Darlington Raceway, Darlington, SC — May 20, 2020
Wednesday night’s Cup Series race at Darlington Raceway featured a number of unique storylines. It was the first time in NASCAR history that a Cup race was run back to back other than qualifying and special events at the same track. A doubleheader is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, June 27-28 at Pocono Raceway. It remains to be seen if that schedule will need to be adjusted given the COVID-19 pandemic.
Returning to Darlington Raceway three days after Sunday’s Real Heros 400 gave drivers a chance to have another go at the “track too tough to tame.” The race featured a twist with the top 20 cars from Sunday being inverted at the start. So, winner Kevin Harvick started in the 20th position. Ryan Preece, who made a last-lap pass to finish 20th Sunday starts on the pole with Ty Dillon also on the front row.
The start time had been moved up until 6 pm in an attempt to avoid showers forecast for the evening. Mother nature had different plans as the rain was falling when Fox Sports broadcast started. Showers ended shortly and track drying efforts finished up about the originally scheduled start time of 8 pm.
Joey Logano, starting in third, moved to the front early and led laps 9-27. The fastest car on the track belonged to Clint Bowyer, Harvick’s teammate. Bowyer led from Lap 31 to the end of the Stage in a non-eventful opening to the race.
Stage 1 Results
19-MARTIN TRUEX JR
The 2nd Stage was more of the same as it looked like Bowyer would run away and hide from the field. The only thing that changed was the quality of the competition that moved to the front of the pack.
Stage 2 Results
19-MARTIN TRUEX JR
The Final Stage
A long green-flag run in the Final Stage helped sort out the to cars at the front of the lead pack. Erik Jones, last year’s Darlington Southern 500 winner, took the lead for a few laps. However, Bowyer kept returning to the front.
Late in the race, Bowyer had given up the lead with the handle on his car going away. With 34 laps to go, he hit the outside retaining wall and ended his chances at a sweep of all three Stages.
When the yellow flag displayed for Bowyer’s incident, Denny Hamlin remained on the track while most of the other lead cars pitted. The clean air proved to be the ideal formula for Hamlin as he led the remainder of the laps.
As the race neared its conclusion Hamlin, Chase Elliott, Kevin Harvick, and Kyle Busch were shuffling for the lead. Busch was the man on the move making a late charge. While trying to pass on the low side, Kyle tried to squeeze in between Sunday’s winner and Elliott. Driving up the track he caught the left rear of Elliott’s car spinning him into the wall separating pit road from the track.
Elliott did not report immediately to the safety vehicle for his mandatory trip to the infield care center. Staying trackside until the cars passed under the caution, Elliott gave Busch the single-digit salute showing his displeasure with being taken out of 2nd position with just a few laps left in the race. The green never came back out as rain began to fall and NASCAR called the race with 20 laps to go.
Alan Gustafson, Elliott’s crew chief, waited until Kyle Busch exited his vehicle and the two carried on an animated conversation. Busch claimed it was purely accidental, that he misjudged the gap while trying to grab the position between the two cars. The irony of the situation? Gustafson used to be Busch’s crew chief. Elliott finished 38th.
Hamlin celebrated by pulling on a face mask that pictured the covered portion of his face with a huge smile. His second victory of the year, after his season-opening Daytona 500 win.
Results of the Darlington Raceway Midweek Doubleheader
|10||19||Martin Truex Jr.||208|
|11||95||Christopher Bell #||208|
|13||8||Tyler Reddick #||208|
|25||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||207|
|26||0||Quin Houff #||207|
|31||41||Cole Custer #||206|
|34||53||Garrett Smithley #||204|
|35||38||John H. Nemechek #||202|
|37||15||Brennan Poole #||201|