Worth The Wait: Blaney Claims An Emotional Coca-Cola 600 Victory

Ryan Blaney’s 639-day wait between NASCAR Cup Series victories came to an emotional end on Monday, when Blaney dominated one of racing’s crown jewels: the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. 

Blaney led 163 of 400 laps in capturing a career-defining win – his second at Charlotte, after the 2018 Bank of America ROVAL™ 400. The driver of the No. 12 Team Penske Ford was a shock winner nearly five years ago, but no one who witnessed Monday’s race could be surprised by the outcome. Blaney started eighth, flexed his muscle early and emerged as the man to beat in the final 100 laps.

Stage 4 became a battle for survival, as a spate of cautions and aggressive moves from those chasing Blaney turned up the excitement – but Blaney held his nerve over the final 20 laps. He beat polesitter William Byron to the finish by .663 seconds, with two-time Coca-Cola 600 winner Martin Truex Jr. third, Bubba Wallace fourth and Tyler Reddick fifth.

Kyle Busch was sixth with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. seventh, Chris Buescher eighth, Austin Dillon ninth and Zane Smith 10th. 

While Monday’s race was kind to a third-generation star seeking a long-awaited victory, fate did not shine as brightly on several favorites. Defending race winner Denny Hamlin was involved in a crash with Chase Elliott on Lap 185 that knocked both front-runners out of the race. 

Kyle Larson, chasing his second Coca-Cola 600 win in three years, was in the hunt with 25 laps to go after having bounced off the wall earlier in the race but avoiding any serious damage. 

Larson’s bid for victory came to a sudden conclusion when he got loose in Turn 2, spun sideways and suffered race-ending damage in a multi-car accident that also collected Ty Gibbs and Joey Logano.

Seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson – going for a record-tying fifth Coca-Cola 600 win – made his first Charlotte start in three years, but fell out of the race after an accident on Lap 164 and finished 37th.

The race was slowed by 16 cautions for 83 laps. Byron won Stage 1, Chris Buescher won Stage 2 and Blaney captured Stage 3. Blaney’s win was the eighth of his Cup Series career and it marked the first in NASCAR Cup Series competition for his crew chief, Jonathan Hassler.

RYAN BLANEY, NO. 12 TEAM PENSKE FORD (RACE WINNER): “I might shed a tear. Man, this is such a cool weekend. Obviously, Memorial Day weekend means a lot. Growing up here, watching my dad (Dave Blaney) racing here, to just run this race, let alone win it, I can’t believe it. A big weekend for Team Penske. I watched the Indy 500 (Sunday) and how that played out, and watched Josef (Newgarden) win his first one. Seeing (Team Owner Roger) Penske winning (Indianapolis 500) No. 19 was a really cool scene. 

“I thought, ‘Alright, the pressure’s off, now we can try to sweep.’ That’s the goal. Fortunately, we executed well enough to get it done. I’m looking forward to talking to Roger. … I figured there was going to be a yellow (at the end of the race). We survived another restart. I wanted green-flag runs, because our car was good on green-flag runs. I thought there was going to be a yellow and I’d have to fend him off on a restart again but fortunately, it went green (to the finish). We did a great job tonight. From the drop of the green flag, we were hooked up. We also did a great job of adjusting to the race track as it got darker, as the track temperature cooled off.”

WILLIAM BYRON, NO. 24 HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS CHEVROLET (RUNNER-UP): “I thought (Blaney) was that strong. He and the Toyotas, I think the JGR guys and the No. 45 (Reddick), were all strong in the middle to the end of a run – really, any time they would get around us. We just needed a little bit. Our car was good, we could move around and get to the top five, but we’d kind of just stay there and not have enough pace to really get further than that, so that’s the way it goes sometimes. We’ll keep working.”

MARTIN TRUEX JR., NO. 19 JOE GIBBS RACING TOYOTA (THIRD-PLACE FINISHER): “We got some track position, drove up there, had a shot at winning Stage 3 and felt really good at what we had there. We got some damage, at some point (on the splitter), in the final stage on a restart, the car got really tight from there, and we just had to crunch it from there. I wish I knew what could’ve been. I felt really good about the car from Stage 3, but all in all it was a good night, a lot of points. We have a lot of speed in our Bass Pro Camry. It went well, we just needed to execute a bit better and to not get that damage.”

Fans can buy tickets for upcoming speedway events at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com or by calling the ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS (3267).

Fans can connect with Charlotte Motor Speedway by following on Twitter and Instagram or becoming a Facebook fan. Keep up with all the latest news and information with the Charlotte Motor Speedway mobile app or online at CharlotteMotorSpeedway.com