CONCORD, N.C. — A lightning delay and subsequent monsoon-like thunderstorm has put Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600 into a holding pattern, stopping the action with 143 laps complete in NASCAR’s longest race.
Matt DiBenedetto crashed in Turns 1 and 2 after cutting down a right front tire, bringing out the fourth caution flag of the race on lap 142, and moments later NASCAR called for cars to come down pit road due to lightning in the area.
The red flag was displayed at 7:53 p.m., and less than 10 minutes later, heavy rain was hammering the Charlotte Motor Speedway and drenching the premises as drivers, crew members and fans alike scurried for cover.
At the stoppage, defending 600 winner Martin Truex Jr. led the way over four-time event champion Jimmie Johnson, after Truex took the lead from Stage 1 winner Kyle Busch on the restart at lap 108.
Truex has led 53 of the 143 laps completed so far, and is seeking to become the first back-to-back Coca-Cola 600 winner since Johnson won three-consecutive 600s from 2003 to 2005.
After starting from the rear of the field due to missing qualifying on Thursday night (inspection issues), Kyle Larson has charged his way up to third and into contention for his first Coca-Cola 600 win.
Larson passed 15 cars in the first 10 laps, was in the top 10 by lap 50 and finished sixth in Stage 1.
Busch and his JGR teammate Matt Kenseth complete the top five, followed by Ryan Blaney, Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray, Austin Dillon and Denny Hamlin.
Erik Jones is currently scored 12th, having to come through the field after hitting debris from the night’s opening caution flag at lap 20 and needing repairs on pit road.
That incident saw Jeffrey Earnhardt lose a motor, dropping fluid and a piece that went through the nose of Chase Elliott’s car and sparked a fire underneath in. Elliott was then slammed into from behind by Brad Keselowski, with heavy damage eliminating both drivers from the race.
This is the first Coca-Cola 600 to be affected by rain since the 2009 running, which was postponed to Monday due to similar rainstorms and then further delayed throughout the day. That event was ultimately won by David Reutimann.
As of 8:30 p.m. ET, rain at the speedway had stopped and track drying efforts were underway. Charlotte Motor Speedway has a fleet of 10 jet driers, 12 Air Titans and three vacuum trucks on hand to aid in returning the track to race-able conditions.
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Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
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