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

CarDriverStage Points
42Larson10
20Jones9
78Truex Jr.8
22Logano*7
2Keselowski*6
4Harvick*5
11Hamlin4
41Kurt Busch*3
18Kyle Busch2
9Elliott1

* 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

CarDriverStage Points
42Larson10
2Keselowski*9
22Logano*8
9Elliott7
20Jones6
42Kurt Busch*5
31Newman4
18Kyle Busch3
1McMurray2
4Harvick*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

PositionCarDriverBehindLaps
12Brad Keselowski367
222Joey Logano1.224367
342Kyle Larson3.761367
44Kevin Harvick4.058367
59Chase Elliott4.614367
641Kurt Busch6.498367
718Kyle Busch6.730367
820Erik Jones6.966367
91Jamie McMurray8.849367
1011Denny Hamlin8.865367
1178Martin Truex Jr.9.185367
1217Ricky Stenhouse Jr.20.689367
1337Chris Buescher23.641367
1410Aric Almirola24.982367
1512Ryan Blaney25.144367
163Austin Dillon31.830367
1721Paul Menard-1366
1838David Ragan-1366
1931Ryan Newman-1366
2034Michael McDowell-2365
2113Ty Dillon-2365
2247AJ Allmendinger-2365
2388Alex Bowman-2365
2495Kasey Kahne-3364
256Matt Kenseth-3364
2643Bubba Wallace-4363
2772Corey LaJoie-7360
2815Ross Chastain-7360
2919Daniel Suarez-9358
300Landon Cassill-10357
3152JJ Yeley-17350
3251BJ McLeod-20347
3399Derrike Cope-21346
3496Jeffrey Earnhardt-23344
3524William Byron-38329
3614Clint Bowyer-58309
3766Timmy Hill-99268
3832Matt DiBenedetto-113254
3948Jimmie Johnson-140227
4023Joey Gase-247120

Points/Playoff Standings

RankDriverPointsWins
1Kevin Harvick*9997
2Kyle Busch10386
3Martin Truex Jr.8834
4Clint Bowyer*7772
5Kurt Busch*8351
6Joey Logano*8181
7Brad Keselowski*7851
8Chase Elliott7371
9Erik Jones6791
10Austin Dillon4961
11Kyle Larson7830
12Ryan Blaney*7550
13Denny Hamlin7380
14Aric Almirola*6810
15Jimmie Johnson6050
16Alex Bowman5860
Playoff Cut-Line
17Ricky Stenhouse Jr.*5180
18Ryan Newman5030
19Paul Menard*4930
20Daniel Suarez4870

* 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.