Martin Truex Jr. scored his first Darlington win Sunday night. It was the first time he has scored two wins in a single season in his NASCAR Sprint Cup career. His first win came at this year’s Coca-Cola 600 in a dominating performance. Sunday night at Darlington, Truex wasn’t the fastest car, but he did lead when it mattered, the final lap as he took the checkered flag. Here’s how it all went down Sunday.
Thanks to Hurricane Hermine washing out all activities on Friday, NASCAR set the field by points giving Kevin Harvick the pole. He chose the inside while second place starter Brad Keselowski was on the outside. Last year’s winner Carl Edwards was behind Harvick in the third with Kurt Busch and Joey Logano rounded out the top five.
Harvick was able to take a clear lead as Keselowski fell in behind in second, Kurt Busch third; Edwards and Kyle Busch fell in fourth and fifth. By lap 4 the top runners were single file as the lead for Harvick was nearing a second.
Harvick was catching the back of the field by lap 15. The field was being lapped by lap 18. Truex Jr. moved to fight for fifth on lap 21; Jimmie Johnson followed getting by Kyle Busch and putting him back to seventh.
Edwards went to third on lap 26. Matt Kenseth had worked his way to fourth getting past Kurt Busch on lap 29; ten cars had already gone a lap down.
The lead was just over 3 seconds over Harvick by lap 31. Kenseth went to third on lap 37. There were 26 cars on the lead lap. Truex went to fifth on lap 40.
Green flag stops started on lap 48 as Truex pitted from fifth; Kyle Busch followed as did Kenseth. Johnson pitted on lap 50 as did Keselowski , Harvick also followed from the lead.
After the stops, Harvick was back in the lead by nearly 3.5 seconds. There were 23 cars on the lead lap. Kenseth, Truex and Kyle Larson were the top five. There were 21 cars on the lead lap, by lap 65. Jeff Gordon, subbing in the 88 for Dale Earnhardt Jr., went a lap down in 21st place on lap 70.
Joey Logano took fifth from Larson on lap 88. Johnson followed a lap later and Larson was soon in seventh. A second round of green flap stops approached. Those stops began deep in the field on lap 93, when Gordon and Larson pitted; Johnson followed. Truex, Logano and Kurt Busch followed a lap later.
The first caution came out on lap 96 when Trevor Bayne spun exiting turn 4 trying to get to pit road.
Only the top three were on the lead lap. Keselowski led, Chase Elliott was second, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was third. Harvick was on pit road when the caution came out and was a lap down in fourth. Many of those a lap down including Harvick however, were able to take the wave around and get back on the lead lap. Johnson was penalized with a pass through penalty for a crewmember pushing the rear of the car and doing a body modification.
The green came back out on lap 104. Keselowski grabbed the lead, Stenhouse was second, Elliott third. Elliott took the spot back on lap 107. Harvick was fourth, Chris Buescher fifth.
The second caution came out on lap 114 when Brain Scott spun in turn 3. There was no contact and Scott was able to make it to pit road.
The leaders all pitted. Keselowski was out first, followed by Elliott, Harvick, Stenhouse and Truex. The green came back out on lap 119. Keselowski took the lead with Harvick close behind. Truex fell into fourth, Stenhouse fifth. Kenseth moved to fifth on lap 132.
Harvick stayed close to Keselowski and by lap 137 was looking for the lead. On lap 139 Keselowski nearly lost it between turn 1 and 2 in lapped traffic and slipped up the track and retook the lead.
Drivers were reporting possible oil leaking from the car of Trevor Bayne as green flag stops again loomed by lap 159. Edwards pitted from 10th on lap 163. Truex and Kyle Busch followed. Harvick pitted from the lead on lap 164. Logano and Keselowski followed.
Bayne went to the garage on lap 166.
When the stops cycled through, Harvick was again in the lead, Keselowski was second, followed by Elliott, Logano and Kyle Busch. Logano moved to third by lap 186, just past halfway.
Keselowski pitted early under green on lap 192 reporting a vibration. The crew found a loose left rear wheel. The lead up front was 3.8 seconds for Harvick over Logano. Keselowski was the first car a lap down in 17th.
Caution three came out on lap 204, when Brian Scott was tapped by Tony Stewart exiting turn 2. Scott was sent into the inside wall; he was able to roll slowly to the garage. NASCAR called Stewart and his crew chief to the NASCAR hauler after the race.
The leaders all pitted. Harvick was out first followed by Logano, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Elliott.
Green came back out on lap 211. Harvick shot to the lead as Kyle Busch took second, Logano fell into third, Elliott was fourth, Hamlin fifth.
Jimmie Johnson spun on lap 214 exiting turn 4 and slid into the inside wall. Johnson was 19th at the time. Caution four was displayed. The top 6 stayed out, Larson led those from 7th on back to the pits.
Harvick led to the green on lap 219. Logano followed into second, Kyle Busch dropped to third. Elliott was fourth, Hamlin fifth. Kyle Busch was looking for second by lap 222 as Harvick began to stretch out his lead. Busch had second by lap 223. Busch began chipping into Harvick’s lead as Elliott was looking for third from Logano behind.
