had another top-10 finish get away from us due to a right-front hub issue with less than 100 laps to go. It's frustrating. We had a setback on our first stop with a penalty. It dropped us from fourth to 29th. Then to race back in the top 10 and earn stage points in Stages Two and Three, it's just so disappointing. Overall, it was a solid weekend for us and an improvement in qualifying with the sixth-place starting spot. Racing in the top 5 and top 10 for a majority of the night shows the progress we are making with this Camaro. We just need to get the finishes."
-Ryan Newman 


Race Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Stage 1 Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Stage 2 Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Stage 3 Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)


Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-100):

Kyle Busch started first and finished first.

● The M&M’S Red, White and Blue driver was passed for the lead before completing lap one, but he dug in and reclaimed the top spot on lap five.

● Within the first 35 laps Busch reported that the car’s handling was simultaneously getting tighter and more loose. He attributed the tight issue to a buildup of tire rubber on the track and noted that that car was mostly loose at the entry to the turns, particularly in turn three.

● The team used the caution period on lap 36 to make air pressure adjustments, change four tires and add fuel. Quick work in the pits enabled Busch to maintain the top spot.

● A caution on lap 83 gave everyone the opportunity to come down pit road for fresh tires. Busch noted that he liked how his car was handling on the short run, so the team elected to make no changes. He restarted in second place and was in front by the time he reached turn one. He cruised to the conclusion of Stage 1 to score the stage win.

● Busch noted at the conclusion of Stage 1 that the car was starting to turn better, so the team elected to only change four tires and add fuel during the break, once again getting the M&M’S Red, White and Blue Camry off pit road first to maintain the top spot for the start of Stage 2.


Stage 2 Recap (Laps 101-200):

Busch started first and finished first.

The 2015 NASCAR Cup Series Champion picked up in Stage 2 right where he left off at the conclusion of Stage 1 – taking the lead and then extending it.

Busch relinquished the lead during a round of green-flag pit stops that began around lap 157. On lap 159 he brought the M&M’S Red, White and Blue Toyota to the attention of his crew, who changed four tires and added fuel. A handful of drivers were operating on different strategies, but it did little to deter Busch, who raced his way back to the top spot on lap 174.

The Las Vegas native cruised to the conclusion of Stage 2 to pick up another stage win, earning another 10 bonus points.

Once again, the team simply changed four tires and added fuel, and quick work allowed Busch to return to the track in first place to start Stage 3.


Stage 3 Recap (Laps 201-300):

Busch started first and finished first.

Busch was leading when caution was displayed on lap 225. He noted that the M&M’S Toyota was starting to handle a little loose. Anticipating that the track would continue to create a tight-handling situation, the team once again made no adjustments while changing four tires and adding fuel. After a tight race off pit road with teammate Denny Hamlin, Busch was declared the leader for the restart.

● During a caution on lap 258 Busch reported that the handling of his car was getting to be a bit more challenging. Crew chief Adam Stevens directed the team to make air pressure adjustments, change four tires and add fuel. The pit crew continued to rise to the challenge, getting Busch off pit road first to maintain the lead.

● The M&M’S Red, White and Blue Camry was on cruise control for the next several laps, maintaining a healthy lead through to the end of Stage 3.

● At the conclusion of Stage 3 Busch reported that the car was “really good” and, if anything, was starting to get just a bit snug. The team elected to go with no adjustments, simply changing four tires and adding fuel. Busch returned to the track the way he left it, in first place for the start of the final stage.


Stage 4 Recap (Laps 301-400):

Busch started first and finished first.

● During the opening laps of Stage 4, Busch quietly and methodically set up a comfortable pace with yet another healthy lead.

● The strategy for the final 100-lap stage was simple for the M&M’S team, who had dominated the race: Keep the car up front by splitting the final stage into two 50-lap runs.

● Busch pitted for the final time on lap 353, taking four tires and fuel and no changes to a car that had been flawless the entire night.

● From there, Busch’s M&M’S Red, White and Blue Toyota Camry cruised to victory as the final stage went all 100 laps without a caution, capping a dominating performance.



