Kyle Larson rolled to a Coca-Cola 600 victory on a dominant Sunday night for Hendrick Motorsports at Charlotte Motor Speedway, helping the organization top the NASCAR Cup Series’ all-time win list with 269 wins.
Larson led 327 of the 400 laps in NASCAR’s longest race, putting his No. 5 Chevrolet in Victory Lane for the second time this season and breaking a three-race streak of runner-up finishes. His first win at the 1.5-mile Charlotte track was the eighth of his Cup Series career.
Defending series champion Chase Elliott placed second in Hendrick’s No. 9 Chevrolet, 10.051 seconds back at the finish. Kyle Busch took third place for Joe Gibbs Racing with Hendrick teammates William Byron fourth and Alex Bowman fifth as Hendrick cars captured four of the first five positions.
For Hendrick Motorsports, its 269th Cup Series victory broke a tie with Petty Enterprises atop the all-time win list for team owners. All four of Rick Hendrick’s drivers have won this year, tallying six victories in the 15 Cup Series races this season.
“It feels great to be that guy who helped Mr. H break that record finally,” Larson said of the victory that broke a tie with Petty Enterprises for most wins in the series.
Larson signed on with Hendrick to start the 2021 season. The car he drove to victory Sunday night bore the same number as the Chevrolet Geoff Bodine piloted at Martinsville on April 29, 1984 to give Hendrick’s fledgling—and struggling—organization the first of those 269 wins.
“It’s been better than I ever could have imagined,” Larson said of his first 15 races with HMS. “For us to lead as many laps as we’ve got this year (a series-best 1,105), to contend for as many wins as we have and now to get our second win in a crown-jewel event, too, it feels great.
“I’m just very lucky that Mr. H was able to put a deal (together) for me. It’s just awesome. I’m living a dream, for sure.”
NASCAR chairman and CEO Jim France was one of the first to congratulate Hendrick.
“I am proud to congratulate Rick Hendrick and all of Hendrick Motorsports on breaking the all-time wins record for a NASCAR Cup Series race team, long held by the legendary Petty Enterprises team,” France said in a statement issued at the conclusion of the race.
“With nearly 40 years of excellence, Hendrick Motorsports has set the gold standard for race team success. Rick Hendrick has already cemented his legacy as a NASCAR Hall of Famer, and now adds another incredible accomplishment to an exemplary NASCAR career.”
Larson started from the pole and swept the first three stages, but not without challenges from teammates Elliott and Byron.
In fact, in the green-flag run after the second stage break, Byron passed Larson for the lead on Lap 231. During the subsequent exchange of pit stops, however, Larson came in for service one lap earlier than Byron and was roughly one second faster on and off pit road than his teammate.
Larson built a lead of more than 2.5 seconds but spent more than 15 circuits trying to lap the No. 43 Chevrolet of Erik Jones, as Byron closed to his bumper.
“Make him work for it,” Jones’ spotter, Rick Carelli, radioed to his driver as he fought to stay on the lead lap, and Jones certainly followed those instructions.
But Larson finally passed the No. 43 Camaro and began to pull away from Byron before Ryan Newman slammed the outside wall to cause the fourth and final caution of the race on Lap 296. The stage ended under yellow, with Larson the winner.
Coincidentally, it was also Jones who pitted for fresh tires during the final run to the finish, returned to the track ahead of Larson, and helped Larson build his winning margin.
“I just towed with him for a while and stretched my lead out,” said Larson, who for the second time in his career followed three straight runner-up finishes with a pole and a victory.
Austin Dillon ran sixth, followed by Denny Hamlin, Chris Buescher, Tyler Reddick and Kevin Harvick. Hamlin retained the series lead by 76 points over Larson and Byron, who are tied for second in the standings.
KYLE LARSON, NO. 5 METRO TECH CAMARO ZL1 1LE – Race Winner
YOU SWEPT TONIGHT! WHAT IS THE EMOTION, NOT ONLY TO WIN THE COKE 600, BUT TO CLOSE IT OUT, DOMINATE A RACE, AND GET IT DONE?
