Erik Jones Wins at Darlington Raceway, Clinches Playoff Spot

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Darlington Raceway, Darlington, SC — September 1, 2019

NASCAR’s throwback weekend at Darlington Raceway is a fan favorite. The night race on the circuit’s oldest track is a sellout this year and everyone is watching the countdown to the playoffs. A number of drivers can clinch a spot in the post-season depending on the outcome of tonight’s race.

William Byron(24) won the pole in his “Day’s of Thunder” throwback paint job. Last year’s winner, Brad Keselowski(2) will start beside him on the front row. Stages of 100/100/137 make up 367 laps and 500 grueling miles around the “Lady in Black.”

William Byron driving the colors of Cole Trickle from the movie Days of Thunder, Photo Credit: Sean Gardner / Getty Images

Saturday at the Track

Denny Hamlin won the NASCAR Xfinity Race at Darlington yesterday, only to have the victory taken away when his car failed post-race inspection and Cole Custer was awarded the win. Hamlin starts ninth in tonight’s race.

Kyle Busch’s(18) team had to change the engine in his car, sending the regular-season points leader to the rear of the field at the start. Aric Almirola(10) also will report to the rear after an incident in practice forced him to roll out the back-up car.

Throwback paint schemes on almost all the cars thrilled the fans. Bubba Wallace(43) sported a tribute to team owner Richard Petty’s late grandson Adam Petty. The Skittles colors on the #43 appeared courtesy of Kyle Petty’s Victory Junction Children’s Camp. The look was voted “Best in Show” by the fans.

Bubba Wallace in the Adam Petty Throwback Paint Scheme, Photo Credit: Sean Gardner / Getty Images

Weather 

Mother Nature threw a wrench in the works with a rain shower soaking the track at the originally scheduled start time of 6:15 pm. The race started almost five hours late at just before 10 pm, it’s going to be a finish in the early hours of Labor Day on Monday.

Late Start of the Bojangles 500 at Darlington Raceway before a sellout crowd, Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images

The Start

Byron drove into Turn 1 with the lead. But Brad Keselowski(2), with a push from Kurt Busch(1), drove around the outside of Turns 3 & 4 to lead lap one. Building a five-car length lead early.

Brad Keselowski in the Rusty Wallace Throwback Colors for Miller Beer, Photo Credit: Sean Gardner / Getty Images

Stage 1

Kurt Busch passed Byron and began to shrink the deficit to Keselowski. On Lap 20, Busch took the lead and began to lap cars at the rear of the field.

NASCAR scheduled a competition caution at lap 35 to allow teams to pit and change tires after the rain washed the track clean. Kurt Busch won the race off pit road. Followed by Byron, Kyle Larson(42), Keselowski, and Jimmie Johnson(48). Johnson needs a strong run and also needs to pick up as many Stage points as possible. He entered tonight’s race 18th in points, 26 behind the final playoff spot.

Jimmie Johnson with a paint job reminiscent of his off-road racing days, Photo Credit: Sean Gardner / Getty Images

On Lap 67, Garrett Smithly(54) spun and brought out the second caution of the evening. Again everyone headed to pit road for service. This time Chase Elliott exited pit road in the lead. He fought Kurt Busch side-by-side for three laps to establish the lead. But Busch fought back to capture the top spot with a push from Johnson who followed him into 2nd place.

Kurt Busch held on for the Stage win with Johnson getting nine points for finishing 2nd. Kyle Busch fought his way into 4th after starting at the rear.

Kurt Busch in a paint scheme inspired by his personal 1969 Camaro, Photo Credit: Sean Gardner / Getty Images

Stage 1 Results

Car Driver Stage Points
1 Kurt Busch 10
48 Jimmie Johnson 9
42 Kyle Larson 8
18 Kyle Busch 7
11 Denny Hamlin 6
9 Chase Elliott 5
2 Brad Keselowski* 4
22 Joey Logano* 3
19 Martin Truex Jr. 2
20 Erik Jones 1

* Ford Mustang Drivers

Stage 2

Larson, first off pit road grabbed the lead to restart the race in Stage 2. He was followed by Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Johnson, and Elliott. With a great jump at the drop of the green flag, Larson rocketed off into Turn 1 and easily pulled away from Kurt Busch who had led 75 of the first 100 laps.

