Martin Truex Jr. overcame an early flat tire after hitting the wall, then survived a wild restart five laps from the end Sunday night to win the Coca-Cola 600 in Concord, North Carolina, for the second time in four seasons.
Truex slid into the Turn 4 wall during the first stage of NASCAR’s longest event, damaging his tire and seemingly putting his chances in serious jeopardy. But crew chief Cole Pearn radioed his driver that things were not that bad and to stay calm and remain focused.
“I thought, `We’re done. How we going to fix this thing?“’ Truex said. “I didn’t know how bad it was, (but) the guys worked hard, fixed it up.”
That steadied Truex the rest of the way, especially near the end when he drove low during a four-wide fight for the lead on the final restart at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He had an easier time in the 2016 race when he led 392 of 400 laps.
Truex sprang out low and shot into the front past Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman and David Ragan, who stretched four across the track. “You just never know what can happen,” said Truex, who led 116 laps this time.
Truex held off defending series champion and Team Penske driver Joey Logano – and again prevent owner Roger Penske from becoming the first to helm winners at the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on motorsports biggest day.
Things began with Lewis Hamilton’s rousing win in the Monaco Grand Prix, which he dedicated to his late friend and champion driver Niki Lauda. Next, Simon Pagenaud gave Penske his 18th Indy 500 victory in a thrilling duel over the final laps with Alexander Rossi.
Penske driver Brad Keselowski won the first two stages and appeared to have the strongest car. But he slipped to the middle of the pack during the third 100-lap segment and never challenged for the victory. He finished 19th.
Busch was third, Chase Elliott fourth and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. fifth.
Truex’s 22nd career win came the same week car owner Joe Gibbs was voted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Logano said Truex had the faster car in the race. If Logano had gotten to Truex’s outside, he may have a chance to move in front, he said. Truex “knew the same thing,” Logano said. “He did a good job defending his position.”
Lewis Hamilton won the Monaco Grand Prix to extend his championship lead over Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.
Hamilton struggled with grip in the latter stages, and was under constant pressure from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
But Verstappen had earlier picked up a five-second time penalty. So even though he finished just behind Hamilton, he was fourth overall behind Bottas in third and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in second.
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