Race recap coming soon. In the meantime, enjoy these photos from the Southern 500 weekend.
It was yet another eventful night on the challenging track of Darlington Raceway and when it was all over Denny Hamlin would lead Joe Gibbs Racing with a sixth place finish, while Kyle Busch crossed the line in 11th and an accident left Joey Logano in 35th.
Hamlin entered the night seeking to defend his victory from a year ago at the famed track known by many as the Lady in Black. Hamlin started his No. 11 Sport Clips Toyota in the third position after a strong qualifying effort on Friday evening. He would battle tight conditions through much of the first half of the race while racing just inside the top ten. Crew chief Mike Ford would call for changes each time down pit road and his No. 11 Camry began to free up in the corners. The team would take a bigger swing at adjustments on lap 231 and although the stop under caution would cause Hamlin to lose some track position the adjustments appeared to work and it didn’t take long for him to race his way back into the top ten. With about 100 laps remaining Hamlin would report that the car was tight, but conditions were consistent. The team made a decision to come down pit road for fresh tires when a late caution came out and Hamlin managed to race his way to a sixth-place finish. It was Hamlin’s second straight top ten finish after his second-place effort last week in Richmond.
Busch started the No. 18 Doublemint Toyota in the 14th position but quickly proved to have one of the strongest cars in the field. He climbed into the top-10 by lap 10 and made his way into the top-five by lap 34. He would assume the lead for the first time on lap 125 following a tremendous pit stop by his Doublemint crew and spend the remainder of the first half of the race in the lead position. Unfortunately shortly after lap 200, Busch would radio in to crew chief Dave Rogers to report a vibration in his right rear tire. He would bring his No. 18 Camry down pit road on lap 207 four fresh tires, but the unscheduled stop would cause him to lose a lap to the field. Patience would be the key from there and a caution on lap 238 would give Busch the Lucky Dog and put him back on the lead lap. Busch would restart 21st on lap 242 and drive his way up into 13th by the time the next caution came on lap 281. As the race neared completion it appeared Busch would have the opportunity to earn a remarkable comeback and a top-five finish, but contact with No. 29 of Kevin Harvick forced him to come down pit road one final time for quick repairs of the damage and a new set of tires. The late loss of track position took Busch out of contention for a top-ten finish, although an impressive run over the two-lap green-white-checkered finish allowed him to salvage 11th place.
Joey Logano started the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota in the 17th position and battled through the early going with changing track conditions that caused the handle on his car to move from tight to loose. Crew chief Greg Zipadelli and the Home Depot crew would make the necessary adjustments to improve the handle on the car and Logano would drive into the top ten by lap 215. Pit strategy would put Logano back in 15th place and while racing his way back into the top ten on lap 238 he would get into the side of the No. 9 car forcing him to spin across the track and into the inside retaining wall. The damage to the No. 20 Camry would be significant causing Logano to pull into the garage for repairs. By the time the crew could make the necessary repairs Logano would finish himself some 40 laps off the pace. He would go on to finish the night 35th.
Regan Smith captured his first career victory, while Carl Edwards finished second, Brad Keselowski was third, Kasey Kahne was fourth and Ryan Newman rounded out the top five. There were 11 cautions for a total of 46 laps and 21 lead changes among 12 different drivers over the course of the 370-lap race, which was extended three laps for a green-white-checkered finish.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will head to Dover next Sunday. The FedEx 400 to benefit Autism Speaks in Dover will begin at 1 PM ET with live, high-definition coverage provided by FOX beginning with its pre-race show at Noon ET.