By Bob Pockrass
FOX Sports NASCAR Writer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Denny Hamlin sat on the pole and won the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway — but the start of the race and the end of the race Sunday was primarily the only time he looked like he had a winning car.
Hamlin won a 619.5-mile marathon — the longest race in NASCAR history in terms of miles thanks to two overtime restarts — by swapping the lead with Kyle Busch in the final two laps.
This was a race of attrition, with 18 cautions for 90 of the 413 laps, and Hamlin emerged victorious in the 600 for the first time in his career, a signature NASCAR race.
“We weren’t very good all day,” Hamlin said. “We just got ourselves in the right place at the right time.”
Here are my takeaways from a wild night at the 600:
Chris Buescher went on a wild ride as he hit the tri-oval grass and barrel-rolled, leaving him on his roof when the car came to a rest.
“It looks like the tire, the wheel was damaged, suspension broke off as we were sliding and just pogo’d the car up in the air,” Buescher said.
Buescher had to wait about five minutes for the safety crew to flip his car back on four wheels. It was the first time NASCAR had to flip a car back over on its wheels.
“I think that was the first time with this car — they have to figure that out, right?” Buescher said. “Obviously you always want it to be a little faster, but you do appreciate it. They did a good job.”
NASCAR’s responded to those concerned that it took too long to get Buescher’s car turned over.
“[The] safety team was communicating with Buescher throughout. Once confirmed that he was in good health, they were deliberate in the flip to ensure no further issues.”
Two months ago on the dirt track at Bristol, Briscoe made a daring move on the final lap to try to win and took out both himself and leader Tyler Reddick.
That was in both Briscoe’s and Larson’s minds late in the race. And the same thing almost happened Sunday, except he spun himself out without collecting Larson.
“As soon as I went in there [to the turn], it just spun me out,” Briscoe said. “I was running 110 percent. … Looking back, if I would have probably just ran 95 percent, I probably would have won the race.
“That’s inexperience and unacceptable on my part.”
Larson felt Briscoe was doing a good job being aggressive and giving him space for most of their battle.
“He’s aggressive — I’m not saying it in a bad way,” Larson said. “You know who you are racing. … I heard him running really hard and then I heard him spinning. Bummer.”
Blaney, Dillon causes big ones
In the first overtime, Austin Dillon had four fresh tires while the leaders had only two, allowing Dillon to make a daring move to get the lead.
He was challenging with the leaders when his car bobbled, starting an accident that knocked Joey Logano out of the race, as well as left the leaders on the restart — Larson and Ross Chastain — with damage.
“I thought with four tires it would stick right there and that one wiggle kind of killed us,” Dillon said. “I had to go for it. We needed a win. It was kind of one of those things. I got caught in the middle there and couldn’t finish the corner, and then it’s three-wide and you’re along for the ride.”
Ryan Blaney also had hoped not to cause a wreck, and was as surprised as anyone to cause an accident that took out six cars.
On Lap 192, Blaney went down to the apron and his car hooked right. Blaney, Chase Elliott, William Byron, Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski and Bubba Wallace all were knocked out of the race by the accident.
Blaney had gone down to the apron reacting to what he thought was a spin or accident of other cars developing in front of him.
“I just kind of hit the apron and got me loose,” Blaney said. “I hate that other cars got tore up. I just didn’t really know where I was at being close to [the other cars] and you kind of see that sometimes.”
Wallace’s race ended several laps later because of a quirk in the rules. When a car is involved in a wreck, a team gets six minutes to work on the car and three laps to make a previously set minimum speed in order to continue.
Wallace didn’t use up the time on his six-minute clock, so his team thought he could come back down pit road, and they could work on it more, if needed. But he was on old tires and ran three laps without making minimum speed. That ended his day because he had reached the three-lap maximum to meet the minimum speed.
Typically, it’s not an issue because a team often uses up its six-minute clock prior to going back on the track if it is close to not meeting minimum speed.
“It was a mistake on our part,” Wallace crew chief Bootie Barker said.
Bob Pockrass has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s. He joined FOX Sports in 2019 following stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @bobpockrass.
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