Busch won the Coca-Cola 600 to score his 47th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory and his fourth of the season, scoring the maximum number of eight playoff points by winning all three stages and the race win.

Busch led four times for race-high 377 laps. With his laps led in the Coca-Cola 600, Busch surpassed the 15,000 laps led mark in his Cup Series career.

This was Busch’s eighth top-five and 10th top-10 finish in 13 races contested so far in 2018 season.

The win was Busch’s first points-paying win at Charlotte and his first-ever trip to victory lane in his 29th starts there.

The win also made NASCAR history as Busch became the first driver in NASCAR history to win at all tracks at which he made at least one start. Busch has now won at all 23 current tracks on the Cup Series schedule.


Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Red, White and Blue Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:


How special is winning this race for you?


“This one’s very special. I don’t think there’s anything that can top Homestead, just with the meaning of what the championship is, but the Coca-Cola 600 – I’ve dreamt of this race since I was a kid and being able to win this race. Always watching the All-Star race and then the 600 the following weekend and being able to come out here and now win the Coca-Cola 600 is just phenomenal. It’s a little boy’s dreams come true. And man, I just want to say that I thank NASCAR, for one, for giving me a chance to come out here and have this opportunity to race for my dreams and to accomplish those things. I don’t know if it’s ever been done before, but the first one to check off all the tracks and get it all done. I don’t want to go to any new ones, that would just have to start the whole process over. But holy moly, I can’t say enough about M&M’s. Love the red, white and blue scheme and what it means – all of our heroes, whether they’re fighting for us right now or whether they’re fallen heroes. Certainly want to give remembrance to (Sgt.) Eric Toth who’s with us and who is riding on our car tonight and his family who are with us here this weekend. That’s very, very special. Appreciate NASCAR doing that with NASCAR Salute the troops. Can’t say enough about M&M’S Red, White and Blue, Interstate Batteries. This Toyota Camry was awesome tonight. Adam Stevens (crew chief) and all my guys are just phenomenal to work with, and it’s so much fun right now. Also want to thank Cessna and Rheem and DVX Eyewear. Of course the fans. The fans for coming out here and supporting us all through all this. Man, Black Clover, DVX Sunglasses. Man, this is so huge.”


Your team came through flawlessly tonight, didn’t they?

“Yeah, my guys were on it tonight. They were certainly really good on pit road. I can’t say enough about my crew. They’ve been that way all year long. You know, a lot of wins are due to a lot of circumstances going right, and certainly we’ve got the pit crew going right with us right now. Fast racecars, as well. There were a few other fast cars out there I was keeping my eye on as they were coming up through the field – the 4 (Kevin Harvick) for one, the 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) for another – and it just seemed like they could never really get into our territory. But you know, all in all just a phenomenal night.”

First driver in the modern era to win at every active track, what does that mean to you?

“It’s awesome. I mean I’ve dreamt of that – not only winning here and winning the Coke 600 as a kid and being in victory lane here for this race, but to just be a force to be reckoned with, you know. I go across the country and race Super Late Models because I want to win at every single racetrack. I just want to show that there is no weakness. My guys have given me that chance here tonight, and being able to get to victory lane with this M&M’s Toyota – it sure looks pretty in victory lane here tonight. I definitely want to give a shout-out to all of our men and women, all the service men and women across the world past and present, fallen and of today’s heroes – we had (Sgt.) Eric Toth with us here and his family riding along with us this weekend, so that was a pleasure. Got to meet up with them earlier and spend some time, so that was really cool.”

Next Up: The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Pocono 400 on Sunday, June 3 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. The race starts at 2 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FS1.



In NASCAR’s longest race of the year, veteran Matt Kenseth and the No. 6 Wyndham Rewards team battled back to manage a 17th-place finish in Sunday night’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“It was a struggle all night for us,” Kenseth said. “I guess we finished about where we qualified. I thought we were about a 20th to a 22nd-place car most of the night. We finished a little better than that, but maybe it’s a small step forward since Kansas.

