600 Miles and it comes down to fuel milage, Austin Dillon takes the win in Coca-Cola 600

Written By: Kyle Newman
(Charlotte, NC) “Trust” that’s what Austin Dillon said was the key as he drove his number 3 Dow Salutes Veterans Chevrolet to victory lane in a race that came down to fuel mileage.  This marks the first win for Dillon in his career in his 133rd start. The race featured 600 miles, 23 lead changes, 10 leaders, 9 cautions, 4 stages, and 1 overall winner in Austin Dillon.

The race started on the eve of the world greatest day for racing following the Monaco Grand Prix, and the Indy 500. At just about 6:25 pm the green flag dropped and the 58th Annual Coca-Cola 600 was underway. The first 18 laps went caution free, but on lap 19 Jeffrey Earnhardt lost a motor exiting turn 4 scattering debris all along the track, and the unlucky horseshoe was dropped into the 24 Napa Auto Parts Chevrolet of Chase Elliott as he hit a piece of debris and his motor grenade down the front stretch. Brad Keselowski was an innocent by standard who nailed the back of the 24 as there was “Oil everywhere” Keselowski said after he ran into the back of the 24 entering turn 1. Elliot said, “I hate it [for Keselowski], but there is not much I could do,” about the wreck on lap 19; he finished 38th and Keselowski finished 39th. Once the race was restarted Kevin Harvick, and Kyle Busch were battling back and forth for the race lead, and Kyle Larson was charging through the field after he started 39th because his car failed pre-qualifying inspection. Around lap 63 green flag pit stops started and Denny Hamlin in the 11 FedEx Toyota got caught speeding giving him a drive-through penalty. Martin Truex Jr was the big winner from pit stops gaining 2 spots and the lead, but he was passed with 10 laps to go in the stage by Kyle Busch in the #18 M&M’s Toyota. That’s the end of stage one where Denny Hamlin was saved by the caution after his mistake on pit road.

In stage 2 Truex Jr and his #78 fired off like he was shot out of a cannon grabbing the lead right away from Kyle Busch and he set sail. NASCAR had laid down a traction compound in the middle and upper groves to make the racing more competitive, but drivers like Clint Bowyer in the #14 were saying “I’m nervous to go up there and try the middle cause I don’t want to put it in the fence,” as the track went through a change as the sun was setting and it was completely shaded. Kevin Harvick’s night turned him from Happy Harvick to Pissed Off Harvick after he had to make an unscheduled pit stop for a loose wheel on lap 125, this took him from the top 5 to a lap down. At lap 141, around 7:54 pm, the caution came out for severe weather in the area, and on lap 143 the cars were parked on pit road, and the race was red flagged. Next, the rains set in and there was a 1 hour and 40-minute rain delay in the race. After the small army of track drying equipment, 10 jet dryers, 12 air Titans, 3 vacuum trucks and 200 people, left the track the racing resumed and Truex Jr set sail once again. He was the dominate car in stage 2. Ryan Blaney broke an axle after a pit stop under caution for Danica Patrick hitting the wall, taking him out of contention to win the race and complete the weekend sweep; Blaney finished 24th, and Patrick went on to finish 25th. Truex Jr set sail on the restart once again and went on to capture his 6th stage win of the season. That’s the end of stage 2.


Stage 3 began with fireworks. No, not the kind where fans go “OOO” or “AHH” but with the crews of the 48 Lowes Chevrolet and the 77, 5 Hour Energy Toyota’s teams. Chad Knaus, Crew Chief for the 48, was unhappy with how the 77 was pitting in the pit box right in front of them. The 77 is the teammate to Martin Truex Jr, the driver that was racing against Jimmie Johnson, driver of the 48 Lowes Chevy. A couple of cautions flew for back markers in the field, but on lap 292 Kyle Larson loses a tire and hits the wall bringing out a caution right at the end of the stage. Pit stops shook up the field, and Joe Gibbs Racing came out 2, 3, and 4 with Ricky Stenhouse Jr as the leader. The restart happened, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr went from leading to outside the top 10 by the end of the stage. Denny Hamlin won the stage, and his teammate finished 2nd and 3rd with Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth.

Going into the final stage the 2 best cars were the 18 and 78 followed by the 48, but he dropped back in traffic after getting off sequence with the leaders. Stage 4 was very quiet action wise, but there was the most important caution of the race at lap 330. Everyone pitted for 4 tires and fuel but little did some know that this would have been their final stop. Fuel mileage began to be big part of this race as drivers started to save with 40 to go. Drivers that were saving fuel didn’t make green flag stops at lap 368 like the other leaders, and this is where the race became very interesting. With 15 laps to go Jimmie Johnson and Austin Dillon were the only two drivers that had yet to be over taken by the drivers that pitted on 368, Johnson and Dillion were up by 9 seconds and losing about a second a lap to the ones who had pitted. It is now down to 2 laps to go, and Johnson and Dillon’s lead was under 2 seconds when out of turn 2 Johnson in his 48 ran out of fuel getting passed by Austin Dillion in the #3; Johnson went on to finish 17th after rolling the dice. On the final lap, Kyle Busch was closing in on Austin Dillon, but it was too little too late as Austin Dillon saved enough to go 70 laps on 1 tank of fuel. In the post-race press conference, the question was posed “How much coaching went in to the decision to run perfect lap times and save the right amount of fuel?” Dillon answered with, “Not much it was more just Trust!” Justin Alexander, crew chief, trusted his driver had the skills to save the amount needed and Austin trusted that the calculations were on the money and at the end of the race it was Austin Dillon in victory lane, and Kyle Bush finished 2nd followed by Truex Jr, Kenseth, and Hamlin.

Oh, and by the way, the magic number that Austin had to save on the final run was 3! Or, “2.7” according to Justin Alexander.

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