The Southern 500 Goes to Team Penske, Keselowski Wins, Logano 2nd

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Darlington, SC, Sunday, September 2, 2018

The 69th running of the Bojangles Southern 500 is steeped in tradition. The Labor Day celebration at Darlington Raceway is officially designated as NASCAR’s Throwback Weekend. Drivers and crews embrace the theme. Fans love the nostalgia and the media eats it up.

The racing is as hot as the weather. Teams are fighting it out for the final playoff spots. Darlington is a place that can produce a surprise winner. The Southern 500 is an endurance test for both the driver and his machine.

The 6:00 pm start provides a slight relief from the heat and humidity of the South Carolina summer. But, it’s still 500 miles, 367 laps around the track “Too Tough to Tame.”

The Start

Denny Hamlin(11), with Kyle Larson(42) tucked in behind him, took off from their starting positions on the front row. By lap 10 they had built a 1.5 second lead on third place Martin Truex Jr.(78). On lap 12 Larson made a pass for the lead. He began to stretch the advantage over Hamlin almost immediately.

Kyle Busch(18) started 5th, Kevin Harvick(4) 22nd, and Jimmie Johnson(48) was sent to the rear of the field for unapproved modifications. Johnson’s team had to work on his car after qualifying and NASCAR imposed the penalty.

By lap 25 Harvick worked his way into the top 10. But, there was no catching Larson as he continued pulling away to win the Stage. Byron, Michigan’s own Erik Jones(20) finished 2nd to Larson. Only 14 cars remained on the lead lap at the end of Stage 1.

Stage 1 Results

Car Driver Stage Points
42 Larson 10
20 Jones 9
78 Truex Jr. 8
22 Logano* 7
2 Keselowski* 6
4 Harvick* 5
11 Hamlin 4
41 Kurt Busch* 3
18 Kyle Busch 2
9 Elliott 1

* Ford Fusion Drivers

Erik Jones was penalized for an uncontrolled tire during his pit stop and sent from 2nd place to the rear of the field for the restart.

Stage 2

Larson pulled away on the drop of the green flag without a challenge from 2nd place Joey Logano(22). As the pack straightened out into single file formation Truex Jr. took over 2nd. Logano ran third, Harvick 4th, and Keselowski 5th.

The first accident of the evening had Kyle Busch(18) getting into the rear of Joey Gase(23) causing Gase to spin down the front stretch on Lap 127. Everyone pitted during the caution. Truex Jr. beat Larson out of the pits to take over the lead. Harvick and Logano will follow the front row into turn one on the restart.

Truex Leads the Southern 500

The 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion, Martin Truex Jr. took the lead in the Southern 500 after the Gase caution. He led Larson off pit road. coming to the green flag, Larson’s car seemed to stumble at the start-finish line. Truex Jr. drove off into Turn 1 with the lead and Harvick moved into 2nd place.

Truex Jr. led for 30 laps. Larson recovered from his poor restart to regain the lead on Lap 160. He held the lead for the remainder of Stage 2.

Stage 2 Results

Car Driver Stage Points
42 Larson 10
2 Keselowski* 9
22 Logano* 8
9 Elliott 7
20 Jones 6
42 Kurt Busch* 5
31 Newman 4
18 Kyle Busch 3
1 McMurray 2
4 Harvick* 1

* Ford Fusion Drivers

The Final Stage

More of the same at the beginning of the Final Stage. Larson ran away from the field when the race went back to green. Other than giving up the lead to pit, Larson dominated the competition.

With 56 laps to go, Clint Bowyer tangled with Ryan Newman(31) and Jeffrey Earnhardt(96) in Turn 4. The caution brought the field to pit road for fuel and tires. The field bunched up for the restart that would likely determine the winner.

Larson led the field. Keselowski, Logano, Harvick, Elliott, Jones and Kyle Busch followed Larson to the green flag on the restart. The 7 contenders were the only cars on the lead lap.

More Cautions

The yellow flag waved again with 39 laps to go for debris in Turn 2. All the leaders pitted getting new tires for the sprint to the finish. Larson, Logano, Keselowski, Elliott, and Harvick were the first 5 cars back on the track.

