NCS: Ryan Blaney captures caution filled Crown Jewel victory in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway

After a nearly 24-hour delay the 64th Coca-Cola 600 finally got underway after rain had to stop the morning session for the Xfinity Series to allow NASCAR to dry the track and get the Cup race underway on schedule.

Early on with Byron out in the lead he would be challenged multiple times in the opening laps before a slew of Joe Gibbs Racing machines would take control of the event, first with Denny Hamlin the reining victor in the race, then Christopher Bell taking over for a few short laps with a back-and-forth battle between the duo.

With the first opportunity to pit for the day when the competition caution came out on lap 35 would give Byron and team a clean shot off pit road to take back control of the event leading back to the restart.

However, just 24 laps shy of the first stage break Jimmie Johnson, known for his dominance at the 1.5-mile track in Charlotte would take a spin backing the car into the wall to bring out the second caution of the day.

Stage one would run to completion following the incident by Johnson with a battle to the finish between Byron and Bell but it would be Byron that would win the first of the four stages over Bell, Blaney, Reddick and Truex.

Following the restart Johnson would make it back out to make minimum speed but then take his car to the garage to make repairs to the suspension in the car after contacting the wall.

But in a weird sequence joining him would be the other two cars from Legacy Motor Club when both Erik Jones would first head to the garage then Noah Gragson taking his machine behind the wall both with a punctured radiator.

Nearing halfway through the event rain would once again descend upon the track bringing the event to a stop and a red flag to dry the track once again. Following a 30-plus minute delay to dry the track, cars would once again roll off pit road and allow the Coca-Cola 600 to resume.

The restart would be short lived when Johnson would go for a second spin of the day after washing up the track in front of teammate Noah Gragson. Johnson would take his car straight to the garage ending his day for his third DNF in his limited starts for the year dating back to both Daytona and COTA. 

“I just didn’t know we were put in that three-wide situation. There were a bunch of us cars that were wrecked and just trying to limp it home. Unfortunately I ended up in a situation I wasn’t aware of and got turned around. It’s a bummer for the No. 84 Club Wyndham Chevy team.” Said Johnson

Cautions will breed cautions when the sixth caution of the day would come out once again just laps after the restart, this time for Kyle Busch making contact with Keselowski while racing for the seventh spot. ‘

An eighth caution of the day would come out when Hamlin and Elliott would make contact off turn four. Hamlin would get hard into the wall stopping in the ballfield with Elliott able to drive off. However, Elliott would drive his car straight to the garage ending his day along with Hamlin who was still stopped in the middle of the track.

When asked about what happened Elliott would respond “Once you hit the wall in these things you can’t drive them anymore. It’s an unfortunate circumstance.”

Hamlin would have a different perspective on the incident on the radio saying Elliott should be parked then backing up those comments after being released from the care center.

“Right rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. I don’t care. It is the same thing that Bubba Wallace did with Kyle Larson. Exact same. He shouldn’t be racing. It’s a tantrum.” Said Hamlin

With just nine laps remaining in stage two, Buescher would charge to the front to take the lead over Harvick who started the race in the second spot and had issues with the car early on.

Buescher would take home the stage win over Harvick, Keselowski, Logano and Gibbs bringing the event to its halfway mark when the caution would come out a lap shy when McLeod would loop his car off turn four.

Stage three would be slowed for two incidents, the first of which involving Bell who spun off turn four through the ballfield missing the inside wall. Then with the stage coming to a close with 24 to go, Keselowski would break loose collecting Gilliland in the incident who would come to a stop and unable to continue.  

Keselowski who was having a decent day leading into the third stage running as high as third before the team discovered a loose tire issue bringing him to pit road and going a lap down to start the bad sequence of events leading to the contact with Gilliland.

As stage three would get back underway, Byron would once again win the race off pit road to lead the field back to green, but his lead wouldn’t last long as Blaney would take control of the race within three laps.

Blaney would continue to lead through the end of the stage to take home the stage win over Reddick, Truex, Byron and Gibbs.

Byron’s team would once again get him off pit road to start the final stage but right on cue, Blaney with a rocket ship would quickly take the lead back.

The 12th caution of the day would come out when a wheel from Michael McDowell car would come off and roll down the backstretch. McDowell would be held on pit road for two laps as a penalty under the caution.

Under the caution, Byron would once again win the race off pit road for the sixth time of the day. Byron would benefit on the restart when Reddick would have an issue causing him to slip back and lose about five spots.

The race would once again be slowed for the 13th time of the day when Ricky Stenhouse would get into the rear of AJ Allmendinger, sending him up the track to collect both Logano and Burton. All three of the cars would sustain minimal damage and be able to continue.

With just 24 laps to go Larson would break loose off turn two spinning to collect Bell, Logano, Gibbs and more in the incident that would bring out the 15th caution of the day.

The final green flag would come with 20 to go with Blaney getting the jump and pushed to the lead over Byron thanks to a push from Truex.

Byron would continue to try and close but Blaney would just pull away by over a second in the closing laps. With the white flag in the air Byron would close within six-tenths for the lead but it would be in vain as Blaney would capture the checkered flag and victory in one of NASCAR crown jewel events nearly five hours after the green flag fell.

“I might shed a tear. This has been a cool weekend. Obviously Memorial Day weekend means a lot, growing up here watching Dad run this race for a long time. It’s so cool just to be a part of it, let alone win it.

I just was able to get the lead on the race car, and that car was so good that I could kind of bide my time a little bit and then we were able to drive off. I was hoping no caution just because you never know.” Said Blaney

Blaney would also have to survive seven side by side restarts over Byron during his drive to snap a 59-race winless drought. Blaney would also lead seven times for 163 laps.

“You start to get to feel like you can’t win anymore when you don’t win in a while. It kind of gets hard. So just super thankful to the 12 guys for believing in me. Thank you guys for sticking around. Really appreciate it.” Continued Blaney

The NASCAR Cup Series now moves to St. Louis and World Wide Technology next Sunday, June 4th at 3:30 p.m. ET on FS1.