Despite a race marred by 16 cautions and delayed a day by rain, Blaney got away on the final restart with 20 of 400 laps remaining and held off William Byron by 0.663 seconds to win Monday night’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Blaney and Byron had traded the lead multiple times during the race, with Byron having the added advantage of the No. 1 pit stall which repeatedly gave him the lead off pit road.
The win is the first points win for Blaney since his August 2021 victory at Daytona, although he did win last year’s non-points All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway.
“I might shed a tear,” said Blaney as the crowd chanted his name repeatedly behind him. “This has been a cool weekend. Obviously Memorial Day weekend means a lot, growing up here watching dad run this race for a long time. It’s so cool just to be a part of it, let alone win it.
“I just was able to get the lead on the race car, and that car was so good that I could kind of bide my time a little bit and then we were able to drive off. I was hoping no (late) caution just because you never know. I know we had the car to do it, but restarts can be crazy.”
Asked what the win means given his last victory was nearly two years ago, Blaney said, “You start to get to feel like you can’t win anymore when you don’t win in a while. It kind of gets hard. So, just super thankful to the No. 12 guys for believing in me. Thank you (fans) for sticking around. Really appreciate it.”
The win for Blaney’s team owner, Penske, gives him victories in both the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same Memorial Day weekend for the first time. Penske driver Josef Newgarden won his first Indy 500 on Sunday.
After bringing his No. 12 Ford to a stop on the frontstretch, Blaney went into the grandstands to celebrate with fans much like his Indy counterpart Newgarden did on Sunday.
Monday’s 600 was also the first time since 2009 the race was held on the Memorial Day holiday due to a postponement.
Byron edged Christopher Bell in a photo finish after a last-lap battle to claim the Stage 1 win. Blaney was third, Reddick fourth and Truex ended up fifth.
With qualifying rained out on Saturday, Byron started on the pole and led the first 13 laps until Denny Hamlin powered around him for the top spot.
During a scheduled competition caution early in the race, Byron regained the lead as the first off pit road while Blaney moved up to second. Blaney used a crossover move off Turn 4 on the restart to move out front for the first time.
Buescher took the Stage 2 win over Kevin Harvick when the race was placed under caution on the last of 100 laps due to a wreck involving B.J. McLeod. Brad Keselowski was third, Joey Logano fourth and Blaney fifth.
Byron held serve during pit stops between Stages 1 and 2 and remained the leader when the second stage got under way.
Just after a round of green flag stops were completed, NASCAR was forced to throw a caution as light rain began to fall. Following a nearly 31-minute delay, the race went back under the caution flag. The race resumed on Lap 164 with Reddick leading Blaney and Truex.
Chase Elliott and Hamlin made contact coming off Turn 4 on Lap 186 before Elliott turned Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota into the frontstretch wall. The contact ended the race early for both drivers.
Blaney passed Byron with 18 of 100 laps to go and held off Reddick by 0.241 seconds to earn the Stage 3 win, his first stage victory of the 2023 season.
Stenhouse led at the start of Stage 3 after he stayed out while most pit between Stages 2 and 3. Harvick was first off pit road and lined up third.
Keselowski got loose and into Todd Gilliland on the backstretch on Lap 275 which brought out the 10th caution of the race and sent the leaders down pit road for new tires.
With the No. 1 pit stall, Byron was again first off pit road and was followed by Blaney, Reddick and Harvick on the restart with 20 laps to go in the stage.
Following a round of pit stops between Stages 3 and 4, the lead-lap cars all pit with Byron first off pit road. Blaney passed him for the lead one lap after the restart.
Following a green-flag pit stop, Michael McDowell lost his right-front wheel off Turn 2 on Lap 344 to bring out a caution. When the race resumed with 51 laps remaining, Byron was followed by Reddick, Busch and Blaney.
Reddick and Harvick collided off Turn 4 to send the race back under caution for the 13th time and set up a late restart with 38 laps remaining. Smith, who did not pit, led the way followed by Byron and Larson.
An incident involving Kyle Larson, Ty Gibbs, Logano and Bell off Turn 2 set up a restart with 20 laps remaining and Blaney in command.
With 10 laps remaining, Blaney had built nearly a 1-second lead over Byron as Truex ran third.