“Yeah, it feels good. It was not easy. I felt like I had to fight off William (Byron) and Chase (Elliott) a lot. It kind of worked out there in that last run. The No. 43 (Erik Jones) had to pit and pulled out in front of me, and I just towed with him for a while and stretched my lead out. We had a good car there in that last run. Awesome! It feels great to be the guy to help Mr. Hendrick break that record, finally. This is awesome. We haven’t seen this many fans in forever. Thanks to all you guys for coming out. I hope we put on a good show. Thanks to Metro Tech, Chevrolet, HendrickCars.com, and everybody who allows me to drive this No. 5 car. And thanks to my No. 5 team tonight, too. They were great tonight. My pit crew did awesome. We had awesome pit stops, especially on the green flag stops, too. That really allowed us to get the win tonight.”
YOU KICKED IT OFF THIS YEAR WITH A BRAND NEW TEAM AND A BRAND NEW ORGANIZATION FOR YOU. HALFWAY THROUGH THE SEASON, YOU ALREADY HAVE TWO WINS. WHAT IS IT LIKE? HOW CAN YOU DESCRIBE WHAT THIS TEAM IS DOING RIGHT NOW AND WHAT MR. HENDRICK HAS?
“When I got to talking to Ricky Stenhouse last year, I was like I think I’m going to end up in the No. 5 or the Hendrick cars and he was like, you’re going to be really good in that thing. And I was like, I don’t know. But it’s been better than I could have ever imagined. For us to lead as many laps as we have this year and contend for as many wins as we have, and now to get our second win at a Crown Jewel event, too, it feels great. I’m just very lucky that Mr. Hendrick was able to put together a deal for me. It’s just awesome. I’m living a dream, for sure.”
CHASE ELLIOTT, NO. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS CAMARO ZL1 1LE – Finished 2nd
“I’m just happy for the boss (Mr. Rick Hendrick); happy for Kyle (Larson), Cliff (Daniels, crew chief), and everybody on the No. 5 team. They’ve been kicking ass since February and they deserve to win. Rightfully so. They did a great job tonight; ran a great race and made no mistakes and the best car won. I’m proud of Hendrick Motorsports. I feel like everybody, like I’ve been saying, is just pulling in the same direction and it’s really showing. I’m just proud of our company and excited as the No. 9 team, specifically, for more opportunities ahead, and to try and get a little better and see if we can’t get it dialed in.”
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Red, White & Blue Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 3rd
Hard fought third-place finish. How do you feel now after a weekend with practice? Is this team on the upswing?
“We would certainly like to think so. We’ve had some strong runs and we’ve had some runs that were better than the finishes that we got out of them as well. Overall, we had a really good piece – strong from start to finish there. We just kept trying to make some little tweaks to it, and make it a little bit better. I don’t know what happened on that final pit stop. We got out in front of those guys, but they had the momentum to get by me I guess and I was just too loose and too sloppy on the front side with some speed, but once we got rolling there, we got a lot better and we able to run them back down, but we just couldn’t get back by them. Great night. Thanks to M&M’s, Toyota, TRD, Cessna, Rowdy Energy, Interestate Batteries, everybody who does such a great job for us.”
I know you want more than third, but best-in-class tonight?
“Definitely, we had nothing for the Hendrick cars. Overall, just a really good night for us. This M&M’s Camry was fast. Ben (Beshore, crew chief) and the boys did a really, really good job. I appreciate for all that we had – it was enough to go out there and run strong. I tried to break them up. I didn’t want them to finish 1-2-3-4 again, so at least I could get in the middle of them, but overall, good job. Thanks Rowdy Energy, Interstate Batteries, Cessna, Stanley, Rheem, everybody that gets us where we are at. We had a solid night tonight. Hopefully, good for the points, and hopefully we can keep this momentum rolling.”
How was lapped traffic tonight?
