Darlington, SC, September 1, 2018
Saturday’s full schedule at Darlington Raceway presented fans with plenty of on-track activity. Qualifying for both the Xfinity and Cup Series. As well as the NASCAR Xfinity Series Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200. In addition, it’s throwback weekend. Some interesting paint schemes adorn the cars for these races through NASCAR nostalgia.
The weather is beautiful, the track is hot and slippery. Race fans are set to enjoy a weekend of great racing at “The Track Too Tough To Tame.” Darlington Raceway President Kerry Tharp welcomed fans to the track that has undergone a number of upgrades. Most significant are the new seats on the front stretch.
The old metal chairs have been replaced with plastic molded seats that are a full 4 inches wider than the 18 inches of hard steel. The flex of the seat fits your body better. Newly installed handrails make navigating the grandstands easier.
A few tickets remain for Sunday Night’s 69th running of the Bojangles’ Southern 500. Never been to Darlington? It is bucket list requirement for any stock car racing fan.
Yesterday’s practice sessions revealed those drivers with the speed to earn a top starting spot in Saturday’s and Sunday’s races. Last year’s winner in the Cup series, Denny Hamlin(11), ran 172.287 mph in the opening practice session. Kyle Larson(42), Brad Keselowski(2), Alex Bowman(88), and Ryan Newman(31) rounded out the top 5.
In the late afternoon’s final practice session, 4 new names appeared at the top of the speed chart. Ryan Newman led with a speed of 171.698 mph. Chase Elliott(9), Jimmy Johnson(48), Kyle(18), and Kurt Busch(41) filled positions 2 through 5.
Looking at the best 10 consecutive lap average might provide an indication of who will be favored in the race. Kyle Busch, Alex Bowman, and Kevin Harvick(4) posted the best times. No surprise that 2 of the “Big 3” have the fastest cars.
Round 1 saw Kyle Larson sit at the top of the speed chart with a lap of 176.208. William Byron(24), Bowman, Chase Elliott(9), and Johnson filled out the top 5. Notables not advancing to Round 2 included Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(17), Bubba Wallace(43), and Kasey Kahne(95).
Jamie McMurray(1) blew an engine 1 lap into the first practice yesterday. After replacing it the new engine was not responding properly. Saturday morning they replaced the engine a second time. McMurray qualified 31st.
Qualifying Round 2
Bowman ran the fastest in Round 2, just nipping Larson by 56/1,000’s of a second. Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, and Ryan Newman sat 2nd – 5th. Most shocking, Kevin Harvick failed to move on to Round 3. His speed of 171.542 was only good for the 22nd position. Keselowski, Paul Menard(21), Clint Bowyer(14), Jimmie Johnson, and Ryan Blaney(12) also failed to make the final round.
Denny Hamlin won the pole for the Bojangles’ Southern 500 with a speed of 173.571.
Kyle Larson will start on the front row beside him. From 1st to 5th the time difference was 83/1,000’s of a second. Here is the top 12 from the final round of qualifying.
|3||78||Martin Truex Jr.||0.060||173.204|
NASCAR Xfinity Series Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200
Ross Chastain(X42) won the pole for the NASCAR Xfinity Series race with a speed of 169.531 mph. Chastain jumped ahead at the drop of the green flag and led every one of the 45 laps in Stage 1.
Xfinity Stage 2
Kevin Harvick(X98) started in 7th. By the end of Stage 1, he had worked his way into 3rd place. After the Stage ending caution period, Chastain exited the pits in first with Harvick second. On the restart, Harvick moved to the lead and quickly began to pull away.
Christoper Bell(X20) and Daniel Hemric(X21) tangled in Turn 3 and brought out the yellow flag on Lap 65. On the restart, Harvick and Chastain again lined up on the front row. This time Chastain prevailed and recaptured the lead.
Chastain held on to win Stage 2. Brad Keselowski(X22) passed Harvick to finish second.
The Final Stage
The racing heated up over the final 57 laps of the race. Keselowski was all over the rear bumper of Chastain after the restart to begin the final Stage. Keselowski managed to pass Chastain going down the backstretch on Lap 103. Going into Turn 3 Chastain pulled the crossover move and recaptured the lead coming off Turn 4.
Seven laps later Harvick and Chastain were battling for the top spot. The two bumped coming off Turn 2. Chastain hit the wall, bounced off and hit Harvick’s rear quarter. Both cars wrecked and the damage sent each driver to the pits. Harvick retired to the garage. Chastain lost 2 laps in the pits, his chance at victory gone.
After the incident with the leaders, Keselowski assumed the top spot. Cole Custer(X00) tried to put pressure on Keselowski, but Brad never allowed him to get close enough. The margin of victory, 0.738 seconds.
Xfinity Throwback Paint Schemes
Results of the NASCAR Xfinity Series Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200
|22||8||Tommy Joe Martins||-1||146|