Rough Night for Playoff Drivers with 17th Winner

NASCAR Cup Series

It’s a big weekend for the Cup Series drivers as the Playoffs begin and the drivers try to avoid the infamous “Darlington stripe” in the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

Darlington Raceway is one of the oldest tracks on the NASCAR circuit; holding its first race in 1950.  In that first race the drivers were running speeds of just 73mph; today they are running speeds of 173mph.  The track is also known as “The Lady in Black” and “the track too tough to tame”.

During the pre-race inspection process the number 99 Trackhouse Racing car driven by Daniel Suarez had some inspection issues and failed the process three times.  As a result the playoff driver was not able to make a qualifying run and will have to serve a pass through penalty – a drive down pit road at pit road speed – once the green flag drops.  The number 99 crew has also lost their pit box selection and will lose a crew member for the weekend.  Not being able to qualify for the race, Suarez will start the race from the back of the field.

BJ McLeod’s number 78 car also failed the inspection process twice and has lost a crew member and his pit stall selection but will get to qualify the car and start the race where he qualified.

Brad Keselowski was the first driver on the track to qualify for the race and posted a time of 29.660 seconds around the 1,3 mile track.

After Group A completed their qualifying run; Joey Logano, Kyle Larson, Bubba Wallace, Austin Cindric, and Ryan Blaney will move on to round two of qualifying.

And in Group B; Christopher Bell, William Byron, Kyle Busch, Michael McDowell, and Tyler Reddick will move on to round two of qualifying.

Posting a time of 29.181 seconds, Joey Logano put his number 22 car on the pole with Christopher Bell starting alongside on the front row.

The starting lineup for the Southern 500:
Joey Logano
Christopher Bell
William Byron
Tyler Reddick
Kyle Busch
Austin Cindric
Kyle Larson
Bubba Wallace
Ryan Blaney
Michael McDowell
Denny Hamlin
Ross Chastain
Austin Dillon
Justin Haley
Erik Jones
Alex Bowman
Martin Truex Jr
Kevin Harvick
Chase Briscoe
Ricky Stenhouse Jr
Ty Gibbs
Aric Almirola
Chase Elliott
Daniel Hemric
Brad Keselowski
Landon Cassill
Chris Buescher
Harrison Burton
Ty Dillon
Cole Custer
Todd Gilliland
Cody Ware
JJ Yeley
Corey LaJoie
BJ McLeod
Daniel Suarez
*Gold signifies a playoff driver

Stages one and two are 115 laps each with stage three lasting 137 for a total of 367 laps around the l.3 mile track.  Drivers can go 70 to 75 laps on a single load of fuel but it is the tires that are more important since the abrasive Darlington track is very tough on tires.

NASCAR has called for a competition caution on lap 25 after some rain earlier in the day.

Joey Logano brings the field down for the green flag start of the race from the outside lane before a sell out crowd to kick off the playoffs.  Christopher Bell goes side by side with Logano in a battle for the lead.

Daniel Suarez comes down pit road for his pass through penalty.  He is now a lap down.

Lap three, Joey Logano finally gets out in front for the lead with Christopher Bell in second; William Byron, Tyler Reddick, and Kyle Busch round out the top five.

The caution flag comes out on lap six for rain.  Daniel Suarez gets his lap back and is now on the lead lap.

After a back qualifying run that put him back in the pack; Chase Elliott has lost five spots since the race start.

Kevin Harvick is reporting that the cooling system in his helmet is not working properly.

Lap eleven, pit road is open but few drivers take advantage.


With only a light rain, the cars are still on the track and making laps under the caution flag.

Joey Logano brings the field down for the green flag restart on lap 17 and once again goes side by side with Christopher Bell before getting out in front for the lead.

NASCAR has moved the competition caution to lap 35.

Lap 18, the top five are Joey Logano, Christopher Bell, William Byron, Kyle Busch, and Tyler Reddick.

