Sunday night the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series raced at Darlington Raceway for the Bojangles’ Southern 500 for a weekend that has taken on the ‘throwback’ theme from years past.
This past weekend in NASCAR is one of the most fun weekends of the season. It is always fun to see what throwback paint schemes some of the drivers are running. It can always be counted on that Austin Dillon will run a throwback, Dale Earnhardt, Sr. scheme and that is one of the most anticipated releases coming into the weekend.
Some of the cooler schemes were Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. Keselowski raced in a Rusty Wallace throwback scheme and Logano ran a Steve Park scheme that looked sharp. The throwback schemes racing on an older, historic track gives the weekend a nostalgic feeling.
The race kicked off with the pole sitter, Denny Hamlin getting out to an early lead, but Kyle Larson was not going to leave him alone. Larson took control early in the stage and the rest was history it seemed. Larson separated himself from the field and took off running the high line so well and to be able to do that in Darlington really takes a lot of drivers out of the race.
The Hendrick team qualified really well but had some bad luck early in the race that took them out. Alex Bowman qualified fourth, but he could not get on the pace. Turned out he had a flat tire and had to come down pit road under green. This put him two laps down it was tough to overcome that since over half the field finished a lap down. Jimmie Johnson had some of the same luck as he got put down a few laps early in the race and he just could not recover.
Regardless, Kyle Larson dominated the first stage of the race and took the win. Larson returned back into his groove to start the second stage.
Kyle Busch was into a lapped car about twenty laps into the stage to bring out the caution. Cars came down pit road for a fresh set of tires and Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick won the race off pit road. This led to an epic restart and a battle for the lead.
For consecutive laps, Harvick was trying hard to get around Truex Jr., but Truex was not allowing it. Eventually, Harvick ran out of tire grip and had to lay off.
Later in stage two drivers began pitting under green, but Larson took a bold strategy and stayed out for the remainder of stage two and was able to win stage two but his strategy was questionable. Once the stage finished, Larson put around seventy laps on his tires when the typical range is 30-50 laps.
Stage three started off with the dominance of Kyle Larson again with him leading the way just like the first two. However, there were some late cautions that changed the outcome of the race. One of which caused drivers to come down pit road for a fresh set of tires.
Brad Keselowski beat Kyle Larson off pit road and controlled the restart. Keselowski then had a good push from teammate Joey Logano on the restart and he was off. Logano then battled Larson for the second position allowing Keselowski to get even more separation. The race was now in Keselowski’s hands and he was able to outlast Logano and Larson and win the Southern 500.
For a race that was not really exciting early, it sure heated up toward the end of the race. That last pitstop was what ruined Larson’s night and made Keselowski’s night. It was a fun ending to witness and adds more drama to next week’s season finale at Indianapolis.
Darlington Raceway put on another great weekend with the Xfinity and Cup races. Both series had great throwback schemes and there were great races on both sides.
Next week’s race at the Brickyard will be an exciting finish to the NASCAR Cup Series regular season.