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    Wednesday, June 19, 2024

    Christopher Bell wins the Coca-Cola 600 after race called with 151 laps left due to wet weather

    Driver Christopher Bell celebrates in Victory Lane after winning a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Sunday, May 26, 2024, in Concord, N.C. (AP Photo/Matt Kelley)

    Concord, N.C. — Christopher Bell finally has a big win to put on his resume — even if it was a little anticlimactic.

    Bell won the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway after the race was called around midnight due to wet weather with 151 laps remaining. The race had been red-flagged for more than two hours following a steady downpour.

    Attempts to dry the track were unsuccessful.

    Bell led a race-high 90 laps in his Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota for his eighth career Cup Series win, and his first crown jewel race.

    "It feels so good ... just to have a great race to go off of, a race that we led laps and were able to pass cars," Bell said. "Hopefully, this is something we can build on and get back to being more consistent."

    Bell entered the race with only one top-10 finish in his previous seven Cup races.

    NASCAR said that due to inclement weather, high humidity and the likelihood of resuming action after 1 a.m. local time with the track-drying process, the race was declared official.

    Fans booed loudly after it was announced the race would not continue.

    "It was getting booed out of the place," Bell said with a laugh. "... It seems all of my wins come with an asterisk."

    Bell's crew chief, Adam Stevens, said they talked repeatedly to Bell about staying in front with the bad weather coming in.

    "You can't afford to have a long pit stop in a race like this," Stevens said. "There was a lot more pressure on the guys on pit road."

    Brad Keselowski finished second, followed by William Byron, Tyler Reddick and Denny Hamlin.

    The race was red-flagged just as Kyle Larson arrived at Charlotte Motor Speedway to take over driving Hendrick Motorsports' No. 5 Chevrolet.

    Larson had hoped to become the first driver since Tony Stewart to run all 1,100 laps as part of the Indianapolis 500-Coca-Cola 600 double, but bad weather in Indianapolis quickly nixed those plans.

    After finishing 18th at the Indianapolis 500, Larson was shuttled out of the track and one plane and two helicopter rides later arrived at the 1.5-mile oval at Charlotte to cheers from the crowd.

    He jogged to his pit stall in his fire suit and strapped on his helmet —- only to have the race halted moments later by a heavy downpour.

    He never got a chance to turn a lap at Charlotte.

    Under NASCAR rules, Larson is not allowed to participate in the playoffs unless he starts every race. However, Hendrick Motorsports can submit a waiver to NASCAR, asking for an exception to the rule.

    There is no guarantee that NASCAR will approve the waiver, but it's hard to imagine the sport's governing body keeping its top driver out of the postseason.

    Larson did not address the media after the race.

    Keselowski started the race 30th, but worked his way up through the field to second place and felt like he had the car to win the race if the rain had held off.

    "We ran down the 20 car twice and didn't get to see it play out," Keselowski said. "It slipped through our fingers. I think we would have won had we run the Coke 600, but we ran the Coke 350. I'm bummed for our team, but the weather is what the weather is."

    The first half of the race had nine race leaders with Byron and Bell winning the first two stages.

    Allgaier’s successful run

    Justin Allgaier, who has started 82 Cup races during his career but hasn't been on the circuit full-time since 2015, was chosen to fill in for Larson because they have similar body types and require somewhat similar seat set-ups.

    He did well despite not having race regularly on the Cup Series since 2015.

    "My job was just not to wreck the car for Kyle," Allgaier said.

    Defending champ KO’s early

    Ryan Blaney's bid to become the first back-to-back winner of the Coca-Cola 600 since Jimmie Johnson in 2004-05 ended when his front right tire went down on lap 143, sending his No. 12 Ford into the wall and ending his night.

    "I just came off pit road and put tires on it and I don't know if I ran over something, but one of them blew," Blaney said. "I blew a tire going into (turn) three, so I don't know if I hit something or what, but it's kind of odd. We'll have to go back and take a look at it. It stinks."

    Trump on hand

    Former President Donald Trump watched the race alongside car owner Richard Childress atop the pit box for the No. 3 Chevrolet.

    Driver Christopher Bell celebrates in Victory Lane after winning a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Sunday, May 26, 2024, in Concord, N.C. (AP Photo/Matt Kelley)
    Christopher Bell steers into Turn 2 during a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Sunday, May 26, 2024, in Concord, N.C. (AP Photo/Matt Kelley)
    Justin Allgaier drives through Turn 4 during a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Sunday, May 26, 2024, in Concord, N.C. (AP Photo/Matt Kelley)
    Kyle Larson, left, shakes hands with Tony Kanaan following the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Sunday, May 26, 2024, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
    Thee pit crew for Denny Hamlin put a tarp over the car as rain falls during a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Sunday, May 26, 2024, in Concord, N.C. (AP Photo/Matt Kelley)

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