Lap 20, Joey Logano has a near half second lead on Christopher Bell; William Byron, Kyle Busch, and Tyler Reddick round out the top five with Bubba Wallace in sixth.  While Wallace failed to make the playoffs as a driver, 23XI Racing has switched the drivers; putting Wallace in the 45 car to give the team a better chance to win the owner’s championship.

Lap 23, Joey Logano has increased his lead to over half a second on Christopher Bell; William Byron, Kyle Busch, and Tyler Reddick round out the top five.  Daniel Suarez is up the 30th place after getting back on the lead lap.

Austin Dillon is another driver who is going the wrong way and is falling back in the field.

Lap 28 Joey Logano has a lead of over half a second on Christopher Bell; William, Kyle Busch, and Tyler Reddick round out the top five.

Driving a very tight car, Austin Dillon reports that his car is like dog poop.

Chase Briscoe also reports a very tight car and has lost several spots in the field.

Lap 34, Joey Loagno continues to hold a three quarter of a second lead on Christopher Bell; William Byron, Kyle Busch, and Tyler Reddick round out the top five.

Kyle Busch battles with William Byron for third; so far, Byron has held him off.

The yellow flag comes out on lap 36 for the competition caution.

Drivers come down pit road for service; especially fresh tires.  Joey Logano barely edges out William Byron for the race off of pit road.

Kevin Harvick had a slow pit stop after a left front tire issue.

Joey Logano brings the field down for the green flag restart with William Byron on the inside.  Logano gets out in front going into turn one with William Byron in second; Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick, and Bubba Wallace round out the top five.

Lap 42, Joey Logano has pulled out to a lead of nearly a second on William Byron; Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick, and Bubba Wallace round out the top five.  Kyle Busch restarted the race in ninth place and has moved up to seventh.

Lap 46, Joey Logano has a lead of over a second on William Byron; Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick, and Bubba Wallace round out the top five.

Lap 50, Joey Logano’s lead on William Byron is down to just under a second; Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick, and Bubba Wallace round out the top five.

In 31st place, Chase Briscoe is the lowest placing driver in the playoffs.

Lap 59. Joey Logano has a one second lead on William Byron; Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick, and Deny Hamlin round out the top five with Kyle Busch in sixth and Bubba Wallace in seventh.

Kyle Larson reports no front or rear grip in his car.

Chase Elliott is slowly working his way up in the field.

Lap 64, Denny Hamlin passes Tyler Reddick for fourth.

Kyle Busch passes Tyler Reddick for fifth.

Lap 65, William Byron is closing the gap on leader Joey Logano and is now just a tenth of a second back.

Lap 66, William Byron passes Joey Logano for the lead as the leaders approach slower traffic.  All of the cars are on the lead lap with several in danger of going a lap down.

Lap 74, drivers begin making green flag pit stops.  Kyle Busch reports that he has no rear grip.

Lap 75, William Byron makes his green flag pit stop and gives the lead over to Bubba Wallace.

Joey Logano’s crew had a tire issue on pit road; causing a slow stop.

Lap 76, Bubba Wallace makes his green flag pit stop; William Byron retakes the lead with Kyle Busch in second.

Lap 77, the top five are William Byron, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Christopher Bell, and Martin Truex Jr with 31 cars on the lead lap.

Kyle Larson has no power and makes an unscheduled trip down pit road. 

Erik Jones gets loose  and moves up the track but saves the car; barely missing Ryan Blaney.

Kyle Larson is moving again; the crew reports that they will run it while they can.

Lap 83, William Byron has a lead of over half a second on Kyle Busch; Denny Hamlin, Christopher Bell and Martin Truex Jr round out the top five.

Now three laps down, Kyle Larson is seven points below the cut line.

Lap 91, William Byron has a one second lead on Kyle Busch; Denny Hamlin, Christopher Bell, and Ross Chastain round out the top five.

Kyle Larson’s crew reports that at the moment, there is no sign of an issue with the engine.

Lap 95, Kyle Busch is slowly eating into, William Byron’s lead; he is now just over half a second back.