“Some of it wasn’t so good, others were fine. The problem was that it was pretty much mainly one groove right in the middle of the race track and that’s where everybody wanted to be. That’s where the lapped cars wanted to be and you kind of had some inconsistencies of where they would go on the exits whether they would go up to the wall or stay low and leave room. It was kind of a little bit of back-and-forth.”
What more were you missing compared to the Hendrick cars tonight?
“Overall raw speed. When we were running there through some of the middle part of the race, we were wide open from one and two and just barely breathing it through three and four. You need to be wide open all the way around to complain about raw speed, but realistically, you just need to go from that corner (four) to that corner (one) faster and that’s straight line speed so that’s overall. They (Hendrick Motorsports) were fast and they look good under the hood and they had good aero too.”
Was the traction compound causing the one-groove track?
“Yeah, definitely. When you spray it the way they spray it, where it was sprayed and all that stuff. It was pretty one groovish, pretty dominant right in the middle. You could still kind of move around a little bit, but whenever you were trying to pass somebody that you were relative to the same speed as you catch them and you dive bomb to the bottom, they just stay in the gas in the traction compound and come right back on your outside. You can’t ever create any separation when you’re always in the gas, always in the throttle. That’s a product of the car as well too, not just the track.”
Do you feel you’re getting into a good groove with your team at the right point in the season?
“A little bit, yeah. We’ve had some really strong runs. We’ve been fast this year, just haven’t quite got some of the finishes we deserve with that, but overall Ben (Beshore, crew chief) and the guys gave me a great piece tonight. It was really good from start to finish. We didn’t qualify as good as I wanted to, I was pissed off about that. We rallied in race trim so that felt good.”
Did you make many changes to the car during pit stops?
“No, all night long we were just kind of tweaking on it here and there. I knew there were little things we could do to improve it. We probably took it from about a seventh-place car to a third-place car. Thought we had a second-place car there before the final pit stop. After the final pit stop, it just wouldn’t take off, it wouldn’t go so something was different.”
How different is it seeing Hendrick Motorsports race this year compared to a year ago?
“They’ve certainly gone to work and done their homework. They’ve also plugged in a superstar driver to one of their cars. Chase (Elliott) is no slouch, William (Byron) is really good, but Kyle (Larson) is arguably one of the best. I think they’ve done a really good job obviously of getting good equipment, good pieces and Kyle is making the most of it for sure.”
Is there one particular thing that your team has hit on in recent weeks?
“No, not really. The engineers and my guys are kind of getting a better understanding of what I like to have in the car for a setup. Having practice here this weekend gave me a little better opportunity to kind of work and tweak on the car and give them even more of a better understanding of what I’m looking for. We did some good things this weekend and we need to debrief about it, talk about it and we’ve been strong on the mile-and-a-halves this year too so this felt good to continue that roll.”
What does it mean to see Hendrick become the all-time winningest race team?
“It’s cool, it’s special and all. They’re no slouch, they’ve never been a slouch. They may have had some down years, but there’s a lot of smart guys over there and a lot of guys that I still know and have some relationships with. I wouldn’t say it’s good to see them be rewarded for all their hard work because now I’m getting beat by it, but certainly there’s that sentiment.”
How close do you think Joe Gibbs Racing is to Hendrick Motorsports?
“Not close enough. On a one to 10, if (Kyle) Larson was a 10 tonight, we’re about a seven so we’ve got some work to do.”
WILLIAM BYRON, NO. 24 LIBERTY UNIVERSITY CAMARO ZL1 1LE – Finished 4th
BYRON ON RACING CHASE ELLIOTT:
“It was hard racing. I was trying to get second there and cost myself third. With this package, you just have to get the side draft at the perfect spot. I feel like we just missed where that was. We just didn’t have quite enough. Congrats to the No. 5 (Kyle Larson, race winner) guys. They were lights out. We’ll go to work and try to get that.”
