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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Stage 1 Results
|19||Martin Truex Jr.||2|
* Ford Mustang Drivers
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.
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.
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.
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.
— Shell Racing US (@shellracingus) August 27, 2019
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.
Stage 2 Results
* 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.
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.
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.
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|
|5||Martin Truex Jr.||862||In||4||3||23|
Results of the Bojangles’ Southern 500 from Darlington Raceway
|15||19||Martin Truex Jr.||-1||366|
|22||47||Ryan Preece #||-2||365|
|33||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||-16||351|