Lap 99, William Byron’s lead is now just a third of a second on Kyle Busch; Denny Hamlin, Christopher Bell, and Ross Chastain round out the top five.

Lap 103, Martin Truex Jr passes Ross Chastain for fifth.

Lap 106, William Byron has pulled out to a lead of nearly two seconds on Kyle Busch with Denny Hamlin, Christopher Bell, and Martin Truex Jr rounding out the top five.

Teammates Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano make contact in a battle for position but the cars are fine and the track stays green.

Ty Gibbs is the last car on the lead lap in 21st place.

Lap 111 William Byron passes Ty Gibbs to put him one lap down; Daniel Suarez in 20th place is the last car on the lead lap.

The caution flag comes out with just two laps remaining in stage one when Chase Elliott and Chase Briscoe get into a crash that sees Elliott backing into the wall.

Last week NASCAR expanded the “crash clock” to 10 minutes so that the teams have a little more time to make repairs to the cars.

William Byron wins stage one for his fourth stage win of the season under caution. 

The top 10 at the end of stage one:
William Byron
Denny Hamlin
Kyle Busch
Christopher Bell
Martin Truex Jr
Ross Chastain
Tyler Reddick
Erik Jones
Ryan Blaney
Bubba Wallace

Drives come down pit road for service with Kyle Busch winning the race off of pit road with Denny Hamlin in second.

Making a return to the broadcast booth are an Earnhardt, a Jarrett, and a Petty with Dale Earnhardt Jr, Dale Jarrett, and Kyle Petty calling the race for stage two.

Kyle Busch brings the field down for the green flag start of stage two from the outside lane on lap 122,  Busch gets out in front for the lead with Denny Hamlin in second; William Byron, Ross Chastain, and Erik Jones round out the top five.

The ”crash clock” has expired on Chase Elliott’s car and he is out of the race.

Lap 125, Kyle Busch has a half second lead on Denny Hamlin; William Byron, Ross Chastain, and Erik Jones round out the top 10.

Lap 128, there are only 20 cars on the lead lap.

Lap 131, after having to start the race from the back of the field, serving a pass through penalty, and going a lap down Daniel Suarez is back on the lead lap and in 15th place.

Lap 133, Kyle Busch as a lead of over half a second on Denny Hamlin; William Byron, Ross Chastain, and Erik Jones round out the top five.  Driving to keep the number 45 car in the owner’s championship, Bubba Wallace is in the top 10 in eighth place.

Lap 140, Kyle Busch continues to lead the race with Denny Hamlin a half a second back;  William Byron, Ross Chastain, and Erik Jones round out the top five.

William Byron is reporting some “strange noises” in his car; adding that it is loud inside the car.

Lap 143, Ross Chastain passes William Byron for third.

Lap 147, the lights have taken full effect on the track with Kyle Busch leading the race with Denny Hamlin in second.

Lap 150, Kyle Busch leads the race with teammate Denny Hamlin right behind him; Ross Chastain, William Byron, and Martin Truex Jr round out the top five.

Lap 151, Daniel Suarez is the first driver to come down pit road for a green flag pit stop.

Lap 153, leader Kyle Busch comes down pit road for his green flag pit stop; handing the lead over to Denny Hamlin.

Lap 155, Denny Hamlin makes his pit stop as several more drivers come down for service; Bubba Wallace is the new leader.

Leader Bubba Wallace makes his green flag pit stop and gives the lead over to Brad Keselowski.

Lap 160, Ross Chastain had to make a second trip down pit road for a potential loose wheel; it was not the case and he continues to have an issue with his car.

Kyle Larson reports continued issues with his car.

Lap 165, Brad Keselowski has yet to make his green flag pit stop and is losing time quicky to Kyle Busch who is on fresher tires.

There are only 18 cars on the lead lap.

Lap 169, Brad Keselowski has finally made his pit stop and Kyle Busch has retaken the lead.

