Tag Archives: Darlington Raceway

Edwards claims caution-filled Southern 500

Carl Edwards survived a caution-filled night to capture his first career victory at Darlington Raceway.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver started 13th and struggled the first half of the race. A flat tire derailed his rhythm and put him two laps down. Fast pit stops and strong strategic decisions allowed him to gain one of his laps back. He returned to the lead lap after grabbing the free pass. After that, Edwards and his No. 19 crew put their nose to the grindstone to stay in contention.

Edwards fought against Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, and Denny Hamlin within the last 50 laps to secure the monumental victory. The battles produced tight racing and bounds of excitement. In the end, the final pit stop gave the Columbia, Missouri native an advantage, placing him first with eight laps to go. He took off, and the rest is—figuratively and literally—history.

“I feel like my team needs to be sitting up here with me,” Edwards said in the post-win press conference, adding, “They won this race for me tonight.”

The driver—who was a big advocate in the race’s low-downforce rules package—praised the end-result of the event. He stated he wants other drivers to see the enthusiastic racing he saw and push for the same rules to appear in 2016.

“I hope I never forget those last 25 laps. It was really fun,” he said with a laugh.

The weight of the win isn’t lost on the organization, either. Team owner Joe Gibbs said, “I don’t think you could draw up a bigger win for us.”

This is Edwards’ 25th victory in 398 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts and his second in 2015. It also marked Toyota’s 75th Sprint Cup win.

The Bojangles’ Southern 500’s return to Labor Day weekend was built up to the extreme, complete with a throwback motif. Teams and sponsors arranged paint schemes honoring some of the sport’s pioneers. NASCAR on NBC enlisted legends Ken Squier, Ned Jarrett, and Dale Jarrett to call a portion of Sunday night’s broadcast. Drivers wore vintage-style firesuits. The flashback idea wasn’t the only thing that made the crown jewel race worth watching; the use of the rules package and new tires added another element of unpredictability.

That element of the unknown led to eighteen cautions for a total of 89 laps, a race record. The increase in yellow flags led to another issue—lack of tires. Teams were given 12 sets of tires for the race, and it quickly became apparent that wouldn’t be enough. However, NASCAR refused to offer teams extra sets. Tire management was now the name of the game, and many didn’t play it well. That led to more cautions, making the event longer. The Southern 500 ended right before midnight on the East Coast, four hours and 28 minutes after the green flag.

Although the race was long, it was also full of entertainment and historic markers. The Southern 500’s return to Labor Day lived up to the hype and brought a first-time winner along with it.


Crown Jewels: Harvick continues to win, impress competitors

Kevin Harvick wins the 65th annual Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway (Credit: 297377NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick wins the 65th annual Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway (Credit: 297377NASCAR Via Getty Images)

Kevin Harvick doesn’t win poles.

Qualifying has never been his forte. Winning, yes, but logging laps for a starting position wasn’t that big of a big priority.

That’s why sitting on the pole for the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway caused so much (necessary) buzz.

Harvick remained dominant throughout Saturday’s race and won, leading a total of 238 laps. After a horrific weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, the win was nothing short of a boost. His second win of the season, the driver of the No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet was the first driver to win from the pole since Dale Jarrett did it in 1997. The mystic air around Darlington isn’t lost on him, either.

“To come here each year and know you only have one shot to win, it’s pretty phenomenal to be a part of. It’s one of the crown jewel races. I told [Rodney Childers, Harvick’s crew chief] that, if we win one, let’s win Darlington.”

“To be able to celebrate all these wins is more than some get to celebrate in their careers, yet to celebrate them is phenomenal.”

Saturday also marked a comeback for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who also faltered in Texas. He finished second after two hectic restarts. On the first, the race winner gave him a push, yet he knew things wouldn’t be friendly for long.

“We really weren’t a top two car,” Earnhardt Jr. said post-race, “I was pretty sure [Harvick] was going to get around us somehow.”

He also knew that Harvick would be a major factor. “The performance of the 4 car, I saw it coming because I know how good Rodney [Childers, Harvick’s crew chief] is, and I know how good [Harvick] is, and pairing them together, that’s one of the best pairings in the garage.”

Rounding out a Chevy-filled top three was Jimmie Johnson, the reigning champion that has went surprisingly winless in the first eight races. The finish came after falling to 31st early in the race. At that point, crew chief Chad Knaus had “no idea” for a solution.

“Yeah, I’m just happy to finish there in the top three. I thought we had a shot at a win. I think if things stayed green after our last pit stop, we had a good chance at it.”

Harvick’s results during his first year with SHR and Childers have impressed everyone, including his fellow competitors. As the teams head to Richmond International Raceway in two weeks, the drivers are breathing a sigh of relief after dealing with The Lady in Black, a temptress with a new agenda every lap.

Point Standings after the Bojangles’ Southern 500

1. Jeff Gordon (–)
2. Matt Kenseth (-1)
3. Carl Edwards (-19)
4. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-26)
5. Jimmie Johnson (-27)
6. Kyle Busch (-28)
7. Brad Keselowski (-51)
8. Joey Logano (-52)
9. Ryan Newman (-61)
10. Austin Dillon (-62)
11. Greg Biffle (-70)
12. Tony Stewart (-73)
12. Brian Vickers (-73)
14. Kyle Larson (-74)
14. Denny Hamlin (-74)
16. Clint Bowyer (-78)

Fast Facts: Bojangles’ Southern 500

Here is a quick rundown of information to Saturday night’s Bojangles’ Southern 500:

WHAT? The 2014 Bojangles’ Southern 500 is the 65th running of the event. It is considered one of the crown jewel races on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule. The race is scheduled to run 367 laps, which translates to 501.3 miles.