Kyle Larson’s car resembles Ricky Craven’s Kodiak scheme from 1995 when he was the Rookie of the Year in the Cup Series, Photo Credit: Sean Gardner / Getty Images

On Lap 140 Daniel Suarez(19) got into the left rear quarter-panel of Ryan Newman(6) running through Turns 1 & 2. The contact spun Newman bringing out the caution. Both cars are fighting for points on the playoff bubble.

The race off pit road went to Kurt Busch with his brother Kyle following in 2nd. Larson had trouble with the left front tire on his stop and went from 1st to 13th as a result of the issue.

Mid Stage

The leaders settled into position in the race to the Stage ending checkered flag. Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Johnson, Denny Hamlin(11), and Martin Truex Jr.(19) comprised the top 5 when Corey Lajoie(32) spun with a rear tire down. Clint Bowyer(14), another driver on the playoff bubble, sat in 6th.

Drivers battled for every position around the raceway with points so important to the playoff picture there was little give and take. Joey Logano(22) cut down a tire and lost two laps getting to pit road, then having all four tires changed. Contact with Erik Jones(20) may have caused the damage to Logano’s tire.

Joey Logano’s Ford Mustang features a paint scheme that Kevin Harvick took to Victory Lane in the 2007 Daytona 500.

Logano’s Ford Mustang bore the colors of Kevin Harvick’s winning car in the 2007 Daytona 500. Logano created a bit of a row with Harvick when he stated that Harvick’s wife DeLana “wears the firesuit in the family and tells him what to do.” In a cute paradoy Logano and his wife Brittany filmed a video introducing the paint scheme, with Brittany in a firesuit.

As the race settled into a grove, Kyle Busch led Bowyer. Followed by Kurt Busch, Johnson, Hamlin, and Erik Jones from Byron, Michigan. BJ McLeod(51) scrapped the wall and brought out a caution with 3 laps to go in the Stage, freezing the field with Kyle Busch in front. The closing laps featured some hot battles for Stage points. Bowyer and Johnson fighting for 6th place with Bowyer coming out with the extra point over Johnson.

Kyle Busch’s Snickers paint job remembers Bobby Hillin Jr.s No. 8 Snickers scheme from 1990, Photo Credit: Sean Gardner / Getty Images

Stage 2 Results

Car Driver Stage Points
18 Kyle Busch 10
1 Kurt Busch 9
11 Denny Hamlin 8
20 Erik Jones 7
42 Kyle Larson 6
14 Clint Bowyer* 5
48 Jimmie Johnson 4
24 William Byron 3
2 Brad Keselowski* 2
4 Kevin Harvick* 1

* Ford Mustang Drivers

The Final Stage

Kyle Busch held the lead off pit road for the Final Stage restart. As the race went back to green Kyle had teammates Jones and Hamlin in his rearview mirror. Larson and Johnson rounded out the Top 5.

Green flag pit stops began at Lap 250. When everyone cycled through the pits, Kyle Busch remained the leader with Jones still running with him in 2nd.

The caution flew again on Lap 274 when Daniel Hemric(8) blew a tire coming off Turn 4. He was unable to control his car and spun on the front stretch collecting a number of good race cars. Kurt Busch, Hamlin, Byron, and Johnson all picked up minor damage. Michael McDowell(34) got the worst of the incident, hitting Hemric and bouncing off the wall destroying his race car.

The race restarted with 86 laps to go and Erik Jones in the lead and Larson sitting beside him on the front row. The pair swapped the lead twice as Jones finally came out on top. One more pit stop will be required to finish the distance, it will likely determine the outcome of the race.

Erik Jones in a paint scheme that he used as a 14-year-old when he won his 1st stock car race, Photo Credit: Sean Gardner / Getty Images

Larson moved to Jones bumper and made a couple of attempts to pass for the lead. Jones held him off and finally built a half-second cushion on 2nd place.

Final Pit Stops

Green flag pit stops began with 48 laps to go. Jones, Larson, and Kyle Busch all stopped with 46 laps to go. Jones returned to the track with the lead over his pursuers, Kyle Busch replaced Larson in 2nd.

Jones maintained a slight advantage over Kyle Busch as the laps wound down. Busch closed the gap with 10 laps to go and pulled to within a car length twice, putting the pressure on the young driver. But it was the veteran that made the mistake, pushing too hard Busch hit the wall twice in the closing laps. Ultimately, yielding 2nd to Larson.

