An enormous crowd roars over the Charlotte Motor Speedway as we await the 2022 running of the Coca-Cola 600. Many drivers have concerns about the likelihood of their car making the 400-lap distance. Ryan Heuser is one of them, dominating and falling victim to attrition alike in the past. He will start fourth on the grid and is the favorite to win today.
The first 21 laps saw pole-sitter Tony Pizzaro at the helm attempting to defend the high-horsepower Ryan Heuser and John Battista machines. This would be the 11th race he has led in 2022, second behind Battista and Rick Jackson's 12. He would enter the event 72 points ahead of second place Zach Michael who was mired around 20th position.
Tim McDonnell replayed his All-Star Race dominance by capturing the lead on lap 22. He would maintain a small advantage over Ryan Heuser and Battista, who power-swapped second place multiple times with Rick Jackson lurking directly behind. By green flag pit stops, it was McDonnell, Heuser, Jackson, Battista, Werkheiser, Pizzaro, Zakk Miller, Tharp, Scott Jackson and Lee your top-10.
A terrible collision on pit road ended the competitive days for the Heuser and Pizzaro machines. The #138 made contact with Donald Stewart while entering his stall, with Pizzaro colliding with his rear-end. Both drivers would wind up finishing poorly, with Heuser 35th and Pizzaro 31st. The #12 would somehow maintain his points lead. Up front, Tim McDonnell and Rick Jackson pulled away from the field while trading the lead on multiple occasions.
McDonnell and Jackson had extended from fourth place by over 13 seconds as they crossed the halfway mark of the event. Alan Nesfeder was holding his own in third position, trapped in a five second bubble between Jackson and fourth place John Battista. Deterring any further progress was the first caution on lap 231. Michael Henson and Logan Sheets made contact off of turn-2, sending the #58 Pizza Hut dodge hard into the inside wall. He would finish 40th.
Champion Ken Pettit and Stephen Lowe had fallen to engine attrition by the 350-mile mark as the field went green once more. McDonnell led the restart behind lapped-car Randy Dobbins and scattered the lead lap cars into a myriad of confusion. Rick Jackson made the pass for the lead over McDonnell exiting turn-2, only for Tim to cross-over and retake the advantage on the straightaway. The jockeying sent John Battista by both of them for his first lead of the night.
Battista and the Wendy's Lucas Racing Chevrolet team dominated the ensuing green flag run, leading from lap 240 to 290 before having to come in for tires. Back in the pack, Donald Stewart would spin out on the frontstretch just after his Battista's stop. John could not see through the smoke and power-drove the #55 hard in the rear, destroying both automobiles and putting an exclamation point to Battista's remarkable day. They would finish 36th and 38th, with Stewart dropping from 12th to 19th in the standings. Battista would remain inside the top-10 in points.
The disintegration of the field was not as devestating as some would have predicted so far. Stephen Lowe, Dalton Lucas and William Perry all fell out of the event due to engine trouble. Champion Ken Pettit ended his race after hitting the pit wall in a bonzai attempt to gain track position under green. 35 drivers were still on the racetrack attempting to finish with 100 laps to go.
Zakk Miller led the ensuing restart and looked to drive away before lapped cars Randy Dobbins and Zach Michael made their way on the inside. Bink Lucas followed suit, leading the next four laps before Tim McDonnell nabbed the lead again. Tim's early-race dominance came into fruition once more, with him and Matt Raboin pulling away from Bink, Craig Lee, Zakk Miller, Rick Jackson and the rest of the field.
Matt Raboin missed his pit road entry coming to the final stop of the race, losing 10+ seconds in the process and ending his chance at a victory. Leader McDonnell gained several seconds on most of the field in a miraculous pit stop, with only Zakk Miller matching his performance coming out seven seconds back in the runner-up position. From 35 laps to go to 10, Miller would wind the margin down to two-seconds behind and charging.
With the help from lapped teammates Markell Murphy and Zach Michael, McDonnell was methodically slowed down while Miller rested on the CAT rear bumper. Miller made a move off of turn-4 coming to the white flag lap and the two remained side-by-side entering turn-1. McDonnell got tight on the outside lane entering the second corner and propelled the Bepis machine through. Zakk Miller would cross the line first in a miracle victory for Team Danger Zone. It was Zakk's first victory since Martinsville of 2019, 88 races ago. It was also his fifth top-5 finish in-a-row. Congrats to Miller, crew chief Carl Kirpatrick and the entire Team Danger Zone team for an excellent victory!
2022 Coca-Cola 600 Video