Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs sees his team deliver a mixed bag in NASCAR’s longest race05/27/2019
Denny Hamlin finished 17th Sunday, Kyle Busch 3rd.
Sunday night’s 60th annual Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway offered up a mix bag of results for team owner Joe Gibbs, who was named Wednesday to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Despite an early-race tire-related wreck, Martin Truex Jr. survived a couple of late-race restarts to beat Joey Logano and JGR teammate Kyle Busch in the race that took almost five hours. In getting his third victory this season – after Richmond and Dover – the 2017 Cup Series champion gave Joe Gibbs Racing its eighth victory in 13 starts, including three from Busch and two from Denny Hamlin.
That’s the good news for JGR and its Toyota stable. Hamlin was impressive in spots, but two incidents – the last including heavy contact on the last lap – left him 17th at the finish. And teammate Daniel Suarez was first out, finishing 40th after a tire-related crash that sidelined him after 22 of the 400 laps.
The most surprised man in victory lane was the driver. Truex Jr. led laps 63-73, a run that ended when he crashed. It took until lap 131 before he led again, for just that one lap. Later, he led laps 253-258, then 260-303, laps 344-392 and the final five. He pulled off a four-wide pass of Logano, David Ragan and Ryan Newman on the last restart to secure the victory. Overall, he led six times for 116 laps, by far the most of the 10 other leaders.
“I thought we were done,” he said, speaking of the early right-front tire failure. Crew chief Cole Pearn spent much of the night massaging the No. 19 Toyota until it was right). “I thought our race was over because we hit it pretty hard. We just kept fighting and fighting. It was incredible and we never gave up. Before I blew the tire and hit the fence, it was unbelievable. But it got tight and then it got too loose, so we went back on the adjustment. I’m amazed.”
Afterward, when asked which was a bigger deal, Wednesday afternoon or Sunday night, Gibbs briefly seemed confused. “What happened Wednesday?” he asked. When reminded of the Hall of Fame, he quickly recovered. “That was a neat deal,” he said. “That was another time when I got pushed out front when there are so many people behind me.”
Busch led four times for 79 laps, but two wall-banging incidents ruined his night. “Through much of the race we had a fast car, we were there,” he said, clearly disappointed at third. “The 19th (of Truex Jr.) was the fastest car, so I’m not sure what they had different from us. Obviously, we were just off a little bit, but otherwise I felt we had a race-winning car capable of at least running second. We brought it home where we should have, or close, anyway.”
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