TALK ABOUT THE HENDRICK MILESTONE. WHAT’S IT LIKE TO BE PART OF THE HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS ORGANIZATION.
“It’s awesome. We are bringing really fast cars right now and I feel like it’s really fun to be at Hendrick Motorsports right now. We’ve just got to work, on the No. 24 team, just a little harder to get the little bit more than we need. But we’re really close. We can do it at times during the race. We just can’t put it all together. I feel like we probably should have finished third tonight. We finished fourth, but we’ll take that.
I thought we were really good. It’s just hard to get the lead and I feel like if we could have kept the lead, we could have maybe won. We just never did. We were good enough to win but it just didn’t quite happen.”
ALEX BOWMAN, NO. 48 ALLY PATRIOTIC CAMARO ZL1 1LE – Finished 5th
“Hats off to Greg (Ives, crew chief) and the Ally 48 team on making really good adjustments to get us where we needed to be and get us in the top-five. So cool for Hendrick Motorsports to be the all-time wins leader now. Our Ally Camaro was a handful all night, but glad to get a top-five out of it.”
BOWMAN ON THE HENDRICK MILESTONE:
“It’s really cool to be a small part of it. Four of those (wins) were from us, so that’s pretty neat and pretty special. We want to add a lot more to that list, but it’s cool to be a small part of it.”
AUSTIN DILLON, NO. 3 BASS PRO SHOPS/TRACKER OFF ROAD CAMARO ZL1 1LE – Finished 6th
“I am so proud of everyone on the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops / TRACKER Off Road team. We had some adversity today, but this RCR team rallied to get over everything and put together something at the end to be proud of. The Coca-Cola 600 is a long, grueling night and a lot of it is just about who can have a clean race. We didn’t have the cleanest of races, but we rebounded well. We earned stage points in every stage tonight, and did a great job of keeping up with adjustments as the track changed. Even when we fell back in the running order we kept our cool, didn’t give up, and were able to drive back into the top-10. Everyone did a great job. If we keep bringing cars like this to the track, we will win races. The most important part of the night was riding with Chief Special Warfare Operator David A. Fegyo on the windshield header and honoring our military with a patriotic Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet.”
|1||1||5||Kyle Larson||Metro Tech Chevrolet||400||1||1||1||327||Running|
|2||3||9||Chase Elliott||NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet||400||2||2||4||22||Running|
|3||20||18||Kyle Busch||M&M’s Red White & Blue Toyota||400||6||4||3||1||Running|
|4||4||24||William Byron||Liberty University Chevrolet||400||3||3||2||19||Running|
|5||7||48||Alex Bowman||Ally Patriotic Chevrolet||400||10||7||5||5||Running|
|6||6||3||Austin Dillon||Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Off Road Chevrolet||400||5||10||8||1||Running|
|7||14||11||Denny Hamlin||FedEx Freight Toyota||400||0||9||7||3||Running|
|8||27||17||Chris Buescher||Fifth Thrid Bank Ford||400||0||8||0||0||Running|
|9||15||8||Tyler Reddick||Alsco Uniforms Chevrolet||400||8||5||6||6||Running|
|10||5||4||Kevin Harvick||Mobil 1 Ford||400||4||6||10||0||Running|
|11||13||2||Brad Keselowski||Keystone Light Ford||400||0||0||0||6||Running|
|12||2||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Cottonelle Chevrolet||400||9||0||0||0||Running|
