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NASCAR at Darlington: Harvick wins Cup, B. Jones in Xfinity, Rhodes in Trucks

NASCAR Cup Series Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway
• Harvick befits from Truex-Elliott crash

Darlington, SC, Sept 6/20 (GRW): Kevin Harvick had not seemed to be a factor in this race until the last few laps. Prior to this he had led only 19 laps of the 367-lap race. Then Denny Hamlin, who had looked like winning, got shuffled back and then Chase Elliott and Martin Truex got together while fighting for the lead, knocking them out fo contention. Harvick who had been in a distant third place when the Elliott-Truex incident happened, inherited the lead and he ran the final 13 laps, holding off a late-race charge by Austin Dillon to win the race.

Harvick’s MOV was a mere 0.343 seconds but it was enough to give him a guaranteed transfer to the second round of the playoff races. Joey Logano finished in third place ahead of Erik Jones and William Byron.

Initially Chase Elliott, who had started from the pole led the race for the first 71 laps until the first round of green-flag pit stops. That pit stop cycle completed, Elliot resumed his place at the front. But only a few laps later, the race’s second yellow flew when Brad Keselowski hit the fence heavily. After more pit stops, Elliott dropped to fourth. On this restart, Martin Truex grabbed the lead from Kurt Busch and he continued to lead to the end of the first Stage on lap 115.

Truex won the race out of the pits and took the restart alongside Denny Hamlin – but he shot ahead and he continued to lead until lap 172. The race’s fourth caution came out just then when Darrell Wallace spun. After pit stops under yellow and the restart, Truex was back into the lead for the next 49 laps, taking him to the end of the second Stage.

This time Hamlin beat Truex out of the pits and he took over as race leader when then race when green again. A few laps later, on lap 246, there was another yellow when John Hunter Nemechek crashed. This time, Truex beat Hamlin out of the pits and he took the lead ahead of Kyle Busch and Hamlin on the restart – going on to lead the next 59 laps.

On lap 307, Truex made a green-flag pit stop setting off this cycle of pit stops. Hamlin was trapped up on the high line when he decided to make his stop so when he dropped down he was hit from behind and he could not slow down enough to turn into pit lane. He had to make another lap before he could pit and this cost him significant time; from running in third and in contention for the win, he was down in 13th after this mess-up – and with just 40-some laps left to go, his chances of winning had evaporated.

Another yellow, the race’s last one which came on lap 322, triggered yet another round of pit stops. Coming back for the restart, Elliott and Truex were lined up side-by-side and it looked like this closing chapter of the race was going see a battle between these two for the win.

Elliott won the restart and the expected fight commenced. Elliott had the lead but a determined Truex was right behind him. This chase continued for about the next 20 laps. Then Truex, having tried various lines in an attempt to get past the slightly slower Elliott car, dove under him and got his nose ahead of the other car. He had almost cleared Elliott when he turned right to move up ahead of him but he was not quite there. The rear of his car tapped Elliott’s and they both went up into the fence and slowed.

Truex clearly had a tire problem and he had to pit for repairs, dropping him out of the battle for the win. Elliott’s situation was not so clear but he did slow his pace and fall back several positions. In the end he was scored in 20th place, still on the lead lap. Truex finished the race one lap down.

All this left the field open to Harvick, who had been running in third place about five second behind the front two cars. Now he had a clear run in the lead with Dillon about a second behind him and thirteen laps to the checker. In those final laps Dillon started to close in on Harvick and he made a banzai run on the final lap but it was not quite good enough. Harvick held on for the win.

A happy Harvick said afterwards, “Just wound up fighting all night long, this Ford Mustang wasn’t where we wanted it to be, but the leaders got tangled up there and next thing you know we were racing for the win. Anytime you can win the Southern 500, it’s a good day. This is one of the most prestigious races in our sport and one of the most prestigious race tracks in our sport.”

“Just not enough room there for the both of us,” Truex said of the contact with Elliott in Turns 1 and 2. “I thought I had enough of a run to clear him and I think it was close, obviously. I thought I had enough momentum and distance on him that he was going to let me in there. I didn’t expect him to be on my right rear. I was committed and once I realized he was there, nothing I could do.

“Lot to be proud of. I hate it for the 9 team. It was nothing intentional, just two guys there going for the win. If it was my fault, I apologize, I really felt like I had the position to get in there.”
(With notes from NASCAR Wire Service)

• Click HERE for the results of the NCS Southern 500

• The next NASCAR Cup Series race will be run next Saturday evening, September 12, at Richmond Raceway

PHOTO NXS DAR Hamlin Chastain Jones 090520Denny Hamlin leads Ross Chastain and eventual winner Brandon Jones in the closing laps of the Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 (Photo by Chris Keane/Getty Images) 

NASCAR Xfinity Series Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 at Darlington Raceway
• Brandon Jones wins after Chastain and Hamlin neuter their run

Darlington, SC, Sept 5/20 (GRW): In a scenario which presaged the finish of Sunday’s Cup race, a battle for the win between Ross Chastain and Denny Hamlin came to grief on the second-last lap, letting Brandon Jones past into the lead and the win. Chastain was able to hang on and finish second while Hamlin dropped to fifth at the checker. Ryan Sieg finished third ahead of Riley Herbst while Hamlin was fifth.

