The oldest speedway on NASCAR circuit is Darlington Speedway, the site of tonight’s Showtime Southern 500 for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The track measures 1.36 miles and is a difficult track to maneuver. In order to go fast at Darlington, you have to have nerves of steel by riding the top of the track next to the wall. There is not much room to pass on the track as the groove is extremely narrow. In a couple of hours, we will know who tamed the track that is known as “Too Tough to Tame”.
I wrote earlier this week that two drivers need to have good races this week in order to keep championship hopes alive. These two drivers would not be eliminated tonight if they have a poor showing, but they can ill afford to have any further terrible finishes. Those two drivers are Denny Hamlin and Jeff Gordon. Both will start the race toward the front of the field with Hamlin starting third and Gordon starting 5th. Will these two be able to stay towards the front all day will be what to watch for?
Starting on the pole for the race is Kasey Kahne and the second starting position was captured by Ryan Newman. From pre race and discussions this week, it sounds as though the Newman and Juan Pablo Montoya feud is being put in the rearview mirror at this time. Who knows that, and we will see if there are any shenanigans between them tonight.
Pace laps are complete and we get the green flag to get things underway on the Lady in Black! Kahne dives to the bottom and then comes up high into to turn one and clears Newman. Front cars get single file in a hurry. Kahne leads the first lap with Newman just behind him.
Competition caution will be out on lap 40 for lack of practice because of rain yesterday.
Lap 6 and we get the first caution for Mike Skinner spinning at the end of the backstretch. None of the cars at the front of the field hit pit road with just a handful of laps being completed, and the competition being scheduled at lap 40.
Lap 10 and we get the green flag to go back racing. Newman gets the lead off of two from Kahne and Jeff Gordon gets by Hamlin to take over third. The field once again gets back in a single file line throughout the field.
Lap 31 and it looks like the drivers are somewhat happy to just ride around until the competition caution in roughly ten laps. Tony Stewart now up to third and Kyle Busch has made it up to fifth.
Lap 35 and we get a caution flag for J.J. Yeley blowing up an engine. This caution should take the place of the competition caution since we are close to lap 40. Pit crews are on the wall and the lead lap cars should be in. Kahne leads the cars off pit road with Kyle Busch being second.
Lap 42 and we get the green flag with Kahne taking the top side for the restart. Kahne holds the lead off of turn two. Gordon gets clear and remains in third as well. Gordon is already five to 10 car lengths behind. Just seems Gordon has difficulty on the restarts each week.
Cars are riding around on Lap 58. The top five is Kahne, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Stewart, and Hamlin.
Have not mentioned it yet, but a great crowd is on hand for the race at Darlington tonight, at least it look that way on TV. Also, Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there, including my own!
Lap 74 and we get a caution for David Gilliland getting into the wall. This will bring all the drivers to pit road on this break. No free pass on the caution since Gilliland would have been the one. Jamie McMurray wins the race off of pit road with Kahne second.
Lap 79 and it is time to go back to racing with McMurray leading off of turn two. Kyle Busch is stalking McMurray’s bumper into four.
Lap 84 and we get caution for Jimmie Johnson going for spin on the backstretch. JPM gets the credit for starting for the wreck and Jeff Gordon goes by with a great move to avoid the wreck. Some cars toward the back of the pack hit pit road for service. Johnson is a taker on pit road for new rubber and a check for damage. There is minimal damage to Johnson on the back end of the car.
Lap 89 and the green flag is back out with Kahne getting the lead off of turn two. Brian Vickers has a moment and bottles up the field midway through the pack.
Lap 100 and the top five is Kahne, Busch, Edwards, Kevin Harvick, and McMurray. McMurray’s team is reporting that the track bar cannot be adjusted up.
Lap 117 and the Edwards gets the lead from Kahne.
Lap 123 and caution is on the speedway for debris on the track. Cars were getting somewhat close to pit stops, so everyone will be in for tires and fuel. Paul Menard spins on pit road trying to get to his stall. Kyle Busch wins the race off with Edwards second. Menard just lost the car and spun into his stall. The car was in the stall legally, and the pit stop was completed. Menard was last off pit road.
Lap 128 and we get a green condition back o the track. Busch leads off of turn two. Gordon bunches everyone up off of turn two with another terrible restart by the 24.
Lap 140 and the top five is Kyle Busch, Edwards, Kahne, Stewart, and Harvick. Busch is currently running the fastest laps on the track.
For the Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans out there, JR. is in the top ten now. Not much has been mentioned about him on Fox so far, but he is having a good quiet run so far tonight.
Lap 152 and we get the yearly talk from Darrell Waltrip that wood use to be put in the doors of the car when they went to Darlington.
