Erik Jones stuns playoff field by winning second Southern 500

Erik Jones inherited the lead with just over 20 laps to go after Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch both dropped out of the race due to engine issues. Jones then defiantly held off three-time Southern 500 winner Denny Hamlin to win his second Southern 500.

This is Jones’ third career win, last winning the 2019 Southern 500 when he himself raced for Joe Gibbs Racing. This is the first win for the Maury Gallagher group who partnered with Richard Petty in the 2021 offseason to form Petty GMS Racing.

Erik Jones, driver of the No. 43 FOCUSfactor Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on September 04, 2022. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

It was exactly 55 years to the day for when the last time the 43 car won the Southern 500 which was with Richard Petty himself on September 4th 1967. 

Ironically, it was the two JGR cars and former teammates of Truex Jr. and Busch that handed the lead to Jones in what Jones described as a “gift from above” and had to hold off JGR’s Denny Hamlin to win the race in what felt like a flashback to the 2019 race for Jones.

With 18 laps to go as Denny Hamlin came up on Jones, Jones changed his line to take away Hamlin’s clean air and then laid down a set of blistering laps that kept Hamlin from mounting a charge.

Erik Jones, driver of the No. 43 FOCUSfactor Chevrolet, and Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Sport Clips Haircuts Toyota, race for the Southern 500 win at Darlington Raceway on (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Hamlin came close on the final lap when he attempted to send it in turn three but was unable to get side by side with Jones or reach his rear and had to settle for the runner up spot. Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick finished third.

Erik Jones, driver of the No. 43 FOCUSfactor Chevrolet, takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Cup Series Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

Jones said he was “very happy to have won the race, but was more proud of the group around him who are apart of this win.” 

Erik Jones, driver of the No. 43 FOCUSfactor Chevrolet, and crew chief David Elenz celebrate in victory lane together for the first time after winning the Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Jones had ran inside the top five for part of the night on raw pace, and earned eighth and ninth place finishes in stages one and two respectively. It was near disaster though when he came close to wrecking on lap 80 as he got sent up the race track after losing grip on the apron, nearly collecting Ryan Blaney in the process.

The Michigan driver had come close to winning with the 43 car for the first time since joining Richard Petty Motorsports in 2021 at Fontana at the beginning of the season but failed to seal the deal.

The last time Richard Petty had won a Cup race as an owner was with now Stewart-Haas Racing driver Aric Almirola in the 2014 summer Daytona race. It was also the 200th win for the 43 car.

Jones’ win also means it’s the first time a non-playoff driver has won the opening race of the playoffs since the playoffs began in 2004. Jones was two places short of making the 2022 NASCAR playoffs after the conclusion of the regular season last week at Daytona.

Erik Jones, driver of the No. 43 FOCUSfactor Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

Jones taking the chequered flag was not just an upset win in that it seemed almost certain it would be a JGR car in victory lane. Kyle Busch finished third in stage one and had pressured stage one winner William Byron for the lead in the closing laps before going on to lead nearly all of stage two including taking the stage two win.

Stage three saw JGR teammate Martin Truex Jr, who had briefly taken the lead away from Busch in stage two, reclaim the top spot on lap 293, but following his final green flag pit stop Truex Jr, lost power steering due to the engine suddenly overheating with Kyle Busch taking the lead back with 32 laps to go. Truex Jr, who was two points short of making place of making this year’s playoffs, then was forced to retire the car.

Martin Truex Jr., driver of the No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota, drives during the NASCAR Cup Series Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

After a caution came out for a stopped Cody Ware, Kyle Busch’s car, after pitting under yellow, began puffing out smoke while following the pace car before the engine blew up taking him out of the race. Erik Jones who had just gained two spots on pit road, inherited the lead and led the final 20 green flag laps. Busch led the most laps with 155 whilst Truex led 48.

Kyle Busch responded to the tragic late race retirement saying: “the sun will come up tomorrow.”