“We still have some work to do. I feel like I’m trying to get up to speed as quick as I can. I’m still behind a little bit, so hopefully these next couple of weeks we’ll be able to get caught up and keep improving.”

Kenseth rolled off the grid in the 17th position but lost a few positions early on due to a loose handling machine. After a pair of stops, the latter being at lap 84, crew chief Matt Puccia and the team worked on the loose condition allowing the Cambridge, Wisconsin to regain seven positions by the time the first green checkered waved at the end of stage one.

After a couple of early cautions in stage two, Kenseth was scored in the 13th position but newer tires prevailed costing the 2003 NASCAR Champion to lose valuable track position before green flag pit stops. With only 15 cars on the lead lap at the end of the stage two, Kenseth was scored in the 22nd position when the green-checkered waved. After getting shuffled back on the restart, Kenseth would make another stop at lap 155 for more air pressure and wedge adjustments, before going down a lap at lap 175 after green flag stops cycled through. Kenseth finished stage two in 22nd.

After taking the wave around with 42 laps remaining in stage three, Kenseth was able to work his way into the lucky dog position by the time the green-checkered waved at the end of the stage.

Back on the lead lap for the final stage, the 2000 Coca-Cola 600 champion gained six positions in the final stage to take the checkered flag in the 17th position.

Kenseth and the No. 6 car return to action next weekend at Pocono Raceway. Race coverage begins at 2 p.m. ET on FS1 and MRN.


At the same track that he made his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) start at in 2011, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. overcame adversity to score a career best 10th-place finish at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“I’m really happy,” Stenhouse said. “I think we were a little concerned, even though the package wasn’t the same as the All-Star Race, I feel like we made some gains for the mile-and-a-half program this year.  I felt like this is about where we were last year at this time, so for us to start the year off from where we did last year, I feel good that we’re headed in the right direction. 

“It’s never as fast as you want.  It was a tough battle for us out there.  Our Fastenal Ford was really good the first two stages and made an adjustment and was off for two runs – a full stage and had to fight back to get that track position.  All in all, it was a good day to come back.”

After barely missing advancement to round three of qualifying, the Olive Branch, Miss. native lined up for the longest race of the season in the 13th position and patiently maneuvered his tribute Fastenal Ford up to 10th by the time the first caution flag waved on lap 36. Despite battling a loose handling condition for a majority of stage one, Stenhouse was able to earn a ninth-place finish earning valuable stage points.

The two-time Xfinity champion was scored in the 10th position when the caution flag waved on lap 121. With a majority of the cars pitting that were scored behind the No. 17 Fastenal Ford, Stenhouse dropped to 21st position due to his competitors having fresher tires.  With 45 laps remaining in stage two, Stenhouse brought his Ford to pit-road for a scheduled green flag pit-stop. The remainder of the stage went caution free allowing Stenhouse to gain seven positions by the time the green-checkered waved.

Lacking overall grip, the 2017 MENCS Playoff contender made contact with the outside wall losing a few positions midway through stage three. Luckily, a caution flag was displayed shortly after Stenhouse had to serve a pit-road speeding penalty lining him up at the tail-end of the field. With a 15-lap shootout to the end of stage three, the Roush Fenway Racing driver marched his way through the field picking up 11 positions by the end of the stage, scoring additional valuable stage points with a ninth-place finish.

Unfortunately, during the stage break, the team was penalized for an uncontrolled tire lining Stenhouse up once again at the tail-end of the field. After restarting in the 24th position, Stenhouse patiently maneuvered his Ford through the field gaining 14 positions to take the checkered flag in the 10th position; a career best at the 1.5 mile track.


Stage 1 Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Stage 2 Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Stage 3 Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)


Stage 1 Recap (Ended on Lap 100):

Kevin Harvickstarted 39th and finished 40th.

The Mobil 1/Busch Beer Ford raced from 39th up to 11th by the first caution on lap 38.

The team came to pit road for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment during the caution and restarted ninth on lap 43.

Harvick raced into the top-five by lap 67.

The No. 4 Ford cut a right-front tire and hit the outside retaining wall on lap 83, resulting in heavy damage.