Lap 175 and green flag pit stops have begun. Greg Biffle is in and Johnson is in as well. A whole slew of cars now hit pit road for stops. Lap 177 and the leader Kyle Busch hits pit road. Martin Truex Jr. spins his car trying to get to pit road, misses the road, and goes back around. No caution for the spin.
Half Way Stats:
Leaders: 9 for 11 Lead Changes
Laps Led: Kyle Busch 57 Laps Led
Cautions: 5 for 21 Laps
Average Speed: 131.923 MPH
Lead Lap Cars: 20
Green flag stops cycled and Kyle Busch continues to lead.
Lap 200 and the top five is Busch, Edwards, Harvick, Kahne, and Clint Bowyer.
Lap 205 and Kyle Busch is in for a rear tire problem. Busch had been in 25 laps prior. Edwards takes over the lead with Busch having the problem and hitting pit road.
Lap 220 and Johnson spins the car and we get a caution flag. Leaders will be in for fuel and tires on this caution. Edwards leads them off of pit road with Kahne coming off second. There is a new look and feel to this race now with that caution.
Lap 225 and we get the green flag and Edwards rockets out to the lead. Jeff Gordon finally appears to have gotten a good restart. Kurt Busch now spins all by himself in turn three and four, but gathers it and is back running.
Lap 229 and we get a caution for a wreck that includes Brian Vickers. Vickers got into David Ragan and had the entire sheet metal and foam ripped out of the driver’s side door. It is an amazing piece of video. Twitter is saying that the window net got dropped on the wreck as well. I could not tell though.
Lap 235 and the foam is cleaned up and we are back racing. Harvick is leading into three and four. Top five is Harvick, Kahne, Edwards, Gordon, and Stewart.
Lap 238 and Joey Logano now wrecks on the front stretch bringing out the caution. Kyle Busch is the lucky dog. Logano has some damage on the front of the car and will have to go to the garage. Logano slid up into Marcos Ambrose and lost the car and found the wall. No one did anything wrong there, just a loose car for Logano by appearance. Leaders did not go down pit road on this caution.
Lap 243 and we go back to green with Harvick retaining the lead out of two. Jeff Gordon is able to outrun Edwards out of four and maintains the third spot.
Lap 252 and the top five is Harvick, Kahne, Jeff Gordon, Edwards, and Stewart.
Lap 279 and caution is out for debris from Mark Martin’s car. Tony Stewart gets a bad break as he had just pitted on schedule. Lead lap cars hit pit road for tires and fuel. Kahne leads them off pit road with Harvick second. Gordon drug his gasman across the pit box, but he stayed in the box so no penalty.
Lap 284 and we go back racing. Kahne and Harvick battle through four with Kahne leading the lap. Edwards is stalking both of them from behind. Jeff Gordon is about five car lengths behind the top three. Casey Mears now has a problem with having his door ripped open as well. No caution and we soldier on.
Lap 300 and the top five is Kahne, Harvick, Edwards, Gordon, and Hamlin.
With 45 laps to go, Ambrose starts the green flag cycle. Jeff Gordon has brushed the wall recently as well. Bobby Labonte hits pit road for his final stop of the race.
With 33 laps to go, the green flag stops have cycled through with the exception of Tony Stewart. Stewart is leading, but is going to have to stop.
Junior was penalized for a commitment cone violation on the green flag stops.
With 28 to laps to, Stewart makes his stop as Edwards now takes the lead over Kahne. It looks like it is going to be a close finish.
With 15 to go, the top five is Edwards, Kahne, Harvick, Newman, and Hamlin.
With 10 to go we get a caution for Jeff Burton blowing up the engine. How many will pit is the question? Looks like they all hit pit road. Edwards win the race off. Three cars stayed on the track during the caution period. It is going to be an interesting finish.
There are five laps to go and the green flag is back out with Regan Smith leading the field into one. With four to go the caution comes out as Harvick and Bowyer are involved in incidents. Bowyer gets the worst of it as he has destroyed the front end.
Green white checker finish now. Regan Smith is still leading the race. Green flag is out for the first attempt and Smith gets the lead off of two. Edwards is now second and trying to catch Smith. Smith gets his first Sprint Cup Series win as there is also a wreck on the last lap. Not sure who wrecked, but what a win for Regan Smith!
The top five at the finish is Smith, Edwards, Brad Keselowski, Kahne, and Newman.
After the race is over on pit road, Harvick stopped in front of Kyle Busch. Harvick got out of the car and Busch pushed Harvick’s car out of the way as Harvick swung a punch into the Busch’s window. Both drivers have had their presence requested in the NASCAR hauler.
Final Race Stats:
Leaders: 12 for 21 Lead Changes
Most Laps Led: Kasey Kahne 124 Laps
Cautions: 11 for 46 Laps
Average Speed: 129.672 MPH
Lead Lap Cars: 18
Time of the Race: 3:57:52