Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Out Loud – Martin Truex, Jr. Dominates to win the Coca-Cola 600

The Key Moment – When that particular No. 78 car was completed, some mechanic grinned, slammed the hood and said, “Yeah, this one ought to run pretty good.”

In a Nutshell – After a season fraught with frustration, Martin Truex, Jr. put on a clinic and finally sealed the deal with a dominant win. Truex led a career-high 392, which equated to 588 miles — the most in NASCAR history.

Dramatic Moment – In a race largely devoid of any drama, I guess you’d have to go with the fourth restart, when Jimmie Johnson managed to get a fender in front of Truex for about 50 yards.

What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler:

What was going on with the valances on Johnson’s car? They seemed more flared out between the exhaust pipes and the rear tires than all the other Chevy’s, even those of his HMS teammates.

Have we gotten to the point where race broadcasts are so scripted and scheduled that FOX can’t break into a mid-race report to let fans know about a caution flag (one of just four all night) flying, while the broadcasters offered their worthless predictions on who was going to win in about two hours’ time? Seriously, do these people even listen to themselves anymore?

The notion that Furniture Row Racing is a single-car team is ludicrous. Joe Gibbs Racing even provides them with a pit crew. There are three more races left before FOX’s annual reign of aural terrorism ends for the season.

Isn’t it interesting how few “debris” cautions interrupt a NASCAR race when there’s a threat of heavy weather in the area? I felt sure Kyle Busch’s late-race trip into the wall was going to force Truex’s team to rip off one more good pit stop, and Truex was then going to have to hold off Johnson or Harvick one more time on a restart to claim the win. Under normal circumstances, even Ryan Blaney’s cut tire in the final laps would have drawn a caution.

I’ve already read where some folks are claiming Truex led more laps on his way to victory Sunday night than any other race winner in NASCAR history. Yes, that’s the case at Charlotte, and Truex might even have led the most miles in a victory but not the most laps. There have been several instances over the years, but the one instance I recall most clearly is Cale Yarborough leading all 500 laps at Bristol in Junior Johnson’s Chevy in March of 1973.

A rookie in the NAPA car took a surprising victory Sunday. Unfortunately for Chase Elliott fans, that was Alexander Rossi at Indy, not Elliott at Charlotte.

Meet Alexander Rossi, the Face of IndyCar (If he Wants to be)

This year’s Hall of Fame class was announced earlier this week. It included three team owners, two of them still active in the sport. (Rick Hendrick, Richard Childress and Raymond Parks). Also getting the nod was Mark Martin and the late Benny Parsons. Alan Kulwicki got the second most votes among the fans, but the fan vote only counts as one vote toward enshrinement.

While not doubting Hendrick and Childress have the credentials to make the Hall someday (if in fact it still exists down the road), I think an individual should have to retire before being considered. It was somewhat curious that the official press release concerning Parsons noted his 1973 title (which Brian France mistakenly said was earned in 1972 during the program) and his TV work with TNT and NBC. Most older fans, myself included, remember Parson’s broadcast career best from the ESPN days, when he was paired with Bob Jenkins and Ned Jarrett — still the best broadcast team ever in NASCAR. I guess there’s still some bad blood between NASCAR and ESPN, huh?

And for newer fans who might not have heard of Raymond Parks, NASCAR helpfully stated that: “Funded by successful business and real estate ventures in Atlanta, Parks began his career as a stock-car owner in 1938.” Parks was in fact born into a wealthy family made rich by striking gold. But he left home at 14 to start running moonshine and white lightning, not real estate, was the source of his fortune.  And of course, Smokey Yunick and Tim Richmond haven’t even made the nomination list yet.

Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune:

It’s been a rare occurrence this year, but Kyle Busch never really found any speed at Charlotte this weekend. After qualifying 16th, Busch fought to reach the top 10, but was never a serious contender for the lead. He hit the wall hard with eight laps to go and ended up 33rd. It’s been said the new rules concerning the electric fans and the track bars weren’t targeted at JGR, but that’s one heck of an odd coincidence.

Carl Edwards ran afoul of the pit road speed limits not once but twice, with the second time coming while he was serving the penalty for the first infraction. Edwards wound up 18th, a lap off the pace.