Kyle Busch cut down a tire with his wall contact and had to finish the final lap and a half with his car in contact with the wall to keep it from spinning out. He finished in 3rd.

Jones Wins a Crown Jewel of NASCAR

Jones’ win locked up a playoff spot and may have assured he will return to the Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) team in 2020. A loan to another team was rumored when it was announced Christopher Bell, another JGR driver, would move to the Cup Series next year.

Erik Jones celebrated his victory in the Bojangles 500 at Darlington Raceway / Photo Credit: nascar.com

Jones has now won at two of the NASCAR’s most prestigious tracks, Daytona and Darlington. All four JGR drivers have now qualified for the playoffs with a win in 2019. Any of the four could be considered a favorite to make a run to the Championship final in Homestead.

The race concluded just before 2 am in the morning. During his finish line interview with NBC Sports Jones invited the crowd to stay up with him all night. “No Way I’m going to bed tonight.” The post-race victory lane celebration and media interviews typically run for two or more hours after the race.

Playoff Implications

Fourteen drivers have clinched playoff spots, leaving only two positions open. Should a surprise winner outside the Top 16 capture the Brickyard only one more driver will clinch on points.

Clint Bowyer moved from 2 points out to 8 points above the cut line. Daniel Suarez and Ryan Newman are tied for the last playoff spot. Jimmie Johnson cut his deficit from 26 points out to 18. The battle to make the postseason will come down to these four drivers.

Rank Driver Points To Cut Line Race Wins Stage Wins Playoff Points
1 Kyle Busch 983 In 4 10 30
2 Joey Logano 919 In 2 7 17
3 Denny Hamlin 877 In 4 3 23
4 Kevin Harvick 864 In 2 4 14
5 Martin Truex Jr. 862 In 4 3 23
6 Brad Keselowski 832 In 3 4 19
7 Kurt Busch 790 In 1 3 8
8 Chase Elliott 780 In 2 4 14
9 Kyle Larson 714 In 0 4 4
10 Ryan Blaney 710 In 0 2 2
11 Alex Bowman 694 In 1 0 5
12 Erik Jones 694 In 1 0 5
13 William Byron 683 In 0 1 1
14 Aric Almirola 674 In 0 1 1
15 Clint Bowyer 625 +8 0 0 0
16 Daniel Suarez 617 0 0 0 0
17 Ryan Newman 617 0 0 0 0
18 Jimmie Johnson 599 -18 0 1 1
19 Paul Menard 548 -69 0 0 0
20 Chris Buescher 531 -76 0 0 0

 

 

 

Results of the Bojangles’ Southern 500 from Darlington Raceway

Position Car Driver Behind Laps
1 20 Erik Jones 367
2 42 Kyle Larson 4.058 367
3 18 Kyle Busch 17.168 367
4 4 Kevin Harvick 19.778 367
5 2 Brad Keselowski 22.999 367
6 14 Clint Bowyer 23.160 367
7 1 Kurt Busch 23.605 367
8 95 Matt DiBenedetto 23.940 367
9 21 Paul Menard 25.180 367
10 3 Austin Dillon 27.556 367
11 41 Daniel Suarez 29.773 367
12 37 Chris Buescher 30.039 367
13 12 Ryan Blaney -1 366
14 22 Joey Logano -1 366
15 19 Martin Truex Jr. -1 366
16 48 Jimmie Johnson -1 366
17 10 Aric Almirola -1 366
18 88 Alex Bowman -2 365
19 9 Chase Elliott -2 365
20 13 Ty Dillon -2 365
21 24 William Byron -2 365
22 47 Ryan Preece # -2 365
23 6 Ryan Newman -2 365
24 43 Bubba Wallace -2 365
25 0 Landon Cassill -3 364
26 38 David Ragan -4 363
27 36 Matt Tifft -5 362
28 15 Ross Chastain -6 361
29 11 Denny Hamlin -11 356
30 77 Reed Sorenson -12 355
31 27 Joe Nemechek -13 354
32 52 JJ Yeley -15 352
33 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -16 351
34 66 Joey Gase -18 349
35 54 Garrett Smithley -23 344
36 32 Corey LaJoie -37 330
37 8 Daniel Hemric -93 274
38 34 Michael McDowell -93 274
39 51 BJ McLeod -173 194