Ross Chastain brings his car down pit road so the crew can attempt to find the issue with his car.  Chastain is the third playoff driver to have an issue with his car.

Lap 171, Kyle Busch has a lead of over a second and a half on Denny Hamlin; Martin Truex Jr, William Byron, and Christopher Bell rund out the top five.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr slaps the wall hard but the track stays green.

Alex Bowman is the last car on the lead lap in 17th place.

Lap 175, Kyle Busch ahs a lead of a second and a half on Denny Hamlin; Martin Truex Jr William Byron, and Christopher Bell round out the top five.

The number one crew reports that the issue with the car has been repaired and driver Ross Chastain said that the car does feel better.  There was a drive pin issue.

Lap 178, Denny Hamlin is very slowly eating into Kyle Busch’s lead.

The caution flag comes out on lap 179 when Todd Gilliland gets loose and spins out, barely missing the wall.

Drivers come down pit road for service with Kyle Busch winning the race off of pit road.

Kyle Busch brings the field down for the green flag restart on lap 186 from the outside lane with Denny Hamlin on the inside.  Busch and Hamlin go side by side as drivers are getting three wide behind the leaders.  Kyle Busch takes the lead with Denny Hamlin in second; William Byron, Martin Truex Jr, and Christopher Bell round out the top five.

Lap 190, Kyle  Busch has a half second lead on Denny Hamlin; William Byron, Martin Truex Jr, and Christopher Bell round out the top five.  Daniel Suarez is in 10th place with 19 cars on the lead lap.

Kyle Larson brings out the caution flag on lap 192 when he hits the wall with the back of his car after getting lose.

Despite having made pit stops fairly recently, the drivers come down pit road for fresh tires with Kyle Busch winning the race off of pit road and William Byron coming out second.

Tyler Reddick’s cool suit has stopped working.

After staying out on the track, Corey LaJoie brings the field down for the green flag restart on lap 198 with Kyle Busch alongside.  LaJoie and Busch go side by side before Kyle Busch gets out in sfront for the lead.

Lap 200, Kyle Busch has a lead of over half a second on Corey LaJoie; Martin Truex Jr, William Byron, and Christopher Bell round out the top five.  Daniel Suarez bumps the wall but the track stays green.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr is out of the race with JJ Yeley off the track.

Lap 205, Kyle Busch has a lead of just under a second on Martin Truex Jr; William Byron, Christopher Bell, and Ryan Blaney round out the top five.  Corey LaJoie has dropped to eighth place.  There are 20 cars on the lead lap.

Lap 209, Kyle Busch gives up the lead to Martin Truex Jr.

Lap 216, Martin Truex Jr has pulled out to a lead of nearly two seconds on Kyle Busch; William Byron, Christopher Bell, and Ryan Blaney round out the top five with Daniel Suarez in sixth place.

Cody Ware brings out the sixth caution flag of the night when he spins out on lap 219.  The only car one lap down, Aric Almirola is the “lucky dog”.

Drivers come down pit road for service with Kyle Busch winning the race off of pit road.  Busch saved his sticker tires and put scuffs on the car for the eleven laps remaining in stage two.

Several drivers including Kyle Larson took the wave around to get one of their laps back.

Kyle Busch brings the field down for the green flag restart with Martin Truex Jr on the inside lane with just seven laps remaining in stage two.  Busch and Truex go side by side before Kyle Busch edges out for the lead with six laps remaining in the stage.

The top five are Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr, Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell, and Joey Logano as drivers are muscling their way through for positon and precious stage points.

Three laps to go in stage two, Kyle Busch leads the race but Martin Truex Jr is on his bumper and challenging for the lead.

Kyle Busch wins stage two for his third stage win of the year.

The top 10 at the end of stage two:
Kyle Busch
Martin Truex Jr
Ryan Blaney
Joey Logano
William Byron
Christopher Bell
Alex Bowman
Daniel Suarez
Erik Jones
Michael McDowell

Kyle Larson is the “lucky dog” and is back on the lead lap.