WHERE? The race is taking place at Darlington Raceway, which is located in Florence, South Carolina. The track, which is around 1.36 miles in length, is known for its egg-like shape and turns, which all have different degrees of banking. Nicknames for the track include The Lady in Black and references to it being Too Tough to Tame.

WHEN? TV time for the event begins at 6:30 ET on FOX. You can also catch a radio broadcast on MRN.

WHO? The polesitter for the race is Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet for Stewart Haas Racing. In NASCAR’s knockout qualifying format, he posted a time of 26.802 seconds, going at a speed of 183.479 MPH. It is his seventh pole in 474 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. Harvick has one win so far in 2014, cruising to Victory Lane at Phoenix International Raceway.

NOTABLES? -Joey Logano qualified second for the event, his seventh top-10 start of 2014. He remains the only driver to advance to the final round of knockout qualifying. He won last week’s rain delayed Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
-Aric Almirola posted the fastest lap of the qualifying session in round two, going 184.145 MPH. He ended up third in the final round. His Richard Petty Motorsports teammate, Marcos Ambrose, will start fourth.
-For the first time since the beginning of the season, there is no threat of rain to derail the weekend.

A Force to be Reckoned with: Elliott wins in devious date with Lady in Black

The horn in Dawsonville will be screaming for the second week in a row.

In dramatic fashion, Chase Elliott toyed with Elliott Sadler to secure his second win in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. The win came after the two battled and roughed each other up on the final lap, and it was the perfect ending for an event at Darlington Raceway.

Elliott became the first rookie to win the NNS race at Darlington, making an already-impressive win more astounding. In addition to running with veteran Sadler, the driver of the No. 9 also fending off the likes of Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, and Kevin Harvick.

In the post-race conference, Sadler wasn’t sure if he could’ve held the rookie off. “I got really lose, but he didn’t touch me.” Despite the loss, the veteran’s spirit remained intact.

The duo was set up by a caution with seven laps to go. Sadler gambled, taking two tires on the final stop. By the time the field went green, two laps remained, and the stakes were high.

At eighteen-years-old, Elliott has become the youngest driver in NNS history to win two races. The record was previously held by Joey Logano. This victory comes in his first start at Darlington, and it propels him to the top of the points. He holds court in the NNS standings, thirteen points above Regan Smith.

Kenseth, who finished third, was happy for the young winner. He talked about watching him grow up and likened the feeling to watching the success of his own son, racer Ross Kenseth.

It’s obvious that fans are not the only ones who are impressed. Even owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. was shocked, but in a great way.

“[The No. 9 team] are well put together. [Chase Elliott] came into [Darlington Raceway] unassuming, and he took what he got….Everything he’s doing makes sense.”

The boss also commented on his driver’s progression, saying with a laugh, “We like to think we’re going to keep him, but it looks like he’s ahead of schedule.”

When it came to the race winner himself, things were simple: “I’m not really sure how I did that. [Elliott Sadler] got loose in two, and I got pretty close to him.”

“I haven’t thought about [moving into the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series] at all. I’m focused on what I’m doing now,” he stated, showing his levelheadedness about his position in the sport of racing itself.

Under the lights at Darlington Raceway, Chase Elliott won for the second week in a row, bringing the total to two wins in seven NASCAR Nationwide Series starts. As the horn screamed in Dawsonville, it served as a reminder that the eighteen-year-old is a force to be reckoned with, especially if The Lady in Black is on his side.

Point Standings after the 32nd Annual VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200

1. Chase Elliott (–)
2. Regan Smith (-13)
3. Elliott Sadler (-20)
4. Ty Dillon (-23)
5. Trevor Bayne (-30)
6. Brian Scott (-46)
7. Brendan Gaughan (-56)
8. Dylan Kwasniewski (-71)
9. James Buescher (-76)
10. Ryan Reed (-99)
11. Mike Bliss (-106)
12. Dakoda Armstrong (-111)

Johnson’s history at Darlington may aid in 2014 turn-around

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series seemingly has everything for the fans this year; Dale Earnhardt Jr. has won, seven different faces have visited Victory Lane, and there have been a mirage of storylines to talk about during the week.

One of those talking points? The empty ‘win’ column for a certain six-time champion.

Jimmie Johnson is a collected guy and a reliable driver. You can bet every weekend that he would win the race, and you would have a solid chance at striking gold. His talent is undebatable; six championships, remember?

Despite all this, the No. 48 team has struck nothing but dirt. This borderline-phenomenon has everyone raising their eyebrows, yet the fans are lifting their glasses. It’s easy to see that Johnson’s issues aren’t bothering them.

Someone better tell them that the party may be over soon.

Numbers from the first practice session at Darlington Raceway placed the reigning champion third on the charts, with the second-best 10 consecutive lap average. The pressure to win isn’t being ignored, and it’s only fueling Johnson’s fire.

Although a win can never be guaranteed, it seems to be in his sights. The achievement won’t be reached without a few missteps; Johnson was cruising towards a possible win at Auto Club Speedway when he became the victim of tire issues a few weeks ago, which plagued others as well. Breaking composure, he spoke about his anger with Goodyear and called on them to do something. The outlandish behavior goes along with his season for sure.

Though The Lady in Black is a fickle character, Johnson’s stats at the venue are cause for hope; three wins, eight top 5s, and 11 top 10s show his strengths at Darlington. He also averages an 8.8 finish. This lady has been sweet to him over the years, and that may play in his favor.

Johnson’s slightly slump helps set 2014 apart from seasons past, yet there’s no doubt Darlington Raceway could aid him in turning things around.