Coke 600 Rain Delay Left Kyle Larson & Brad Keselowski Disappointed, Bell Winner

Kyle Larson

Getty Kyle Larson at Coca-Cola 600

NASCAR’s longest race of this season, the 65th running of the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, became one of the shortest after thundering weather prevented the 400-lap race from resuming after Lap 249 due to a lengthy rain delay. 

Due to the race having already surpassed the halfway point, per NASCAR rules, officials were liable to end the race without a restart. This left Christopher Bell of Joe Gibbs Racing, the race leader at the time of the rain-induced red flag, the winner. 

Not every driver was content with the decision, however. Kyle Larson, who was attempting “The Double”, or driving both the Indy 500 and Coke 600, was prevented from hopping into the car for Hendrick Motorsports due to the weather. 

In a statement posted to social media, Larson commented on the disappointing result. 

“What I thought could be one of the best days of my life quickly turned into one of the most disappointing ones I’ve ever experienced. … So much time, money, and effort went into this experience and it just kills me to have it all end the way it did. I feel like I let so many people down. We knew all along weather could throw a wrench into things but seeing it come to reality is a horrible feeling.”

Brad Keselowski, who took second place after battling Bell for the latter part of the race before the red flag, was similarly disappointed. 

“It was pretty disappointing. Would have liked to have just had more laps and ran the Coke 600. I think we ran the Coke 350 today.” Keselowski told reporters

Christopher Bell wins the Coca-Cola 600

GettyChristopher Bell wins the Coca-Cola 600

Rain Delay Cuts Race Short

At around 9:30 pm on Sunday, May 26, rain moved over the track in a torrential downpour. Cautionary warnings for the weather were relayed to the drivers before a red flag was issued as the weather continued to wreak havoc. The race had stopped just after Lap 249 of 400. 

For more than two hours, officials attempted to dry the track as they hoped for the weather to pass, but even once the rain had stopped, the humidity made it nearly impossible for the asphalt to try promptly. Since the race had already reached the halfway point, NASCAR officials were able to end the race without resuming it at 11:30 pm. This is far from the first time that a NASCAR race has had to be cut short due to extenuating circumstances; in 2009, David Reutimann, then driving for Michael Waltrip Racing, won the Coca-Cola 600 after the race ended early due to weather. 

Bell, who started third but led a race-high 90 laps, commented on the victory

 “Man, it feels so good – to win or lose – just to have a great race to go off of. A race where we led laps. We were able to pass cars. We lost the lead at times and were able to drive back to the lead. “We had great pit stops. It was a team effort, and it was amazing to have a good race. Hopefully, this is something we can build on and get back to being more consistent.”

Despite the race being cut short, it wasn’t all easy riding for Bell to win the second stage of the 14th NASCAR Cup Series race of this season. Bell had battled Keselowski for 10 laps after the Lap 236 restart following Corey LaJoie’s (Spire Motorsports) spin in Turn 2. 

Keselowski felt that the shortened race didn’t offer enough of an opportunity to show his car’s true capacity. 

“The car was really fast, pit stops were phenomenal, but the weather is what the weather is. I feel like we had a lot more if we were able to get going again. It was good to be that fast. You want it to count for wins and you don’t want to be a sore loser with second, but we had a car that could win today.” Keselowski said

For Bell, the win was a welcome reprieve from his recent slump, having finished outside the top 10 in five of the six previous races.

“We’ve really been in a slump the last couple weeks so to come out here and have a banner day at such a high-profile, prestigious event is really big for us,” he said. “I’ve been working really hard to get us back to where we need to be and today was a great step in the right direction.” Bell said about the win

Bell took first place, with Keselowski in second. William Byron (Hendrick Motorsports) ran third, Tyler Reddick (23XI Racing) fourth, and Denny Hamlin (Joe Gibbs Racing) fifth. Ty Gibbs (Joe Gibbs Racing), who had taken pole position and had led the race for 74 laps finished in sixth, followed by Chase Elliott (Hendrick Motorsports) in seventh, Ross Chastain (Trackhouse Racing) in eighth, Alex Bowman (Hendrick Motorsports) in ninth, and Josh Berry (Stewart-Haas Racing) rounding out the top ten in tenth place.  

Kyle Larson drives the Indianapolis 500

GettyKyle Larson drives the Indianapolis 500

Kyle Larson Attempts “The Double” 

Kyle Larson was affected by the rain delays not once, but twice, during his attempt to run both the Indy 500 and Coke 600. The Indianapolis 500 had a nearly four-hour delayed start time due to the rain. Larson finished the Indy 500 in 18th place, then made his way to the Coke 600 to relieve reserve driver Justin Allgaier, who had started the race in his stead. 

Instead, the rain moved overhead just as Kyle Larson arrived, preventing him from running a single lap in the race, and thus, not completing “The Double”. Allgaier had ended the race in 13th place, in his first Cup start in two years. 

“Up until Sunday it was truly one of the greatest experiences of my life. I can’t describe how appreciative I am of everyone’s support of me to live out a dream. I hope it’s not the last opportunity I have to try The Double but if it is I guess it was memorable.” Larson said of his attempt to run “The Double”

For Larson, the effects of not jumping into the car at the Coke 600 was more than just ticking off a bucket list item. Ahead of the Memorial Day weekend races, Larson held a 30-point lead in the standings. Now, with a lack of NASCAR points gained during the Coke 600, Larson is only a single point above Martin Truex Jr. (Joe Gibbs Racing) and is now 6 points below Hamlin.  

Plus, Larson isn’t listed among the top-16 drivers for the season due to his missing the Coke 600, which means he’ll need to receive a waiver to qualify in the NASCAR postseason. 

The 65th running of the Coca-Cola 600 was meant to be a longer race, allowing ample time for drivers like Keselowski to bring the most out of their vehicles over the full 400 laps, and for Larson to attempt to run in two different races in the same day. For Bell, it was a much-needed victory. 

While a rain delay and early end to the race wasn’t the anticipated outcome, it’s clear that it was certainly a memorable day for all drivers involved, good and bad.