|13||11||12||Ryan Blaney||BodyArmor EDGE Ford||400||0||0||0||2||Running|
|14||18||23||Bubba Wallace||DoorDash Toyota||400||0||0||9||0||Running|
|15||9||99||Daniel Suarez||Camping World Chevrolet||398||0||0||0||0||Running|
|16||19||43||Erik Jones||Petty’s Garage Chevrolet||398||0||0||0||0||Running|
|17||16||22||Joey Logano||Shell Pennzoil Ford||398||0||0||0||0||Running|
|18||22||21||Matt DiBenedetto||Menards/Masterforce Tools Ford||398||0||0||0||2||Running|
|19||26||7||Corey LaJoie||Diamond Creek Water Chevrolet||398||0||0||0||0||Running|
|20||24||34||Michael McDowell||Fr8Auctions Ford||398||0||0||0||0||Running|
|21||23||41||Cole Custer||Feeding America/Wow Wow Ford||397||0||0||0||0||Running|
|22||31||10||Aric Almirola||Smithfield Ford||397||0||0||0||0||Running|
|23||21||14||Chase Briscoe #||HighPoint.com Ford||397||0||0||0||0||Running|
|24||17||20||Christopher Bell||Honoring Our Fallen Heroes Toyota||397||0||0||0||3||Running|
|25||29||38||Anthony Alfredo #||Death Wish Coffee Ford||397||0||0||0||3||Running|
|26||28||37||* Ryan Preece||Kroger/Coca-Cola Chevrolet||397||0||0||0||0||Running|
|27||25||6||Ryan Newman||Kohler Generators Ford||396||0||0||0||0||Running|
|28||30||77||Justin Haley(i)||Walmart Chevrolet||395||0||0||0||0||Running|
|29||8||19||Martin Truex Jr.||Bass Pro Shops Red White Blue Toyota||391||7||0||0||0||Running|
|30||34||53||Cody Ware(i)||US Marines Military Salutes Chevrolet||389||0||0||0||0||Running|
|31||33||78||BJ McLeod(i)||Solomon Plumbing Ford||389||0||0||0||0||Running|
|32||32||0||Quin Houff||8 Ball Chocolate Whiskey Chevrolet||389||0||0||0||0||Running|
|33||35||15||James Davison||NAVY Military Salutes Chevrolet||388||0||0||0||0||Running|
|34||36||51||Garrett Smithley(i)||Air Force Military Salutes Chevrolet||387||0||0||0||0||Running|
|35||37||52||Josh Bilicki||US Army Military Salutes Ford||382||0||0||0||0||Running|
|36||38||66||* David Starr(i)||Richardson Service Toyota||369||0||0||0||0||Running|
|37||10||42||Ross Chastain||Advent Health Chevrolet||359||0||0||0||0||Running|
|38||12||1||Kurt Busch||GEARWRENCH Chevrolet||139||0||0||0||0||Engine|
Average Speed of Race Winner: 150.785 mph.
Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 58 Mins, 45 Secs. Margin of Victory: 10.051 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 4 for 26 laps.
Lead Changes: 23 among 13 drivers.
Lap Leaders: K. Larson 1-47;W. Byron 48-49;B. Keselowski 50-55;M. DiBenedetto 56-57;A. Alfredo # 58;K. Larson 59-131;C. Elliott 132-148;T. Reddick 149;C. Bell 150-152;K. Larson 153-174;A. Bowman 175-179;D. Hamlin 180-182;C. Elliott 183-187;K. Larson 188-230;W. Byron 231-247;T. Reddick 248-249;A. Dillon 250;A. Alfredo # 251-252;K. Larson 253-305;K. Busch 306;K. Larson 307-346;T. Reddick 347-349;R. Blaney 350-351;K. Larson 352-400.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Kyle Larson 7 times for 327 laps; Chase Elliott 2 times for 22 laps; William Byron 2 times for 19 laps; Brad Keselowski 1 time for 6 laps; Tyler Reddick 3 times for 6 laps; Alex Bowman 1 time for 5 laps; Anthony Alfredo # 2 times for 3 laps; Christopher Bell 1 time for 3 laps; Denny Hamlin 1 time for 3 laps; Ryan Blaney 1 time for 2 laps; Matt DiBenedetto 1 time for 2 laps; Kyle Busch 1 time for 1 lap; Austin Dillon 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 5,9,24,4,3,18,19,8,47,48
Stage #2 Top Ten: 5,9,24,18,8,4,48,17,11,3
Stage #3 Top Ten: 5,24,18,9,48,8,11,3,23,4