Playoff contender Kevin Harvick had a scary moment when his car began to fill with fire from his dash for two laps before being forced to stop the car on the apron and quickly evacuated himself before the car violently burst into flames. Harvick put it down to “crappy-ass parts.”

It was a rollercoaster Southern 500 for the Hendrick Motorsports camp. Regular season champ Chase Elliott crashed out in stage one after he “greedily” dived into turn one and made contact with the wall before spinning down the race track and getting collected by fellow playoff contender Chase Briscoe. Elliott was unable to continue after the 10-minute Damage Vehicle Repair clock expired for the No. 9 team on pit road.

Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 NAPA/Children’s Chevrolet, spins after hitting the turn one wall during the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Reigning NASCAR Cup champion Kyle Larson began losing engine power 78 laps into stage one in what was a near repeat of last week and went three laps down. Miraculously despite the engine issues not being fully resolved, Larson worked his way back onto the lead lap upon completion of stage two and came home to finish 12th. This wasn’t before Larson brought out the caution on lap 190 in stage two after spinning out in turn four when he was still two laps down.

Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet, spins into the wall after an on-track incident during the NASCAR Cup Series Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Hendrick teammate William Byron took the lead away from polesitter Joey Logano in stage 1 who led the first 66 laps, and went on to win stage one. Byron then fell to fourth in stage two after reporting that his engine was “flat and loud.” Byron came home eighth.

Joey Logano, driver of the No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, and Christopher Bell, driver of the No. 20 Yahoo! Toyota, lead the field to start the NASCAR Cup Series Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

It was also a rough day for playoff contenders Trackhouse Racing with Daniel Suárez serving a drive-through penalty at the start of the race for failing pre-race inspection three times and immediately went a lap down. Then with five laps to go in stage two Bell squeezed Suárez into the turn one wall nearly wrecking both of them as Logano and Byron slipped past.

Daniel Suárez, driver of the No. 99 Jockey Chevrolet, drives during the NASCAR Cup Series Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Trackhouse teammate Ross Chastain had worked his way up third in stage two but was then forced to come down pit road after having suspension issues in the left rear. Suárez found himself in fifth at the start of stage three and came home 18th while Chastain finished 20th.

The second race of round one of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs is the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway this Sunday at 3pm ET.

Full Race Results

1st Erik Jones, 2nd Denny Hamlin, 3rd Tyler Reddick, 4th Joey Logano, 5th Christopher Bell, 6th Michael McDowell, 7th Brad Keselowski, 8th William Byron, 9th Bubba Wallace, 10th Alex Bowman, 11th Aric Almirola, 12th Kyle Larson, 13th Ryan Blaney, 14th Cole Custer, 15th Ty Gibbs, 16th Austin Cindric, 17th Austin Dillon, 18th Daniel Suárez, 19th Justin Haley, 20th Ross Chastain, 21st Harrison Burton, 22nd Ty Dillon, 23rd Daniel Hemric, 24th Corey LaJoie, 25th Landon Cassill, 26th Christopher Buescher, 27th Chase Briscoe, 28th Todd Gilliland, 29th BJ McLeod, 30th Kyle Busch, 31st Martin Truex Jr., 32nd Cody Ware, 33rd Kevin Harvick, 34th JJ Yeley, 35th Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 36th Chase Elliott.

Stage 1 results

1st William Byron, 2nd Denny Hamlin, 3rd Kyle Busch, 4th Christopher Bell, 5th Martin Truex Jr., 6th Ross Chastain, 7th Tyler Reddick, 8th Erik Jones, 9th Ryan Blaney, 10th Bubba Wallace.

Stage 2 results

1st Kyle Busch, 2nd Martin Truex Jr., 3rd Ryan Blaney, 4th Joey Logano, 5th William Byron, 6th Christopher Bell, 7th Alex Bowman, 8th Daniel Suárez, 9th Erik Jones, 10th Michael McDowell.