Drivers come down pit road for service with Kyle Busch winning the race off of pit road and Joey Logano coming out second.

Kyle Busch brings the field down for the green flag start of stage three on lap 238 and holds on to the lead with Joey Logano in second and Martin Truex Jr in third; Daniel Suarez and Ryan Blaney round out the top five.

JJ Yeley has returned to the track 42 laps down.

With 125 laps remaining in the race, Kyle Busch has a half second lead on Joey Logano; Martin Truex Jr, Daniel Suarez, and William Byron round out the top five.

After all the wave arounds, there are 23 cars on the lead laps and only two cars out of the race – Ricky Stenhouse Jr, and Chase Elliott.

Lap 250, Kyle Busch has pulled out to a lead of nearly a second on Joey Logano; Martin Truex Jr Daniel Suarez, and William Byron round out the top five.

There are 115 laps remaining in the race; all of the drivers will have to make at least one pit stop for fuel.

Lap 251, Ross Chastain makes a green flag pit stop.

Lap 253, Kyle Busch has increased his lead to over a second on Joey Logano; Martin Truex Jr, Daniel Suarez, and William Byron round out the top five.

Lap 261, Kyle Busch continues to lead the race by over a second on Joey Logano; Martin Truex Jr, Daniel Suarez, and William Byron round out the top five.

Lap 265, Kyle Busch has led 116 laps so far.

Daniel Suarez reports that he has hit the wall once again.

Some drivers are beginning to make green flag pi stops.

One hundred laps to go, Kyle Busch ahs a second and a half lead on Joey Logano.

Lap 270, Martin Truex Jr has gotten around Joey Logano to take second place but is a second behind leader Kyle Busch.

Corey LaJoie reports that there may be some fuel pump issues.

More drivers come down pit road for service.

William Byron comes down pit road reporting a very loose condition.

Kevin Harvick’s car is in flames.  He has pulled off the track into the grass and is out of the car.  The caution flag comes out on lap 275.  He was in ninth place at the time of the caution flag.

The drivers who have not made a pit stop take advantage of the caution and make their pit stops.  Once again Kyle Busch wins the race off of pit road.

Kevin Harvick noted that the fire was coming in through the dash.  He is unhappy but fine.

Several drivers take the wave around.

Kyle Busch brings the field down for the green flag restart with 84 laps remaining in the race.  Busch battle with Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr for the lead.  Busch holds on to the lead with Martin Truex Jr in second and Denny Hamlin in third; Erik Jones and Michael McDowell round out the top five.  There are 19 cars on the lead lap.

Lap 287, Martin Truex Jr is just a tenth of a second behind leader Kyle Busch and is challenging for the spot.

Lap 289, Kyle Busch is slowly pulling away from Martin Truex Jr and is now a half second out in front of Martin Truex Jr.

After getting back on the lead lap, Kyle Larson has moved up to 16th place.

Lap 294, Martin Truex Jr has come up to battle Kyle Busch for the lead and is the new leader.

JJ Yeley is off the track once again.  Kevin Harvick is out of the race.

Kyle Busch has led 142 laps of the race.  Speaking on his teammate and leader Martin Truex Jr, Busch said whatever the 19 has – “holey moley!”

Lapa 303 – 65 to go – Martin Truex Jr has pulled out to a lead of a second and a half on Kyle Busch; Denny Hamlin, Erik Jones, and Michael McDowell round out the top five.

Sixty to go, Martin Truex Jr ahs a lead of over a second on Kyle Busch who is very slowly eating into the lead; Denny Hamlin, Erik Jones, and Michael McDowell round out the top five.

Drivers are expected to make one more pit stop for fresh tires.

Lap 311, Martin Truex Jr has increased his lead on Kyle Busch ot over a second on the half.

Fifty-five to go, Martin Truex Jr leads the race by over a second on Kyle Busch; Denny Hamlin, Erik Jones, and Tyler Reddick round out the top five.

Lap 316, there are 17 cars on the lead lap with Martin Truex Jr leading the race.

