Regan Smith won the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on Saturday night. Smith held off Carl Edwards in a green-white-checkered finish. It is the first NASCAR Sprint Cup win in 105 career starts for the driver of the 78 Chevy Impala. Following the race, the unlikely winner said, "This is the Southern 500. We're not supposed to win this thing."
Smith, from Cato, New York, qualified 23rd but worked his way to the front with nine laps to go and took the checkers for Furniture Row Racing, a single car owner out of Denver, Colorado. Smith survived two re-starts late in the race. His gamble to stay out on the track on older tires paid off with his first trip to victory lane on any level of NASCAR. Carl Edwards was second, Brad Keselowski third, pole sitter Kasey Kahne finished fourth.
Late in the race, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer wrecked. In a fit of rage, Busch bumped Harvick's car following the race. Both drivers were sent to the NASCAR hauler. Busch finished 11th. Jeff Burton brought out the 10th and final caution of the race, setting up an overtime finish.
Edwards is still the points leader by 23 over Jimmie Johnson as the Sprint Cup Series heads to Dover next Sunday at 1 p.m.
WPDE Sports Director Rich Chrampanis covered his 18th Cup race at the Track Too Tough to Tame and gives his news and notes from the race weekend:
There are two eras of racing at Darlington. The old pavement and the new pavement. Before 2007, it used to be like this: You could ride around like Superman for about 10 laps and then your tires would completely go away from you, making an already challenging task even harder as you skated around and fighting to keep your car out of the fence.
In 2007, the new pavement came and with that grip. The speeds are faster than ever and the tires don't fade away like they did in the old days. I remember in 2005 when Ryan Newman was absolutely dominant and decided to stay out late in the race while everyone behind him got four tires. It took just two laps to slide from winning to 5th place for Newman.
Fast forward to 2011. It's late in the race and the leaders are coming in with under 10 laps to go. Carl Edwards took two tires, but three cars stayed out: Regan Smith, Brad Keselowski and Tony Stewart. Edwards found himself in fourth place. It didn't take long for the #99 to rocket into second place, but then the Clint Bowyer crash set up a green white checkered finish. Two laps and one spot to gain seemed like a near certainty for the current points leader, but Regan Smith was able to hold him off for the win. In the old days, Smith would have freefalled just like Newman did in 2005. But, at the new Darlington, the staying out gamble paid off.
Don't take anything away from Smith. He did an exceptional job of driving for the win and shows proof positive that the entire field of drivers on a Cup track each weekend are elite. Smith quickly realized the magntiude of his upset win in Victory Lane, joking that he's going to have to watch a videotape of the race as soon as he gets home to believe that he actually did it. When Smith entered the media center, he quipped that he heard he was 500 to 1 odds in Las Vegas and he hoped somebody made a bet on him.
In victory lane, Smith talked about his Mom not being at Darlington for the race, but she had a great excuse. Smith's mother was in Tuscaloosa, helping out with abandoned animals that were effected by the tornadoes in Alabama. He was able to speak to his Mom in victory lane and got her Mother's Day started with the Johnny Mantz Trophy.
I would love to share with you a first hand account over the much talked about post-race bout between Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch. However, when it comes to being at the track and covering the race, there's only so much you can do. I stood at the start-finish line for the final 40 laps. As soon as the race ended, I ran down towards turn one where drivers who finished 2nd to 5th were available for interviews. Right after that, it's off to victory lane to talk to the winner. When I was talking to Carl Edwards, the Busch/Harvick drama was being played out on the other side of the fronstretch. If you missed it, watch the entire incident on Yahoo.com's video courtesy of NASCAR.com:
So much of Friday and Saturday were spent analyzing the feud between Juan Pablo Montoya and Ryan Newman. Both drivers came to the Media Center on Friday and expressed rather strong opinions about who was wrong and that the problem was not settled. Then, a private meeting in the hauler "did not go well" according to NASCAR officials. With no incidents on the track on Saturday, the Montoya/Newman feud takes a backseat to Harvick and Busch.
While NASCAR mulls over possible fines and penalties early this week, behind closed doors the powers that be must be smiling. This is the kind of drama that race fans absolutely love and are needed to get TV ratings back on the upswing.
The Toll Darlington takes on a Driver
Every single year I talk to the top five finishers at Darlington and the drivers who fall just short of victory look like they have been through a 15 round heavyweight fight. I can remember Dale Jarrett and Dale Earnhardt, Junior having to walk over to the cement wall to take a seat because they were so exhausted. It was the same place I saw fourth place finisher Kasey Kahne. After talking with Carl Edwards, I saw Kahne slumped over on the wall guzzling a water. I asked him for one question and he looked up and just shook his head. Kahne is one of the most accomodating and friendly drivers I have dealt with on the Cup level, but the Lady in Black exhausted him.
Clint Bowyer took a hard lick from his teammate Kevin Harvick and was the collateral damage of the Harvick/Kyle Busch feud. The #33 pilot climbed out of his car and walked straight to his hauler after wrecking. When MRN tried to get his take, he never broke stride and simply said when asked what happened, "It's Darlington". That pretty much sums it up.
Carl Edwards was a most gracious second place finisher. Putting aside his frustration of falling just short of a coveted win at Darlington, Edwards stopped Regan Smith on the way to victory lane to congratulate him. If that wasn't enough, Edwards then made his was over to victory lane and congratulated the entire team.
2011 Unofficial Driver Standings: Showtime Southern 500Showtime Southern 500 | Darlington Raceway | Race 10 of 36 RANK +/- DRIVER POINTS BEHIND STARTS POLES WINS TOP 5 TOP 10 1 -- Carl Edwards 378 Leader 10 2 1 6 8 2 -- Jimmie Johnson 355 -23 10 0 1 4 6 3 -- Kyle Busch 339 -39 10 0 2 5 6 4 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. 331 -47 10 1 0 2 5 5 -- Kevin Harvick 328 -50 10 0 2 4 5 6 +2 Ryan Newman 317 -61 10 0 0 4 5 7 +3 Tony Stewart 313 -65 10 0 0 1 4 8 -2 Kurt Busch 306 -72 10 0 0 1 5 9 -2 Clint Bowyer 297 -81 10 0 0 2 5 10 -1 Matt Kenseth 295 -83 10 1 1 3 4 11 -- A.J. Allmendinger 287 -91 10 0 0 0 2 12 +2 Greg Biffle 286 -92 10 0 0 1
13-1 Juan Montoya 283 -95 10 2 0 2 4 14 -1 Mark Martin 281 -97 10 0 0 0 3 15 +3 Kasey Kahne 278 -100 10 1 0 2 5 16 +1 Denny Hamlin 276 -102 10 0 0 1 3 17 -1 Jeff Gordon 272 -106 10 1 1 3 3 18 -3 Paul Menard 271 -107 10 0 0 2 3 19 -- David Ragan 254 -124 10 1 0 1 3 20 +2 Martin Truex Jr. 245 -133 10 0 0 0 2 21 +3 Jamie McMurray 243 -135 10 1 0 0 2 22 +1 Marcos Ambrose 240 -138 10 0 0 1 2 23 +2 Bobby Labonte 225 -153 10 0 0 1 1 24 -4 Jeff Burton 225 -153 10 0 0 0 0 25 -4 Joey Logano 221 -157 10 0 0 0 1 26 +2 Brad Keselowski 220 -158 10 0 0 1 1 27 +2 Regan Smith 216 -162 10 0 1 1 2 28 -1 David Reutimann 215 -163 10 0 0 0 0 29 -3 Brian Vickers 199 -179 10 0 0 0 3 30 -- David Gilliland 180 -198 10 0 0 1 2