With 24 laps to go Earnhardt spun in Turn 2 bringing out the caution again. All the leaders came to pit road for fresh tires. With tire wear such an issue at the track, fresh rubber is a huge advantage. No one dares to restart with worn tires against cars with fresh rubber.

New Leader

Keselowski beat Larson off pit road. Logano, Harvick, and Jones followed. With the quick cautions and wave arounds, the lead lap cars now number 16. On the restart, Keselowski was able to outrun Larson into Turn 1. Suddenly Larson’s car appeared vulnerable. Logano passed for the 2nd position.

The two Team Penske cars finished 1st and 2nd. The first win for Penske at Darlington since 1975. Also, it was the first Cup win for Keselowski at the famed “Lady in Black.” He had just won yesterday in the Xfinity Series for the first time in his career at the track.

Larson settled for 3rd. A big disappointment for the driver of the dominant car all evening. He led 284 of the 367 laps.

Playoff Implications

While Keselowski was into the playoffs on points, getting the win and the 5 playoff points is a big confidence boost with 1 week to go in the regular season. Jimmie Johnson and Alex Bowman(88) are the only 2 drivers in danger of missing the playoff among the top 16 in wins and points. Johnson is 19 points ahead of Bowman.

It will take a win by someone outside the playoff cut line to eliminate Johnson or Bowman. Next week at Indy the playoff field will be determined. Playoff points earned will then be added to the totals for each of the 16 playoff qualifiers.

More “Live Coverage” next week from The Lasco Press at the legendary “Brickyard.”

 

 

 

Results of The Bojangle’s Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway

Position Car Driver Behind Laps
1 2 Brad Keselowski 367
2 22 Joey Logano 1.224 367
3 42 Kyle Larson 3.761 367
4 4 Kevin Harvick 4.058 367
5 9 Chase Elliott 4.614 367
6 41 Kurt Busch 6.498 367
7 18 Kyle Busch 6.730 367
8 20 Erik Jones 6.966 367
9 1 Jamie McMurray 8.849 367
10 11 Denny Hamlin 8.865 367
11 78 Martin Truex Jr. 9.185 367
12 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 20.689 367
13 37 Chris Buescher 23.641 367
14 10 Aric Almirola 24.982 367
15 12 Ryan Blaney 25.144 367
16 3 Austin Dillon 31.830 367
17 21 Paul Menard -1 366
18 38 David Ragan -1 366
19 31 Ryan Newman -1 366
20 34 Michael McDowell -2 365
21 13 Ty Dillon -2 365
22 47 AJ Allmendinger -2 365
23 88 Alex Bowman -2 365
24 95 Kasey Kahne -3 364
25 6 Matt Kenseth -3 364
26 43 Bubba Wallace -4 363
27 72 Corey LaJoie -7 360
28 15 Ross Chastain -7 360
29 19 Daniel Suarez -9 358
30 0 Landon Cassill -10 357
31 52 JJ Yeley -17 350
32 51 BJ McLeod -20 347
33 99 Derrike Cope -21 346
34 96 Jeffrey Earnhardt -23 344
35 24 William Byron -38 329
36 14 Clint Bowyer -58 309
37 66 Timmy Hill -99 268
38 32 Matt DiBenedetto -113 254
39 48 Jimmie Johnson -140 227
40 23 Joey Gase -247 120

Points/Playoff Standings

Rank Driver Points Wins
1 Kevin Harvick* 999 7
2 Kyle Busch 1038 6
3 Martin Truex Jr. 883 4
4 Clint Bowyer* 777 2
5 Kurt Busch* 835 1
6 Joey Logano* 818 1
7 Brad Keselowski* 785 1
8 Chase Elliott 737 1
9 Erik Jones 679 1
10 Austin Dillon 496 1
11 Kyle Larson 783 0
12 Ryan Blaney* 755 0
13 Denny Hamlin 738 0
14 Aric Almirola* 681 0
15 Jimmie Johnson 605 0
16 Alex Bowman 586 0
Playoff Cut-Line
17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.* 518 0
18 Ryan Newman 503 0
19 Paul Menard* 493 0
20 Daniel Suarez 487 0

* Ford Fusion Drivers

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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 thelascopress.com with weekly NASCAR updates and featured articles.