Playoff Standings

1st Joey Logano (+38), 2nd William Byron (+32), 3rd Denny Hamlin (+30), 4th Christopher Bell (+28), 5th Tyler Reddick (+23), 6th Ryan Blaney (+20), 7th Kyle Larson (+17), 8th Ross Chastain (+15), 9th Chase Elliott (+14), 10th Alex Bowman (+10), 11th Kyle Busch (+8), 12th Daniel Suárez (+2), 13th Austin Cindric (-2), 14th Austin Dillon (-4), 15th Chase Briscoe (-10), 16th Kevin Harvick (-13).

Featured Image: Erik Jones, driver of the No. 43 FOCUSfactor Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on September 04, 2022 in Darlington, South Carolina (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

 

Logano bump and runs his way to first Darlington victory!

Joey Logano bumped William Byron out of the way to take his first victory at Darlington Raceway in NASCAR’s Goodyear 400 on Sunday. With Byron getting ready to take the white flag heading into turn three, a faster Logano gave him a sizable shot in the rear shooting him up the race track and into the wall resulting in Logano flying past to take the win. Byron finished 13th.

With 26 to go, Byron had fended off Logano for the lead by squeezing him into the wall coming off turn two forcing Logano to lift off the gas.

Joey Logano (left), the No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, and William Byron (right), the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet, battling for the lead (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Facing a hostile crowd, Logano explained to FOX’s Regan Smith that the move was retaliation for it saying “You’re not going to put me in the wall and not get anything back, that’s how that works.”

Joey Logano facing the crowd at the start finish line and celebrating his first Darlington Cup win (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)

Logano ends his 40 winless streak in terms of championship points paying races, last winning the 2021 inaugural Bristol Dirt Race. The polesitter had either led or been at the front of the pack for the entire race, leading over 100 laps and had won stage one.

Logano was sporting a 1995 throwback paint scheme to his original quarter midget that had got him racing as a kid. In victory lane Logano said “This is the car where it all started for me back in ’95 in a quarter midget. Really, honestly, all the young kids racing out there right now, this could be you.”

Joey Logano celebrating in the Ruoff Mortgage victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Goodyear 400 (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Byron was upset with Logano’s driving saying to FOX’s Jamie Little: “He’s just an idiot. He slammed me so hard he knocked the whole right side off the car, and I couldn’t even make the corner. He didn’t even make it a contest. He’s just a moron.”

William Byron storms down pit road after a frustrating end to the race (Photo by Alejandro Alvarez/NASCAR Digital Media)

In honour of NASCAR’s annual throwback weekend for the race, Byron was sporting a Jeff Gordon 2007 Axalta paint scheme. The incident with Logano saw Jeff Gordon himself shaking his head in disbelief on pit road.

Hendrick Motorsports vice chairman and NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon (left) comforts William Byron (right) post-race on pit road (Photo by Jennifer Fisher/NASCAR Digital Media)

Tyler Reddick came up one place short of a win for a second time this season, but was under a second behind Logano when they crossed the finish line. With 15 to go, Reddick was attempting to make a late race charge for the win but was unable to find a way past Logano before Logano pulled away and began to close down Byron inside of five to go.

Tyler Reddick, the No. 8 3CHI Chevrolet, racing in the Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Reddick had been one of few drivers who had broken the final stage up into thirds, instead of in half. Due to pitting early on in the final stage and being on fresher rubber for a while when everybody else had made their first pit stop, he cycled to the front of the pack to lead for a few laps. He would get overtaken on pit road by Logano under caution which had come out for Alex Bowman, who’s car was on fire that had to be put out on pit road.

Justin Haley earned an impressive first top-five of the season with a third place finish for him and Kaulig Racing. Haley’s strong performances at Talladega, Dover and now Darlington is making him quite the feel-good story of 2022.

Justin Haley climbing out of his No. 31 Chevrolet on pit road after his third place finish (Photo by Alejandro Alvarez/NASCAR Digital Media)

Kevin Harvick would finish fourth and grow his consecutive top-10 finishes at Darlington to 13, beating Bill Elliott’s record who was commentating in the FOX booth for the final part of the race. Harvick ran a special Rheem Chasing a Cure paint scheme for St. Jude Children’s Hospital.