The usual line-up of Xfinity drivers was supplemented by an entry from Cup regular Denny Hamlin. The topic of whether Cup drivers should be allowed to enter Xfinity or Truck races has been long debated and, so far, NASCAR’s response has been to limit these Cup drivers to only a few starts – as we have seen with Kyle Busch who has pushed the limit as far as he can. However, this entry by Hamlin at this time raises more questions. Given that NASCAR has not allowed any practice or qualifying runs since the pandemic shutdown, Hamlin’s entry in the Xfinity race gave him an obvious advantage over his Cup competition in that it gave him a full race’s worth of ‘practice’ laps which the other Cup contenders did not get. Hopefully, these unusual circumstances will soon be behind us and we will not need to debate the merits or otherwise of Cup drivers entering Xfinity races to get forbidden practice time.

Of course, Hamlin had to start the race from the rear of the field but, once it got underway, it was apparent that he was the fastest on the race track and he soon slashed his way through the back markers towards the front. Even before the Competition Caution flew on lap 20 of the 147-lap race, he was up into ninth place.

Ahead of Hamlin, the usual suspects, Chastain, Austin Cindric, Justin Haley, Chase Briscoe and Noah Gragson were fighting it out for the lead. But after the restart, Hamlin continued his march towards the front and he took the lead on lap33.

Hamlin went on to win the first Stage but he fell to 12th after the pit stops while Briscoe took over the race lead ahead of Chastain and Jones. Hamlin resumed his charge back towards the front and he was leading again by lap 83. And he was still leading – ahead of Jones, Briscoe and Chastain – when the second Stage ended.

Briscoe won the race out of the pits – ahead of Chastain and Hamlin – during these pit stops at the end of the second Stage. Only a handful of laps later another yellow flew – when Jeremy Clements slowed on the track – and this left crew chiefs with a dilemma of whether to pit or not. Briscoe came in as did some others and this left Hamlin lined up at the front alongside Chastain for the restart.

But five laps later another yellow flew and those who had not pitted on the previous caution came in now, cycling Briscoe back up to the front with Sieg alongside for the restart. Almost immediately there was another yellow when then-race-leader Briscoe spun on fluid dropped by another competitor. This shuffled the trucks putting Sieg at the front with Harrison Burton alongside with Chastain and Hamlin in the second row for this final restart – with 20 laps remaining.

Once they took the green flag, the order quickly sorted out with Chastain in the lead ahead of Hamlin. And they ran nearly 20 laps like this with Hamlin, who was the faster car, making attempts to catch and pass Chastain. In the midst of this battle, both cars made contact with the infamous Darlington wall. Finally, with just a couple of laps remaining, Hamlin made one last hail-Mary run and he got ahead of Chastain. But as he went past, both cars went out of control and hit the wall, Chastain was unable to slow and the two collided together. This was the end of any hopes of winning this race for both of them.

Brandon Jones, who had been not far behind was able to turn down below them and take the lead and go onto win the race. This unfortunate result for the two who had been battling for the lead was of little consequence for Hamlin who, in reality, was using this as a bootleg practice session in preparation for Sunday’s Cup race, but it was significant for Chastain who, had he won, would have been in a stronger position looking forward to the end-of-season Xfinity Series playoffs. There are three more regular season races before the Xfinity playoffs begin at Las Vegas and Chastain is locked in on points.

“This is a tough place to get around and man, just smart in the head I think today, I think that’s what got ’em,” said Jones. “I saw they were really racing hard and I knew I was catching them and we knew he (Hamlin) was gonna pull that big slider. That’s what you gotta do sometimes to get yourself in position.”

“Denny was faster, I knew that, everybody watching NBC knew that. I just kept gripping the top best I could, probably hit (the wall) 25 times,” Chastain said. “To be able to be up against a guy like Denny Hamlin, a future Cup champion and go to the end like that with him, I’m proud of this group, proud of the effort,” Chastain said. “It’s another heartbreak, but we man, we finished and we still finished second with a beat-up race car.”
(With notes from NASCAR Wire Service)

• Click HERE for the results of this Xfinity race at Darlington

• The next (regular season) Xfinity race will be run next Friday, September 11, at Richmond Raceway.

PHOTO NGROTS DAR Burnout 090620Ben Rhodes celebrates with a burnout after wining the South Carolina Education Lottery 200 (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

 

NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series South Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Darlington Raceway

• Late-race caution gives the win to Rhodes

Darlington, SC, Sept 6/20 (GRW): For most of the distance this race was rather processional with Brett Moffitt leading for 63 laps and his teammate Sheldon Creed leading for 82 laps – that’s 145 laps of the scheduled 150 laps.

It was all playing out like this with Creed leading over Austin Hill, Moffitt and Ben Rhodes when a three-truck crash on lap 145 brought out the race’s final caution, taking the race into overtime. When the leading three trucks pitted during this late caution, Rhodes found himself at the front of the field lined up alongside Derek Kraus for the final restart.

Kraus pushed out into the lead on the green but Rhodes soon came back to the front and he led the rest of the way to take the checker. Austin Hill finished in third place behind Kraus while Grant Enfinger and Christian Eckes were fourth and fifth.

Creed had compounded his problems by incurring a speeding penalty when he pitted that last time and he finished the race back in 18th place. Moffitt, who had also pitted, finished in tenth place.

As for the Canadians in the race, Raphael Lessard came home in sixth place while Stewart Friesen finished in eighth place.

“Gosh, that was such a tough win,” Rhodes said. “We weren’t the best truck all day. I was actually really disappointed when the (final) caution flag came out because I thought fourth place is a good finish for us, we’ll get in the playoffs. But I’m not letting this checkered flag go. It’s been a long time coming.”

The regular season for the Truck Series is not yet over. There is one more race before the Truck Series playoffs begin at Bristol later this month.
(With notes from NASCAR Wire Service)

• Click HERE for the results of the Truck Series race at Darlington

• The next Truck Series race, the final race in the regular season will be held at Richmond next Thursday, September 10.

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