Acting as the spoiler, Erik Jones wins the Southern 500 at Darlington over NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs driver Denny Hamlin. This was not just a big win for Jones, but also for the car he was in. The No. 43 now has 200 wins to its record. This was a massive win for Jones who hasn’t taken a checkered flag since 2019.
Richard Petty is back in victory lane, how about that?
Too Tough to Tame
The Lady in Black is a cruel mistress. This race didn’t have a lot of driver-on-driver conflicts. We thought we might see some aggressive moves and retaliation perhaps for earlier transgressions. However, it was Darlington Raceway itself that seemed to wreak havoc on the field. And Erik Jones was in the right place at the right time.
There were a number of drivers that found themselves ending the day early and it was for strange reasons. Kevin Harvick’s car caught on fire and he was heated up afterward. He referred to the cause of the fire as “crappy ass parts.” Does he have a point? Even Chase Elliott had a random issue that caused him to end his day in Stage 1.
Later in the race, Martin Truex Jr. was leading and had to leave the track after overheating and power steering issues. Then, on the next caution flag, the No. 18 of Kyle Busch blew up. Smoke out of the tailpipes for a leading racecar and it was done. It seems that Darlington is not the place for these Next Gen cars. It really is the Track Too Tough to Tame.
20 laps to go. Erik Jones with the lead. And he wouldn’t give it up.
Erik Jones Holds Off Former Teammate on Final Restart
Even though these are new cars, it doesn’t help to have as much experience as you can get. For Erik Jones, this isn’t the first time he’s won the Southern 500. He did it before, and he argued that it saved his career. Now, it is going to go towards improving his team and making it easier to get another win in the future.
Denny Hamlin provided a lot of pressure. He wasn’t going to let this one get away from him easily, and he didn’t. There were moves made, but it was too little too late. After a great restart with 20 laps to go, it gave Erik Jones enough air and time to get solid runs out in front. Hamlin couldn’t catch up in such little time, he needed another restart.
It wouldn’t come. Hamlin was the top playoffs driver, but couldn’t grab that automatic second round bid.
A two-time Southern 500 winner, that’s nothing to scoff at. Jones is one of the nicest guys in the garage and there are going to be a lot of folks happy about this one. And hey, Richard Petty says that he gets a hat!