Esteemed racing writer and author Monte Dutton is covering the Coca-Cola 600 for this website. Here’s his final post from the weekend.
By Monte Dutton
When the wrong guy wins, it’s interesting. It’s not exciting. Wrong guy, interesting, beats right guy, boring. It’s similar to the way a flush beats a straight.
What if it’s the wrong guy, once removed? All the more fun for the wee hours.
Austin Dillon won the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday night and Monday morning. He drove No. 3. It’s been a while for No. 3. Talladega in 2000. Cat named Earnhardt.
“It hasn’t sunk in, by no means,” Dillon said.
Later, he added, “To be quite honest with you, we had an argument, full-on, face-to-face, with my grandfather, this week, about the performance of the car.”
Cat named Childress. Richard Childress. Won six championships (out of seven) with the cat named Earnhardt. He’s got a pair of grandsons who like to go fast. One never went faster.
“We’re not down,” Childress said. “We’ve got everything we need to win.”
“We did our job,” Dillon said. “We had a chance to win, and we did what it took to do so. The 600 is a lengthy race, and you can’t afford mistakes. We didn’t make them.”
Martin Truex Jr. dominated the race. He finished third.
“Two out of the past three (600s), we lost it on (fuel) mileage,” said Truex, who was gracious.
Jimmie Johnson was the chief suspect in the impending theft. What he wound up stealing was 17th place, citing first gas and then lack thereof.
Dillon? Dillon? Where’d he come from? The far side of Johnson, that’s where.
It appeared as if the thief in the night with enough gas in the getaway car was Johnson. Johnson’s crew chief is Chad Knaus, Super Genius. For once, Knaus was Wile E. Coyote, not James Bond. Johnson’s Chevy crashed into a canyon floor because his Acme parachute was an anvil.
Okay, Johnson’s Chevy ran out of fuel. Dillon’s didn’t. Who knew Dillon, the Roadrunner, was lurking in the shadows, waiting to go beep-beep?
Truex was supposed to be the Roadrunner. He wasn’t supposed to lose. The Roadrunner is a cartoon. It’s not supposed to be complex. The Coca-Cola 600 wasn’t a whodunit. It was a who-won-it. Truex led 233 of the 400 laps. Last year he led 392 laps. He won that one.
If watching the wrong guy win strikes your fancy, the Coca-Cola 600 was the race for you.
Kyle Busch was so overjoyed to finish second that he threw a tantrum in the media center. After basically daring anyone there to give him an opportunity to bite off their head, he slinked away to a nearby swamp to feed on lizards.
Six words he spat out. “I’m not surprised about anything. Congratulations.”
Then there was a crashing sound.
This was the most valuable race in the regular season. The race drivers were like truckers. They got mileage (especially Dillon). The race had four segments, not three, which, in turn, meant it awarded three sets of bonus points, not two. It’s a step in evolution. Before 2004, all races were created equal. Then playoff races became gold. Now the Coca-Cola 600 is silver, but only by a little.
The night’s first and almost only excitement occurred on the 20th lap, when apparently something approximating a manhole cover, or, more likely, a gong, clanged out from under Jeffrey Earnhardt’s Chevrolet and very nearly brought another, driven by Chase Elliott, to a stop. Brad Keselowski’s Ford struck Elliott’s Chevy, and it wasn’t a tap. One day Elliott may drive a tank, but a stock car can’t withstand such fierce impact.
Later the track went wet for one hour, 39 minutes, 56 seconds.
All those Air Titans were scarcely needed. Truex mopped the track with the rest of the field.
Into all lives, some rain must fall. For the Coke 600, though, it wasn’t in the budget. The thunder rolled, and the lightning struck. Ladies and gentlemen, there is lightning in the area! Just being the longest stock car race in the world wasn’t enough. God was in a whimsical mood.