By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
CONCORD, N.C. – The third stage of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway seemed like it would be quiet in comparison to the first two stages.
Everyone pitted between Stages 2 and 3 with Martin Truex, Jr. holding onto the lead through the pit cycle. Jimmie Johnson had trouble exiting his pit box due to Erik Jones’ No. 77 5-Hour ENERGY Extra Strength Toyota Camry.
Johnson spun the tires on the restart, dropping him from second to fifth. Truex easily pulled away from Matt Kenseth’s No. 20 Circle K Toyota Camry.
The caution waved just as green flag pit stops began. The engine on Ty Dillon’s No. 13 GEICO Military Chevrolet SS expired in turn four. Kevin Harvick spun in the oil but did not hit anything. In a strange set of circumstances, Kyle Larson also hit the oil and slid into the outside wall.
Kasey Kahne also cut down a right rear tire in the middle of the backstretch and spun into the outside wall. Trevor Bayne caught the rear end of Kahne’s car, gashing the nose his No. 6 Ford Ecoboost Ford Fusion.
Meanwhile Johnson was on pit road in his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS, allowing him to assume the lead as others pitted under caution.
Within a lap of the restart Truex’s No. 78 Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Boats Toyota Camry returned to the lead. Truex never looked back and held the lead until eight laps left in Stage 3.
Larson’s No. 42 Target Chevrolet SS cut a tire and hit the outside wall, bringing out the caution. During the ensuing pit stops Denny Hamlin’s No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota Camry jumped to the lead.
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. stayed out and spun his tires. The entire outside line behind him stacked up behind him, allowing Hamlin and Kyle Busch to pull away.
Hamlin prevailed over Kyle Busch to win Stage 3. Hamlin gained 10 Championship Points and one Playoff Point. Kenseth finished the stage in third with Truex fourth and Erik Jones fifth. Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick, Daniel Suarez, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Austin Dillon rounded out the Top 10.