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Blaney wins Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte to end winless drought

CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — Ryan Blaney held off William Byron to win the rescheduled Coca-Cola 600 on Monday at Charlotte Speedway, giving team owner Roger Penske a sweep of the Memorial Day weekend’s top races in the United States.

Josef Newgarden won a record-extending 19th Indianapolis 500 on Sunday for Team Penske. It marked the first time Team Penske has earned a sweep of the two races in the same year.

Like Newgarden, Blaney went into the crowd to celebrate with fans after the win.

Blaney — grandson of the late Lou Blaney, a multiple-time track champion at Lernerville Speedway — took the lead from Byron on a restart and led the final 26 laps to win his first Cup Series race since the 2021 Daytona’s Coke Zero Sugar 400, snapping a 59-race winless drought.

The win came just days before Penske hosts a weekend of racing on the downtown streets of Detroit. The return of racing in downtown Detroit is Penske’s gift to the city he calls home. Then, the 86-year-old heads to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, one of the very few events he’s yet to win.

There 5 1/2-hour race included five wrecks in the final 50 laps, including one with 26 to go when last week's All-Star race winner Kyle Larson spun and took out defending Cup champion Joey Logano, Kyle Busch and Christopher Bell.

Blaney had passed Byron on the previous restart, and then beat him again on the final restart to take the checkered flag.

Byron finished second, followed by Martin Truex Jr., Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick.

It was a rain-soaked weekend at Charlotte, which washed out practice and qualifying and postponed the race to Monday. That meant drivers began the race without ever having turned a lap in the NextGen cars at the 1.5-mile oval for the first time in Coca-Cola 600 history.

More rain caused the race to be red-flagged for nearly an hour after 158 laps, making the longest Cup race of the year even longer.

Defending race champion Denny Hamlin was left fuming after his day ended with a wreck on lap 186, prompting him to call for NASCAR to suspend its most popular driver Chase Elliott .

Hamlin claimed the Hendrick Motorsports driver intentionally wrecked him by hooking his right rear bumper following a dust-up earlier in the race.

Elliott’s car also sustained significant damage ending his day early, too. Elliott denied intentionally wrecking Hamlin in retaliation.

JOHNSON'S TEAM STRUGGLES

It was a rough night for Jimmie Johnson and his new Legacy Motor Club team.

After saying he has never been more ill-prepared for a race due to his inexperience in the NextGen car, Johnson spun out on lap 78 in a single-car crash. He took his No. 84 Chevy behind the wall a few laps later and was joined by there by Legacy teammates Erik Jones and Noah Gragson, who suffered radiator damage.

After Johnson returned, he crashed into Gragson and spun out a second time and went behind the wall again. He finished last.

“I think I learned a lesson with this aero package that I didn’t know about,” Johnson said. "Much different than the car I have driven in the past.”

STAGE WINNERS

Polesitter William Byron won the first stage after leading 44 laps. Chris Buescher won the second stage and Ryan Blaney won the third.

UP NEXT

The Cup Series heads to Madison, Illinois, on Sunday, where 2022 Cup champion Joey Logano outdueled Kyle Busch in overtime to win the inaugural race at World Wide Technology Raceway.

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AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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