Kevin Harvick, the No. 4 Rheem Chasing a Cure Ford, racing in the Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Chase Elliott who started from the rear, came home to finish a well earned fifth place after battling hard with Christopher Bell, Denny Hamlin, and Erik Jones throughout much of the final part of the race.

The race proved to be one of attrition with race contenders Ross Chastain, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, and Martin Truex Jr. all falling out of contention or out of the race due to crashing during stage’s two and three.

Kyle Busch got collected by an out of control Brad Keselowski in the closing laps of stage two. Keselowski had wrecked after colliding with the turn two wall before coming back down the race track and spinning back across into Kyle Busch who was trying to keep out of his way running next to the backstretch wall. The impact buckled Kyle Busch’s wheel and suspension forcing him to retire. Busch had led laps in stage one after wrestling the lead away from Logano after a two lap duel. He had remained in the top five for much of the first half of the race.

Kyle Busch, the No.18 M&M’s Toyota, racing in the Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Ross Chastain had been upfront for the first half of the race and had won stage two before spinning out by himself on the next restart after getting loose under Denny Hamlin for the lead coming out of turn two and consequently collided with the inside wall, ending his day.

Ross Chastain, the No. 1 Coca-Cola Chevrolet limps back to the garage area after heavy contact with the wall (Photo by Zack Albert/NASCAR Digital Media)

On lap 260 of 293, Martin Truex Jr. was the cause of a big multi-car crash on a restart involving eight cars including Kurt Busch, Bubba Wallace, Cole Custer, Erik Jones and Hamlin, after getting loose in the middle of three wide in turn two and backing up the field as he spun sideways across the track.

Hamlin, who restarted stage two with the lead and had recently retaken the lead of the race in stage three after getting by Logano before falling back into the field after a mistake on pit road, piled into the back of Jones who was caught up in the accident, ending his day.

Denny Hamlin, the No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota, racing in the Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

On lap 112, reigning champion Kyle Larson, who started second, had to retire due to an engine failure.

Full finishing order: (1st) Joey Logano, (2nd) Tyler Reddick, (3rd) Justin Haley, (4th) Kevin Harvick, (5th) Chase Elliott, (6th) Christopher Bell, (7th) Michael McDowell, (8th) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., (9th) Austin Dillon, (10th) Daniel Suárez, (11th) Aric Almirola, (12th) Ty Dillon, (13th) William Byron, (14th) Harrison Burton, (15th) Todd Gilliland, (16th) Chris Buescher, (17th) Ryan Blaney, (18th) Austin Cindric, (19th) Cody Ware, (20th) Chase Briscoe, (21st) Denny Hamlin, (22nd) Landon Cassill, (23rd) JJ Yeley, (24th) Martin Truex Jr., (25th) Erik Jones, (26th) Cole Custer, (27th) Bubba Wallace, (28th) Kurt Busch, (29th) Alex Bowman, (30th) Ross Chastain, (31st) Daniel Hemric, (32nd) BJ McLeod, (33rd) Kyle Busch, (34th) Brad Keselowski, (35th) Corey Lajoie, (36th) Kyle Larson.

Top 10 in points standings: 1st Chase Elliott (453), 2nd William Byron (388), 3rd Ryan Blaney (388), 4th Joey Logano (374), 5th Ross Chastain (364), 6th Kyle Busch (364), 7th Martin Truex Jr. (364), 8th Alex Bowman (357), 9th Kyle Larson (336), 10th Christopher Bell (327).

Featured Image: Joey Logano, the No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Cup Series Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)

Virginia native Denny Hamlin captures fourth Richmond victory

Denny Hamlin took the lead with five laps to go and held off Kevin Harvick to win his fourth Richmond Cup race in his native state of Virginia.

NASCAR’s Toyota Owners 400 race came down to a split strategy showdown in the closing laps. Third place Denny Hamlin and fourth place Kevin Harvick were on a two stop strategy for the final stage of the race while leaders William Byron and Martin Truex Jr. had split the final stage in half.