Some people still want to make a big deal out of Tony Stewart’s struggle to get into the top 30 in points. He is currently 60 points out of 30th. It doesn’t matter if Stewart does get into the top 30 if he doesn’t win a race because he’d still be Chase ineligible. Stewart was never a factor Sunday night and struggled home, finishing 24th, five laps down.

Seven Comes Fore Eleven Award for Fine Fortune

For most drivers, getting to compete in a car as dominant as the one Truex wheeled Sunday night will happen only a handful of times during their entire careers. Hopefully, he savors the moment because reality has a nasty way of sneaking back up on folks.

Chase Elliott started 12th and made his way up to eighth before getting penalized for speeding on pit road, which dropped him to the back of the pack. He fought for the rest of the evening to get finish in eighth place.

Worth Noting

Under the traditional (non-Chase) point standings, Kevin Harvick would be leading. His teammate Kurt Busch would be second, 36 points out of the lead, but Busch lacks a race win that guarantees himself a Chase slot. Truex all but assuredly qualified himself for the Chase with his win, but under the traditional points system he’d currently be seventh in the standings.

Other drivers who’d be in the top 12 under the old points system but still need a win include Chase Elliott (8th), Joey Logano (9th) and Austin Dillon (12th).

The top finishing rookies at Charlotte were Elliott (8th) Ryan Blaney (20th) and Brian Scott (29th).

The top 10 finishers at Charlotte drove five Chevys, three Toyotas and two Fords.

Kurt Busch has quietly scored seven consecutive top 10 finishes.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has missed the top 5 in the last five points races.

Race Rating (on a scale of 1-6 beers, with one being a snoozer and six being an instant classic): On a Sunday full of  racing, the Monaco Grand Prix gets four cans for some outstanding car control and controversial mishaps in the rain. The Indy 500 gets four cans as well for plenty of passing within the race and a surprise winner.

The World 600 gets a single can. I think most fans were happy to see Truex win, but they would have preferred to see him pull it off in a more dramatic fashion.

Next Up – The series rolls north into the Keystone State for another stab at the triangular track that can’t be tamed or explained. For reasons only known to them, track management has bought in a herd of sheep for the event. My Main Line friends are going to have a field day with drunken NASCAR fans in the infield and sheep.  

About the author

Matt joined Frontstretch in 2007 after a decade of race-writing, paired with the first generation of racing internet sites like RaceComm and Racing One. Now semi-retired, he submits occasional special features while his retrospectives on drivers like Alan Kulwicki, Davey Allison, and other fallen NASCAR legends pop up every summer on Frontstretch. A motorcycle nut, look for the closest open road near you and you can catch him on the Harley during those bright, summer days in his beloved Pennsylvania.

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Tis an amazing thing to witness the abject favoritism when throwing a caution or NOT. A water bottle, Pierre Debris makes an appearance, etc. A hard hit in the wall that can potentially screw up the feel good story of a guy who has won 3 races out of 381 before this day, and the never ending attention his long time girlfriend’s very public health issue gets…well, lets keep the feel good story going, nobody will notice. Wrong! Nascar WWE. “POWER” to him, but come on……


With each passing race, Charlotte turns more and more into the Fontana we came to know and love in the last half of the last decade.


I like Truex, however it was another win for Gibbs racing. Same song different verse. Same old results did Jr, crappy qualifying and so/so racing.

Watched Indy and didn’t recall seeing as many pit road incidents.

My feeling about hendrick and Childress into hall of fame..na$ca looking for way to get people to visit hall if fame. Thinking that the owners that dale st and Gordon raced for will flock to visit the attraction. I know, I’m cynical.


I haven’t found a replay or seen any discussion about this but at first glance the congratulatory post-race tap by the single-car 78 team’s teammate Hamlin seemed to be a little more forceful than normal. Not sure if there was any purpose to it. I could see a replay and be wrong but it seemed a bit suspicious to me the one time I saw it.

Carl D.

I thought that too until I saw Hamlin congratulating Truex in victory circle.


I didn’t mean suspicious in a bad blood kind of way. More like an attempt to alter the right side of the 78 car.


I thought that

Change do no post race inspection offense.

Bill B

It may not have been a great race but I bet most people that watched it will remember it just for the fact that Truex dominated it so thoroughly.
And yes, it has become obvious that NASACAR won’t throw frivolous cautions during the first half of the race when there is bad weather in the forecast.
For once the wave arounds and lucky dogs entitlement programs could not save those that sucked from getting the multi-lap down finishes they deserved.
Lack of fake cautions, no entitlements, it may have not been a great race but it was an honest race.

