NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Showtime Southern 500 Race Recap

The 62nd Annual Southern 500 was highlighted by as much action off of the track as on but the number one story of the night was Regan Smith scored his first career victory by making old tires grip when they needed it most during a green-white-checkered finish. Smith started on the inside of the front row with Carl Edwards to his outside on 25 lap newer right side tires. When the green flag flew Smith received a push from Brad Keselowski to take the lead, then managed to keep Edwards behind him for the final two circuits to claim the victory. Edwards finished second ahead of Keselowski, Kasey Khane and Ryan Newman.

Khane started the race on the pole with a new track record speed and assumed command when the green flag dropped. He was leading when Mike Skinner spun on the backstretch to bring out the first caution of the night. When the race restarted Newman grabbed the lead and held it for 28 laps until a caution flew for both oil and the track and competition to check tire wear. Ken Schrader and Casey Mears took the opportunity during the caution to lead laps. As the race resumed Kahne reassumed the lead and held it until the caution flew for a wreck by David Gilliland in turn two. Jamie McMurray took two tires on the pit stop and grabbed the lead on the restart until Jimmie Johnson spun in turn one off of the front bumper of Juan Pablo Montoya. The next 36 laps were led by Kahne and Edwards before the caution flew for debris on the front straight.

The race restarted on lap 127 and went for 95 laps before Johnson spun again coming out of turn four. During that run Kyle Busch led for 78 laps relinquishing the lead during green flag stops to Martin Truex Jr. and Bobby Labonte. Busch was forced to pit on lap 205 due to a bad vibration caused by a loose right rear tire. Edwards took the top spot when Busch pitted for the rest of that stint until the last green flag lap when Kevin Harvick was credited with leading. As the race resumed Edwards was once again in the lead when David Ragan and Brian Vickers got together off of turn two on lap 231, peeling the left side of Vickers car open like a sardine can. Action resumed on lap 236 as Harvick grabbed the top spot from Edwards for four laps until Marcos Ambrose and Joey Logano got together on the front straight, sending Logano into the inside wall and ultimately the garage for repairs. The race resumed with Harvick still out front for the next 38 laps when the caution flew yet again for debris on the back stretch. After pit stops Kahne reasserted himself at the front of the pack until a flurry of green flag pit stops again took place.

After most of the other lead lap cars pitted Kahne and Edwards entered the pit lane side-by-side with Kahne leading Edwards off of the pit road. However Tony Stewart was off pit sequence so he assumed the lead until he had to come in on lap 338. Kahne led for two laps before Edwards passed him on lap 341 to take the lead for what looked like it would be the final run to the checkered flag. However Jeff Burton’s engine expired on lap359 setting up a decision for the crew chiefs on how to approach the last few laps of the event. While most of the contenders for the win took to pit road and changed right side tires, Smith, Keselowski and Stewart stayed on the track. The green went in the air on lap 363 and Smith spun his tires but managed to hold onto the lead. Edwards worked his way into second place with Keselowski third when Clint Bowyer made it three wide coming out of turn four on lap 365. Contact ensued between himself and Harvick, sending Bowyer hard into the inside wall. After Harvick made the contact with Bowyer he bounced to the right and hit Busch who had to fight to control his car, eventually making contact with Harvick that spun the No. 29 out of contention for the race win. The resulting caution on lap 365. the 11th of therace, set up a green-white-checkered finish.

As the green flag flew, Keselowski pushed Smith to the lead and then battled with Edwards for a brief period, allowing Smith to drive his own line through one and two. When the cars returned to the start/finish line Smith was in the lead but Edwards was closing. Off of turn two Smith nearly lost his car, making some contact with the outside wall. He still led Edwards into turn three and for one of the few times all evening actually washed up the track which inadvertently took the air off of Edwards car and allowed Smith to hold him off through the turn and back to the checkered flag.

During the cool down period Busch and Harvick exchanged pleasantries, ultimately ending up parked nose-to-tail on pit road with Harvick’s car in front. Harvick climbed from his car and moved toward Busch’s, at which time Busch used his car to push Harvick’s out of the way and ultimately into the inside pit wall before driving on to the garage. After Busch got out of his car and went into the hauler the crew of Harvick showed up to explain their feelings to the crew for Busch and the NASCAR officials in the area were forced to maintain order. In the end both Harvick and Busch were both issued invitations to report to the NASCAR hauler before leaving the premises.

The win for Smith was his first victory in 105 Sprint Cup starts. This is his first top five finish of his career. After the race Smith quipped “You can call it a Cinderella story if you’d like, I don’t care, we’re taking a trophy home.” He also relished the victory for its historical significance “Winning at Darlington means more than winning at Talladega ever could.”

Third place finisher Keselowski thought he could help Smith to the lead on the last restart and help himself at the same time “I knew that I could time a run on that last restart and give Regan a good push. Carl (Edwards) was really fast behind me. I ended up giving him (Regan) a huge push into turn one and we hooked up and set sail. I’m really happy for Regan. I wanted to make sure that if I couldn’t win, he did. A win for the underdogs tonight, that’s for sure.”

Second place finisher Edwards was asked about the second surprise winner of the season “I think that is the wrong way to look at this. I think Regan is as good as any driver out there, so those guys have earned what they have. There’s a reason they’ve been out-qualifying everyone and it was just a matter of time before they put a whole race together. Myself included, I think all of us kind of underestimate them a little bit, but that will occur no longer. They got to Victory Lane and this is NASCAR. It’s equal opportunity. If you can do it, you earn it.”

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