Live from Darlington: Saturday’s On-Track Action

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.

Brad Keselowski’s throwback paint scheme reminiscent of Rusty Wallace’s Miller Genuine Draft car he drove to the 1989 NASCAR Cup Championship. Photo Credit: William Robinson / The Lasco Press

The Track

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.

Photo Credit: William Robinson / The Lasco Press

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.

Cup Practice

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.

Denny Hamlin(11) Photo Credit: William Robinson / The Lasco Press

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.

Photo Credit: William Robinson / The Lasco Press

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.

Photo Credit: William Robinson / The Lasco Press

Cup Qualifying

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).

Photo Credit: William Robinson / The Lasco Press

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.

Photo Credit: William Robinson / The Lasco Press

Pole Qualifying

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.

111Denny Hamlin173.571
242Kyle Larson0.026173.411
378Martin Truex Jr.0.060173.204
488Alex Bowman0.068173.155
518Kyle Busch0.083173.064
631Ryan Newman0.121172.832
720Erik Jones0.174172.511
822Joey Logano0.175172.505
941Kurt Busch0.203172.336
1024William Byron0.218172.245
119Chase Elliott0.362171.381
1210Aric Almirola0.590170.030


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.

Ross Chastain, Xfinity #42 Photo Credit: William Robinson / The Lasco Press

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.

Photo Credit: William Robinson / The Lasco Press

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.

Photo Credit: William Robinson / The Lasco Press

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.

The Finish

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

122Brad Keselowski147
20Cole Custer0.738147
39Tyler Reddick1.438147
418Denny Hamlin3.213147
51Elliott Sadler7.429147
623Chase Elliott8.523147
77Justin Allgaier11.04147
82Matt Tifft12.928147
93Ty Dillon16.076147
105Michael Annett16.312147
1121Daniel Hemric17.567147
1219Brandon Jones18.096147
1316Ryan Reed19.254147
141Landon Cassill22.990147
1511Ryan Truex26.118147
1651Jeremy Clements27.016147
1739Ryan Sieg29.061147
1890Brandon Brown31.103147
1936Alex Labbe-1146
204Garrett Smithley-1146
2135Joey Gase-1146
228Tommy Joe Martins-1146
2315BJ McLeod-1146
2478Cody Ware-2145
2542Ross Chastain-2145
2655Bayley Currey-12135
2774Mike Harmon-16131
2845Josh Bilicki-19128
2998Kevin Harvick-36111
3038JJ Yeley-4899
3176Spencer Boyd-5295
3240Chad Finchum-5790
3366Carl Long-8067
3420Christopher Bell-8265
3572Timmy Hill-9354
3652David Starr-10740
370Vinnie Miller-11532
3889Morgan Shepherd-12324
3993Jeff Green-13413
4060Austin Cindric-1452


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Steve Sweitzer
Steve is the Sports Editor for the Lasco Press and highlights our coverage of NASCAR and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Steve is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association and a nationally published author of automotive related articles for industry trade magazines. He is also a freelance technical writer and accomplished photographer. A 25-year resident of Southeast Michigan, Steve’s passion for reporting on our community, it’s residents, and our automotive connections allow us to use his skills to cover a number of events. Steve’s ability to seek out the unique behind the scenes accounts that tell the often-overlooked aspect of a story makes for entertaining reading. Follow Steve at with weekly NASCAR updates and featured articles.