Larson moved to fifth on lap 237; he was the first of those who had pitted and had fresh tires; ahead Logano was able to get past Kyle Busch for second on lap 239. Elliott followed to take third two laps later.
Larson was looking for fourth by lap 242. He had the spot by lap 244. The lead for Harvick was just over 3 seconds.
Jeffrey Earnhardt got into the wall between turn 3 and 4 on lap 250 and caution five came out. The leaders all pitted. Hamlin won the race off pit road; Elliott was second, Kyle Busch third, followed by Logano, then Harvick. Larson came out sixth. Harvick had issues with the right rear tire during the stop, costing Harvick several spots; Logano also had issues on pit road and lost spots.
The green came out on lap 256; Hamlin took the lead as Elliott and Kyle Busch fought for second; Elliott got the spot as Harvick was in fourth and looking for third. There were 19 cars on the lead lap.
Elliott was looking for the lead by lap 259.
Caution six came out on lap 261 for Greg Biffle who got loose entering turn 4 and hit the wall hard. The leaders all pitted. Hamlin was first out, Kyle Busch, Harvick, Elliott, and Truex followed.
Kenseth and Kurt Busch had stayed out and led the field to the green on lap 266. Kenseth took the top spot, Hamlin took second, Harvick third. Harvick took second on lap 268. He was soon looking for the lead. Kenseth and Harvick were fighting for the lead by lap 272. Harvick had the spot by lap 273. Hamlin soon had second, then Elliott was looking for third by lap 275. Larson hovered close behind and seized fourth on lap 276; Elliott was soon side by side with Kenseth. He had the spot by lap 277, Truex followed and Kenseth began dropping back; Keselowski had fifth on lap 279.
AJ Allmendinger spun after contact with Ryan Blaney exiting turn 2 on lap 280, caution seven waved.
The leaders all pitted. Hamlin was out first, Larson second , Keselowski third, followed by Truex and Elliott. Harvick had another bad pit stop and lost many spots. The crew reported that the rear tire changers air gun malfunctioned. Harvick restarted 12th.
Green came out on lap 285. Hamlin took the lead, but Larson was close behind. Larson had the lead by the end of the lap; Truex was third, but took second a lap later. Elliott was fourth, Jamie McMurray fifth. Elliott was pressing Hamlin for third by lap 290. Larson had a lead nearing 2 seconds by lap 293. Elliott took third on lap 300. Harvick had rebounded to sixth by lap 302. Keselowski was reporting another possible loose wheel on lap 304 he was falling back and outside the top 10; he pitted on lap 306. On the track, Harvick moved to fifth.
Truex was chipping into the lead by lap 313. Soon the lead was down to a second.
Tony Stewart began smoking on lap 316 . He slowed and rolled to the garage;. Stewart left fluid on the track and caution eight came out. The leaders all came in for stops. Larson was out first, Truex second, followed by Hamlin, Harvick and Logano.
Larson led as the green came out on lap 323. Larson took a clear lead as Truex fell into second, Hamlin third, Harvick fourth, Logano fifth. Harvick took third from Hamlin on lap 324; Logano was soon looking for fourth from Hamlin.
Kurt Busch and Paul Menard got together exiting turn 3 on lap 327. Both crashed hard and caution nine came out. Menard had reported a tire rub a few laps earlier.
The leaders all pitted. Ryan Newman and Keselowski stayed out. Truex was first off pit road, Larson was out second, followed by Hamlin, Logano and Harvick.
The green waved on lap 335. Newman got out to the lead, but Truex shot past and took the lead. Behind, Edwards made contact with another car and slowed with a tire rub. Newman was able to retake the top spot up front. Harvick took fourth on lap 336.
Truex stayed close to Newman and was soon looking to retake the lead. Truex retook the lead on lap 338. Harvick took third a lap later. Logano took fifth from Larson shortly after. The lead was soon nearing two seconds. After a short battle, Harvick took second on lap 344. Two laps later Harvick hit the wall out of turn 4. He was able to continue.
Larson took third from Newman on lap 347. Truex had a 4 second lead by lap 349, but Aric Almirola made contact and spun after contact with Clint Bowyer entering turn 2. Almirola hit the wall hard and caution 10 came out. The leaders all came in for stops. Truex was out first followed by Harvick and Larson. Hamlin and Logano rounded out the top five.
The green came out on lap 355. Truex took the lead with Larson following behind to grab second; Harvick retook second by the end of the lap and began to pull away, hunting down Truex.
As the final 10 laps wound down, the race was between Truex and Harvick. With 8 to go, Harvick was slowly chipping away at the lead.
With five laps to go, the lead was a half a second. But with 4 to go, the lead had moved up to near a second. The lead was still increasing with 3 to go.
On the white flag laps the lead was 1 second, and Harvick wasn’t able to close the gap. Truex won the Southern 500 stealing the win from Harvick in the final laps.
Larson was third, Hamlin fourth and Logano fifth. Kenseth was sixth, Kasey Kahne seventh with Newman, Keselowski and Elliott rounding out the top 10. The full results can be found here.
The next race will set the field for the 2016 Chase for the Sprint Cup. The Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway will be held Saturday night September 10 with live coverage on the NBC Sports Network.