As sun began to set and the laps got down to single digits, Hamlin was catching Byron by a second a lap, with Byron being on much older tyres. Byron had held a four second gap over Truex Jr with 25 to go but this began shrinking significantly inside 15 to go. Hamlin flew by Truex with six to go and sped by Byron on the inside on lap 396 of 400 to take the lead away. Harvick did appear to be catching Hamlin with two to go but after Harvick’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Aric Almirola got out of the way on the back straightaway on the final lap, Hamlin set sail for the checkered flag.

Denny Hamlin passes William Byron for the lead inside of five to go (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

After a roller-coaster start to the season, this was not just Hamlin’s first win of the year but his first top-10 finish of the season after seven races. This was also Toyota’s first Cup win of the season and was rather appropriate being the title sponsor of the race.

Denny Hamlin celebrating in victory lane (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)

There were nearly more green flag pit stop cycles completed today than the first six races combined. Long green flag runs is often the way with Richmond and Sunday’s race was no exception. This gave extra weight to the two stop versus one stop strategies that played out during stage two and the final stage of the race but ultimately fresher tyres came out on top; partly due to Truex Jr. and Byron wearing each other out and faster lap down cars on fresher tyres taking away the inside lane that they wanted to run, allowing Hamlin and Harvick to gain more time on them.

It was a stellar day for the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota’s overall with all four running in the top seven at one point. Truex Jr. had worked his way to the front from the drop of the green flag and won stage two on the one stop strategy, the same strategy that arguably cost him the win in addition to getting stuck behind the wake of Byron’s Hendrick Chevrolet for the last 100 laps. This is despite being on 10 lap fresher tyres.

Martin Truex Jr. leading at Richmond (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Kyle Busch had worked his way to fourth but was black flagged with 50 laps to go for having tape over his grille that cost him a top-5 finish. Kyle Busch’s crew chief claimed the tape had been on there for 200 laps and were frustrated with NASCAR’s call in forcing them down pit road to remove it. Christopher Bell had led the field in the second quarter of the race and came home sixth.

The first quarter of the race was the Ryan Blaney show however. After securing the pole he led the first 100 laps and won stage one with Byron finishing second, before losing the lead in stage two. Last week’s winner Ross Chastain did not make friends with Blaney during the race. While fighting inside the top five towards the end of stage two, Blaney drove up alongside Chastain and pushed the watermelon man up the race track in turns three and four. Chastain returned the favour and pushed Blaney into turn one before Blaney veered to the right to a loss of grip and Chastain retook the position. Blaney had the final laugh as he gave Chastain a little shot into turn three late on in the race in and got by.

Ryan Blaney leading the field at the start of the race (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Team Penske teammate Joey Logano had made it up to second halfway through the race but the team’s jack became jammed underneath his car and would lose track position and only manage to recover to a top-20 finish.

The Roush Fenway Keselowski racing car’s of Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher had a good outing and were fighting for a top-10 spot for much of the race.

There would be a couple of crashes during the race. Lap 245 would see an caution a few laps after the start of the final stage due to a crash between Cody Ware, Erik Jones and Ricky Stenhouse Jr that left all parties upset. On lap 260 there would be another caution after contact between Austin Cindric and Cole Custer, causing Cindric to spin out. This was triggered after Ty Dillon had washed up into Custer in turn two as he came slightly down.

Part two of the Virginia tour takes place at Martinsville Speedway under the lights this Saturday night; another track that Hamlin has had great success at, winning five Cup series races at the half mile paperclip.

Top 10 finishing order of the Toyota Owners 400 

  1. Denny Hamlin (Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota)
  2. Kevin Harvick (Stewart-Haas Racing Ford)
  3. William Byron (Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet)
  4. Martin Truex Jr (Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota)
  5. Kyle Larson (Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet)
  6. Christopher Bell (Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota)
  7. Ryan Blaney (Team Penske Ford)
  8. Alex Bowman (Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet)
  9. Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota)
  10. Austin Dillon (Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet)  

Featured Image: Denny Hamlin celebrates after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

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