The team was unable to continue due to the heavy right-side damage and retired to the garage, ending Harvick’s day.



● This was only the second time that the No. 4 team did not finish (DNF) a race in 2018. Harvick also recorded a DNF in the Daytona 500.

●  Kyle Busch won the Coca-Cola 600 to score his 47th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory, his fourth of the season and his first at Charlotte. His margin of victory over second-place Martin Truex Jr., was 3.823 seconds. With his Coca-Cola 600 victory, Kyle Busch became the first driver to secure a points-paying win at every track the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series visits.

●  There were 11 caution periods for a total of 54 laps.

●  Only nine of the 40 drivers in the Coca-Cola 600 finished on the lead lap.


Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1/Busch Beer Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:

Any indication why the tire went down?

“No, we stood in the garage and looked at it, and I can’t tell if we ran something over. There’s enough things that could have happened right there, but I’m just really proud of everybody on our Mobil 1/Busch Ford. The car was really, really fast. We came all the way through the pack and made it up into the top-three there, and sometimes those things happen. I can’t complain about anything that’s happened this year. We have to take the good with the bad. The guys did a great job in basically guessing at where the car needed to be today with all the penalties, no practice and starting in the back. To come out and have the fastest car again was quite an honor to drive, and they’re doing a great job. It was just bad luck.”


Next Up:

The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Pocono 400 on Sunday, June 3 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. The race starts at 2 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FS1.



Martin Truex Jr. overcame two penalties to finish second in Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The Furniture Row Racing driver crossed the finish line 3.823 seconds behind race winner Kyle Busch.

It was the second straight runner-up finish for Truex and his eighth top five in the first 13 races of the season. The second-place performance plus stage finishes of fourth, second and eighth lifted Truex from eighth to fifth in the driver point standings. There was an additional stage for this race.

Truex once again showed his muscle in the Coke 600, one of the crown jewels in the NASCAR Cup Series. In the last four Coke 600s, Truex has had finishes of fifth, first, third and second for a 2.75 average.

After finishing second in the first stage Truex was called for a pit-road speeding penalty which sent him back to 19th place in track position. On the ensuing pit stop while running 14th the Furniture Row Racing team was called for an uncontrollable tire, relegating Truex to 24th.

But the driver of the No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/5-hour ENERGY Toyota, which carried the name of Vietnam casualty 1st Lt. Arlen Del Richardson, tenaciously battled back by posting the majority of the fastest laps late in the race.

“It was a battle-back night for us,” Truex said. “It was a good effort to get the Bass Pro Shops/5-hour ENERGY Camry to second after the speeding and pit road tire penalties. We had the second-best car all night and I don’t think anybody had anything for the 18 (Kyle Busch). We gained a little on him on that last run under green but, like I said, I think he was taking care of his car a little bit. Props to Kyle and props to this Furniture Row Racing team as well, for sticking with it all night.”

The longest race of the year (400 laps, 600 miles) was indeed a test of stamina.

“It was hot, that was the biggest thing,” Truex said. “Six hundred miles. It’s hot and it’s humid. These cars are so hot inside it’s crazy. You definitely have to be prepared. Sherry (Pollex, girlfriend) made me a special smoothie this morning that she said would give me strength and stay hydrated and I definitely think it did. I think I drank six gallons of water the last three days but that’s just what you have to do but I feel pretty good.”

Truex added, “It’s been a great week for sure. The White House visit (on Monday) was amazing and it’s been a good couple of weeks here in Charlotte. Aside from the crash in the All-Star race, we performed well, we had a great charity event (Catwalk for a Cause) and went to the White House. We’ve been busy but it’s been a lot of fun.”

Following Kyle Busch and Truex to the checkered flag were: Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Larson, Kurt Busch, Alex Bowman and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

The race had 11 cautions for 54 laps and there were nine lead changes among four drivers.

The next race is Sunday June 3 at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa.


Race Winner:      Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Stage 1 Winner:  Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Stage 2 Winner:  Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Stage 3 Winner:  Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)


Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-100):

● Daniel Suarez started 10th, finished 18th.

