Memorial Day weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 was postponed a day because of rain.
Sunday’s trip to World Wide Technology Raceway didn’t have any moisture, but it was hit with just about everything else before polesitter and race leader Kyle Busch finally crossed the start/finish line for the last time, securing his third victory of the season more than five hours after the race’s 3:47 p.m. ET start.
“That was pretty awesome,” Busch said under cover of darkness. “Man, to sit on the pole, lead a lot of laps and have my guys do such a great job today was pretty phenomenal for us. Great for RCR — just win, baby! Thanks to Team Chevy, appreciate 3Chi. We’re going to have a great time with this one. This one is pretty cool.”
The NASCAR Cup Series’ second trip to the Illinois oval, located in the shadow of St. Louis, saw its first stoppage after just one lap of green flag action.
Tyler Reddick went for a spin under Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to bring out a caution on the second lap of the race. As the field was preparing for a restart, pop-up showers in the St. Louis area drew near the track. The clouds never actually reached the oval, but they generated lightning strikes in close enough proximity to force NASCAR to adhere to its lightning policy. Cars were brought to pit road and the race was red flagged.
Lightning holds require only a 30-minute break when strikes are within a given proximity of the track. But any hopes of a quick delay were squashed by intermittent strikes that continually reset the clock.
In the end, the delay went on for 1h45m, pushing the planned mid-afternoon race well into the evening hours.
Once the event did resume, the opening 45-lap stage went by without issue. Early in Stage 2, though, a new issue began to pop up — brake rotor failures.
With the long straightaways and heavy braking loads at WWTR, drivers risked overheating their brakes, shattering rotors. The debuting Carson Hocevar was first to face the issue, ending his day with a trip into the outside wall after 90 laps.
Additional rotor failures would follow, but a separate problem arose moments after Hocevar’s crash. As the replay w as being shown on TV, everything went dark. All broadcasts stopped, as did timing and scoring.
The culprit? An issue with AT&T Fiber at the facility, as confirmed by track director of media relations John Bisci Jr.
FOX Sports 1 quickly resumed their feeds, saving NASCAR from a difficult decision over whether to continue the race or hold until the connection could be resumed. The Motor Racing Network radio feed was out for most of Stage 2, but returned ahead of the final stage. Not everything returned as planned, though. Teams lost the bulk of their data processing capabilities.
After the internet woes came a chaotic affair, filled with additional brake rotor troubles and chaos throughout the field.
Reddick was the next to endure a brake failure, crashing out on lap 174. Rookie Noah Gragson was next on the list, suffering a hard crash that led to a second red flag on lap 197.
“It was a hard (expletive) hit for sure,” Gragson said. “I went and hit the brakes into (Turn) 1 and then the car (sat) down and blew the left-front brake rotor, I think, out of it.
“At th at point you’re like ‘(Expletive), what do I do?”
“I tried to hook it through the infield; I’ve seen guys do it at Pocono, obviously. Once I went through the infield, I’m like, ’That’s the wrong thing to do.’
“But it’s that or go head-on into the fence, so I tried to scrub a little bit of speed. “
That wouldn’t be the end of the difficulties for Legacy Motor Club. The front tire changer for Erik Jones, Thomas Hatcher, suffered an injury after colliding with the tire carrier as the car slid to a stop. FOX Sports reported that he was awake, alert and transported to a local hospital for further observation and treatment.
Brake troubles weren’t done either — even factoring into the end of the race. Bubba Wallace joined teammate Reddick in suffering issues, bringing out a caution on lap 235 that pushed the race into overtime.
Before the field could get to Wallace’s crash and the overtime issues, there was a third red flag to endure. A trio of cautions after lap 200 was capped off by a crash involving Austin Cindric, Austin Dillon and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. that required a third stoppage for SAFER Barrier repairs.
In total, Sunday’s race saw a track record 11 cautions, including three red flags totaling over 119 minutes.
The chaos had little effect on the winner. Busch dominated virtually the entire race, denying all challengers from pole and leading 120 laps.