Carl D.

My sentiments exactly.


agreed – though, i expected in the last 10 – with those tire failures, we’d see the race ripped away from the dominant driver….again.

and yes, no BS wave arounds, lucky dogs, etc. I’m fairly impressed that they kept up with the track/changing conditions for the whole race – takes a lot for the 600


Soooo, now we’re celebrating when a race is NOT manipulated. Sad. No wonder no one watches.


good point – it’s like expecting my AC to work on the hottest weekend of the year. Next would be getting rid of the wave around – i bet that’d make lapping cars WAY more interesting :)

Bill B

“Soooo, now we’re celebrating when a race is NOT manipulated…”

Yes, pretty much. That’s where we find ourselves as fans.


With every passing year that Smokey Yunick is excluded from the HOF makes the system look rigged as Trump would say. Again like Trump, Smokey used a lot of colorful language to describe NASCAR and the Frances, however, with Smokey Yunick’s induction into many other auto racing hall of fames just makes NASCAR’S HOF a joke. Smokey can’t even be nominated? Yeah, that says it all.


Yes, Yunick, Holman, and Moody are all more important than not merely almost all the people being inducted lately, but almost the entire ballot. I don’t understand why those three are not in yet. Tim Richmond, who MATT mentioned? Not QUITE as pressing to me, and Harry Gant would be my first choice for a driver not on the ballot, but Yunick, Holman, and Moody are more important than any drivers left (unless they’re all still not in when Jeff Gordon becomes eligible.)

Broken Arrow

Just don’t put a guy with FIVE total career wins into the HOF. That would only make it the Hall of Mediocrity.


I had to laugh when Johnson said on the radio that he didn’t lift when Truex passed him like he was tied to a tree. What he should have said was “I had it to the floor and I thought I had the extra 50 HP.” I guess Brian has found a new money tree.

I wonder if Johnson’s car is testing any illegal Howe parts? I don’t think he wants his car torn apart.


At a race in October of 1992 at a speedway named Rockingham a driver led 484 laps out of 492. Ernie Irvan led 2. Bill Elliott led 3. Mark Martin led 3. The driver was Kyle Petty.

It seems to me that NA$CAR is throwing a caution flag so there is a long green flag run at the end of the race. They’re counting on a car blowing a tire near the end of the run and causing a GWC. I was waiting for it but the caution surprisingly didn’t fly when two cars went into the wall? Who’da thunk it?

Broken Arrow

We all know NASCAR looks at who is leading before throwing a late race caution. The 18 could have exploded into a million pieces on the track Sunday night and NASCAR would not have ruined their Lifetime Movie ending by throwing a caution.


I never missed a Rockingham race for years. Had top row seats in the Winston tower turn one.
Have always wondered how Kyle was so dominate with his Mello Yello car.
Traction control I always suspected.


Kyle did tire testing with the radial tires. He had a leg up on the other cars for a while.

bud sudz

I was at that race. Domination very similar to Truex. Not the best race ever, but it was still a gritty, sandy race at The Rock.

Broken Arrow

More snark directed at Chase Elliott. I guess Matt has found someone to hate even more than Kyle Busch. And Chase doesn’t even have those facial moles that offend Matt so much!

Broken Arrow

And the new rules with the track bars and fans started with the All-Star race, didn’t they? Kyle Busch ran fine there and led the most laps until the last segment on old tires. His problems started the week before at Dover. There is something else wrong, but since Kyle didn’t destroy the car like he did at Dover, the team should be able to figure out what the H is wrong. Don’t cheer his demise too soon.


Hats off to Martin Truex.
Just glad I never turned the TV on.
And there are those that want to extend the Xfinity race there?


someone help me remember…
what is this nascar thing you talk about? is this a new comedy reality tv show thing? i though i remembered something about a debate as to if it was actually a sport or if it’s participants were athletes or just trained clowns. someone help me out in my dementia…. i seem to remember it differently. i remember some type of ruthless competitors like dale sr. and tim …er… tim… ah… the guy that they made that cute movie about… and this other fellow. that new comer kid… what?? what you say? it’s time for my pill? ah yes. everything is ok now.
show me more about those nice toyota fellows.

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