● After starting inside the top-10, Suarez dropped to 16th by lap 14 as he battled a loose racecar, especially on the entry to the corner.

● Suarez dropped to 21st by lap 37, describing the front end of his car as “numb.” Crew chief Scott Graves went to work, throwing a myriad of changes at the No. 19 Interstate Batteries Toyota, adjusting wedge and removing a spring rubber on the lap-38 pit stop.

● The Interstate Batteries driver still battled handling issues toward the end of Stage 1, with his main complaint being loose on entry. With every adjustment to try and get rid of the numb condition on the front end, the result would make the back of the racecar loose.

● At the end of Stage 1, Suarez battled his way back up to 18th with a car that was still loose on entry but tight when on the throttle.


Stage 2 Recap (Laps 101-200):

● Started 13th, finished 27th.

● The Interstate Batteries team gained five spots on pit road during the stop following Stage 1, restarting the second stage in the 13th position.

● A quick caution on lap 115 saw Suarez in 12th, as he reported that the racecar was better but the front was still not great and the back of the car was still stepping out. Suarez moved up to 11th by the lap-124 restart.

● Trouble struck Suarez on lap 183; he reported to the Interstate Batteries crew that he thought had a tire coming apart. He finally brought the No. 19 car to pit road for an unscheduled stop on lap 187.

● After a closer look at the tire, the Interstate Batteries team discovered a loose left-rear wheel was the culprit, and the untimely stop relegated Suarez to finish Stage 2 in 27th, two laps off the pace.


Stage 3 Recap (Laps 201-300):

● Started 27th, finished 19th.

● With the stop, Suarez took the wave-around during the stage-break caution, putting him just one lap down to the leaders as Stage 3 got underway.

● Suarez moved up to 24th when a caution waved on lap 259, and he was able to stay out and take the wave-around again, putting him back on the lead lap. During the caution, Suarez radioed to the Interstate Batteries team that the car was more free than before but not bad.

● After restarting 22nd on lap 265, Suarez thought he had a flat right-rear tire. Fortunately, a caution came out just five laps later, enabling him to pit for tires and fuel. He restarted 20th on lap 278.

● Suarez moved the Interstate Batteries Toyota up to 15th by lap 286 but lost a few spots to finish the stage in 19th.


Stage 4 Recap (Laps 301-400):

Started 14th, finished 15th.

● Suarez pitted on lap 303 following the final stage caution of the race, taking on four tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment to help a condition where his No. 19 continued to chatter the front tires.

● The No. 19 team restarted 14th on lap 308 but soon fell to 16th, with Suarez saying his car was more free on the bottom but that the front still couldn’t turn like he wanted.

● Suarez, who had gotten his lap back at the end of Stage 3, was lapped by teammate and race leader Kyle Busch on lap 374. Still, despite all the handling challenges thrown his way over 400 miles, he was able to bring home a hard-fought 15th-place finish.


Daniel Suarez, driver of the No. 19 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:

“It was a decent finish with our Interstate Batteries Camry. The guys did a good job working on the racecar, but the car didn’t have a lot of speed. We had a 14th- or 15th-place car at times. We had issues with a vibration and lost two laps, but we were able to overcome that, but it took us a long time because we didn’t have a lot of speed. We have to go back home, work hard and try to get better and see what happens at Pocono.”


Team Interstate Results:

Kyle Busch (Finished 1st/ Running, completed 400 of 400 laps)

● Denny Hamlin (Finished 3rd/ Running, completed 400 of 400 laps)

● Daniel Suarez (Finished 15th/ Running, completed 399 of 400 laps)

Erik Jones (Finished 19th/ Running, completed 399 of 400 laps)


Team Interstate Points:

Kyle Busch (1st with 573 points, 67 ahead of second)

Denny Hamlin (7th with 429 points, 144 out of first)

Erik Jones (13th with 314 points, 259 out of first)

Daniel Suarez (18th with 245 points, 328 out of first)


Next Up: The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Pocono 400 on Sunday, June 3 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. The race starts at 2 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FS1.