Fifty to go, Austin Cindric is the first driver to come down pit road for fresh tires to begin the cycle of green flag pit stops.

Lap 320, leader Martin Truex Jr makes his green flag pit stop and hands the lead over to Kyle Busch.

Kyle Busch makes his pit stop and hand the lead over to Denny Hamlin.

Denny Hamlin is the only driver yet to make his green flag pit stop.  Martin Truex Jr is also on the lead lap after unlapping himself.

Lap 326, Denny Hamlin finally makes his pit stop; Martin Truex Jr is the leader.

With 16 cars on the lead lap Martin Truex Jr has a five second lead on Kyle Busch; Tyler Reddick, Erik Jones, and Christopher Bell round out the top five.

Cody Ware slaps the wall but the track stays green.

With 34 laps to go, Martin Truex Jr reports that he has lost power steering and the gap back to Kyle Busch is closing quickly.

Kyle Busch passes Martin Truex Jr for the lead.

Martin Truex Jr makes his way to his pit box.

Thirty to go, Kyle Busch has a near four second lead on Tyler Reddick; Erik Jones, Christopher Bell, and Denny Hamlin round out the top five.  Bubba Wallace is back in the top 10 in eighth place.

The ninth caution flag of the race comes out with 28 laps to go when Cody Ware slams into the wall and is stopped on the track.

Crews are pushing Martin Truex Jr’s car to the garage and is out of the race.

Drivers come down pit road for that one last set of sticker tires.  Kyle Busch wins the race off of pit road with Erik Jones coming out second.

Kyle Busch’s car is smoking badly and is blowing up.

Erik Jones is the new leader!

Derik Jones brings the field down for the green flag restart from the outside lane with Tyler Reddick on the inside with 20 laps remaining in the race. Jones jumps out in front for he lead with Tyler Reddick and Denny Hamlin battling for second; Joey Logano and Christopher Bell round out the top five.

Eighteen to go, Erik Jones has a third of a second lead on Denny Hamlin; Tyler Reddick, Joey Logano, and Christopher Bell round out the top five.

Fifteen to go there are only 19 cars on the lead lap.  Erik Jones has pulled out to a half second lead on Denny Hamlin; Tyler Reddick, Joey Logano, and Christopher Bell round out the top five.

Ten to go, Erik Jones holds a half second lead on Denny Hamlin; Tyler Reddick, Joey Logano, and Christopher Bell round out the top five.

With eight laps to go, leader Erik Jones encounters slower traffic.  It has been 55 years since the number 43 has been to victory lane at Darlington.  The 43 car last won a race in 2014 with Aric Almirola behind the wheel.

Five to go, Erik Jones holds a half second lead on Denny Hamlin with Tyler Reddick in third; Joey Logano and Christopher Bell round out the top five.

Two to go and Denny Hamlin has closed the gap on leader Erik Jones.

Denny Hamlin is just one tenth of a second behind leader Erik Jones as Jones takes the white flag.

Erik Jones wins the Southern 500 for the 200th win for the 43 car.  Jones becomes the 17th different driver to win a race this season.

Jones rightfully does an impressive burnout that includes lots of smoke to celebrate the win – this third career win.

The unofficial results of the Southern 500:
Erik Jones
Denny Hamlin
Tyler Reddick
Joey Logano
Christopher Bell
Michael McDowell
Brad Keselowski
William Byron
Bubba Wallace
Alex Bowman
Aric Almirola
Kyle Larson
Ryan Blaney
Cole Custer
Ty Gibbs
Austin Cindric
Austin Dillon
Daniel Suarez
Justin Haley
Ross Chastain
Harrison Burton
Ty Dillon
Daniel Hemric
Corey LaJoie
Landon Cassill
Chris Buescher
Chase Briscoe
Todd Gilliland
BJ McLeod
Kyle Busch
Martin Truex Jr
Cody Ware
Kevin Harvick
JJ Yeley
Ricky Stenhouse Jr
Chase Elliott

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