Martin Truex Jr.’s Bass Pro Shops-sponsored Toyota was tough to reel in for much of Sunday’s 60th Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Truex overcame an early blown tire and right-side damage, lost the lead after pitting for four tires under a late caution and still managed to claim the Bruton Smith Trophy for the second time. Truex went four-wide and roared into the lead after restarting fifth with five laps to go to win an action-packed classic at America’s Home for Racing.
Truex’s Joe Gibbs-owned No. 19 Toyota Camry led a race-high 116 laps and had the measure of runner-up Joey Logano at the finish, but the four-hour, 50-minute fight for Charlotte supremacy featured numerous drivers in contention throughout the night. Eleven drivers swapped the lead 30 times.
Brad Keselowski won the first two stages before a flat tire with nine laps to go ended Keselowski’s hopes of a strong finish – and set into place the four-wide theatrics that followed.
David Ragan stayed out after the 16th and final caution flag, while Ryan Newman restarted second with two fresh tires. Truex witnessed the door-to-door duel in front of him before he went for it. The 2016 Coca-Cola 600 winner jumped to the inside, bringing the substantial Charlotte crowd to its feet as he rocketed to the point with Logano in tow.
Logano, the defending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion, stayed with the leader for two laps before Truex built the 0.330-second gap he used to speed to his first Coca-Cola 600 win with Joe Gibbs Racing. Truex’s victory appropriately came on the heels of his car owner being named to the 2020 class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Wednesday.
Logano – a former Gibbs driver now with Team Penske – finished second with defending race winner Kyle Busch third, Chase Elliott fourth and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. fifth. Chris Buescher wound up sixth with a trio of Hendrick Motorsports cars – Alex Bowman, Jimmie Johnson and William Byron – seventh through ninth. Kevin Harvick rounded out the top 10.
The Memorial Day weekend spectacle featured a moving tribute to members of the U.S. Armed Forces who gave their lives to preserve freedom, as the entire field stopped on pit road following Stage 2 to observe a moment of silence.
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 19 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER/USO Toyota (Race Winner): “I hated to see that caution (with nine laps left). We were just rolling away with it. I basically knew whoever got out front first with four tires was probably going to win. The leader had a big advantage. So I felt like anytime we could get out front, we could drive away from them. With this package, you’ve got to get your momentum going. We came off (Turn 2) and they got three-wide and at that point they stalled out. I had momentum and just yanked it left and thought, ‘Here’s my chance.’ I had just enough of a run to clear them.
“It was definitely a tough race. I thought early on in the race, we were strong. Seventy-five laps in that first stage all of a sudden I just blew a right front tire and hit the fence. I felt like our race was going to be over at that point. We had a lot of damage and tire rubs. Just never gave up on it and kept working. By like, Lap 250 or so, we got it pretty good. It’s pretty amazing, really, to see the car after the race. It looks like we raced the damn thing at Martinsville. I’m kind of speechless. Thanks to my team. They did a great job. We never gave up on it and kept working on it. The last 150 laps it felt really, really good. I’m just thankful for all the effort and hard work. We got an awesome race team. We got some momentum now and a little confidence on our mile-and-a-half stuff. Overall, it was just a really good week for us. I felt good going into the race. And then to kind of back that up feels good and pretty awesome.”
COLE PEARN, No. 19 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER/USO Toyota (Winning Crew Chief): “I guess the tire situation was doable now, but at the time it was not good. We had seen quite a bit of damage there and we were really fortunate enough we blew the tire where we did. Another 20 feet and we would have knocked the fence down and probably out of the race. I think we felt really fortunate to be in the race at that point. We had to work on it a lot. It wasn’t very good. The adjustments we had to make on that car tonight were crazy. We finally got on the right side of it and helped it the rest of the night. It was crazy to see the car be that good.”
JOE GIBBS, No. 19 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER/USO Toyota (Winning Car Owner): “Obviously, I’m excited about tonight. This is an example of how you put me out front and a chance to be in the Hall of Fame when you got a race team like this, crew chiefs like this and drivers and everybody. It just thrills me to be a part of it. I think of how God has blessed me. This is just a huge deal for us.”
JOEY LOGANO, No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford (Runner-Up): “We fought as hard as possible. The advantage of having a 600-mile race is you have a lot of opportunities to work on it. If you told me earlier in the race that we’d finish second, I’d say that’s a dream. But when you finish second and you see the leader that close, it hurts a little bit. I’m proud of the effort and proud that we never quit. I could see it right there and I was right on (Truex’s) bumper. … Overall, I’m proud of the effort. It’s the Coca-Cola 600, though. It’s such a big one and you want to win it so bad. Second stings. I thought we had a good shot when that caution back came out and thought I was going to get another chance. I didn’t quite get it. Overall, I’m proud of it and as far as Memorial Day weekend, us getting to race is a privilege, so for me to complain about second sounds pretty dumb. I’m proud to live in this country and happy that we get to race. … It was a good crowd. It seemed like a lot of people enjoyed it, so we should be proud of that.”
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&Ms Red, White and Blue Toyota (Third-Place Finisher): “I don’t know, I thought that through much of the race we had a fast car. We were there. We led some laps, we ran around. The 4 (Harvick) was fast, the 19 (Truex) was fast. The 19 was the fastest car, so I’m not sure what they had different than us, but obviously we were just off a little bit, otherwise I felt like we had a race-winning car capable of at least running second, I guess, but overall the red, white and blue M&M’s Camry was fast, and we brought it home where we should have – or close anyways, I think.”