Harvick wins Southern 500 as Truex and Elliott collide
This victory fell right into Kevin Harvick’s hands.
Chase Elliott and Martin Truex Jr. both made hard contact with the wall while racing for the lead with 17 of 367 laps remaining in Sunday while Harvick was running third.
Two laps later, Truex was forced to pit under green with a flat tire from the contact and Elliott’s damaged No. 9 Chevrolet began falling through the field, allowing Harvick to inherit the lead.
He then held off a determined charge from Austin Dillon over the final 12 laps to win Sunday night’s Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, the opening round of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.
“What a fight!” Harvick said over his team radio. “I don’t even know how we did that!”
The victory is a series-leading eighth this season for Harvick and locks him into the Round of 12 of the playoffs regardless of how he finishes in the next two races.
“First thing I want to say is welcome back, fans. This interview is a hell of a lot more fun with you guys up there (in the stands)," Harvick said. "I just want to say thank you to everybody from NASCAR, all of you fans here in South Carolina. We just wound up fighting all night long. The leaders got tangled up there and the next thing you know we were racing for the win.
“Obviously, those guys had trouble. I didn’t see what happened. I just heard my spotter tell me that something had happened. I’ve just got to thank everybody on our (team). They did a heck of a job tonight just keeping us in the game. Our car wasn’t very good, but we just kept fighting and kept ourselves up in the front with some great pit strategy and were able to stay up there and fight and wound up in the right spot.”
Asked about Austin Dillon closing in on him at the end of the race, Harvick said, “I just drove in there and wanted to hit my marks and hit the bottom. I knew I had a cushion and just wanted to maintain the best that I could. I just had to get back to the start-finish line, so just didn’t want to miss my marks.”
Joey Logano ended up third, Erik Jones fourth and William Byron fifth.
Completing the top-10 were Alex Bowman, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer.
Elliott limped home in 20th and Truex 22nd.
Following the break between Stages 2 and 3, all the lead-lap cars pit with Denny Hamlin the first off pit road this time.
On the restart on Lap 236, Hamlin was followed by Bowman, Truex and Harvick.
John Hunter Nemechek slammed the wall on the frontstretch on Lap 244 to bring out a caution. All lead-lap cars pit with Truex the first off pit road.
Truex lead the way on the restart on Lap 251, followed by Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson.
With 90 laps to go in the race, Truex held a 1.9-second lead over Kyle Busch. Hamlin was third, Harvick fourth and Kurt Busch remained in fifth.
On Lap 283, Johnson was the first to hit pit road for a green-flag pit stop, but he would still need to make another stop before the end of the race for fuel to make it to the finish.
Several other drivers adapted the same “two-stop” strategy, including Harvick and Elliott. It appeared the Joe Gibbs Racing cars were going to employ a one-stop strategy and cut the final stage in half.
With 70 laps remaining, Truex continued out front, with about a 2.5-second lead on Kyle Busch and Hamlin in third. Of those who had already pit, Harvick led the way in ninth.
Hamlin was planning to stop on Lap 308 but missed the entrance to pit road and had to make another circuit around the track.
By Lap 309, the remainder of the lead-lap cars had pit which cycled Harvick – one of the first to pit – back into the race lead.
Elliott got around Harvick for the lead just before a caution was displayed on Lap 320 for debris on the backstretch, which appeared to be a crush panel off someone’s car.
All the lead-lap cars pit with Elliott and Harvick the first off pit road with four new tires each. On the restart on Lap 327, Elliott led the way followed by Truex, Austin Dillon and Harvick.
With 35 laps remaining, Elliott maintain a small lead over Truex with Harvick close behind in third.
Truex has closed to Elliott’s rear bumper with 20 laps to go, putting pressure on Elliott for the lead. Harvick ran third, 5 seconds behind the leader.
On Lap 353, both Elliott and Truex got into the wall in Turn 2 with Truex coming away with the race lead.
Both cars suffered damage with Truex eventually forced to pit with a likely flat tire, which turned the lead back over to Harvick on Lap 355. Elliott remained on the track and running fourth.
Truex dominated on the way to the Stage 2 victory, completing a sweep of both stages at Darlington.
Hamlin was second, Harvick third, Bowman fourth and Johnson rounded out the top-five.
Following the break between Stages 1 and 2, the lead-lap cars all pit with Truex and Elliott the first two cars off pit road.
On the restart on Lap 122, Truex led the way followed by Elliott and Hamlin.
Ryan Blaney dove down pit road at the start of Stage 2 for a second stop as he had developed a flat tire. He rejoined the field a lap down and in 31st.
With 85 laps remaining in Stage 2, Truex maintained a 2.8-second lead over Elliott as Hamlin continued in third.
With less then 75 laps to go in the stage, a handful of drivers hit pit road to begin a round of green-flag pit stops for new tires and enough fuel to make it to the end of the stage.
A larger group of drivers – trying to split the stage in two – began green-flag stops with 60 laps remaining in the stage.
Harvick, who pit early, moved into the lead on Lap 174 with a more than 7-second lead over Truex but will likely have to make a second stop for fuel before the end of the stage.
On Lap 180, Bubba Wallace looped it off Turn 4 to bring out a caution. All lead-lap cars pit with Truex the first off pit road.
Cole Custer was penalized for speeding on pit road and had to restart from the rear of the field. On the restart on Lap 186, Truex was followed by Hamlin, Johnson and Harvick.
With 30 laps to go in the stage, Truex held less than a second lead over Harvick with Hamlin in third.
On Lap 216, Hamlin worked his way around Harvick and into the runner-up position, 4 seconds behind Truex.
Truex took command of the race after a late caution and cruised to the Stage 1 victory over Johnson, his third stage win of the 2020 season.
Elliott was third, Hamlin fourth and Kurt Busch rounded out the top-five.
Elliott, who started on the pole, led the first 25 laps until NASCAR displayed a planned competition caution to allow teams to check for tire wear.
The lead-lap cars all pit during the caution with Elliott the first off pit road. On the restart on Lap 32, Elliott led the way followed by Bowman and Byron.
With 65 laps remaining in the first stage, Elliott had built a 1.2-second lead over Truex while Harvick had moved up to third.
With 50 laps to go, Elliott’s lead over Truex remained at 1.4 seconds while Hamlin had moved into third and Harvick dropped to fourth. Johnson had climbed to fifth after starting 22nd.
On Lap 67, Austin Dillon pit under green for a flat tire.
Around Lap 70, several lead-lap cars began a round of green-flag pit stops for new tires and enough fuel to make it to the end of the stage.
Once the cycle of stops was completed on Lap 75, Elliott reclaimed the top spot with about a half-second advantage over Truex. Hamlin ran third.
On Lap 81, NASCAR displayed the caution for debris in Turn 4 that appeared to come after Brad Keselowski tagged the wall.
Most lead-lap cars pit with Truex the first off pit road followed by Elliott and Hamlin. On the restart on Lap 87, Kurt Busch – who had stayed out – led the way.
By Turn 3 after the restart, Truex had powered into the lead for the first time in the race.
On Lap 94, Elliott got around Kurt Busch off Turn 2 to move to the second spot, 2.2 seconds behind Truex.
With 10 laps to go in the first stage, Johnson passed Elliott to take over the runner-up position, 2.9 seconds behind Truex.
|19||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Chevrolet||367||3:47'50.306||23.714||0.984|
|21||21||Matt DiBenedetto||Ford||366||3:47'28.745||1 Lap||1 Lap|
|22||19||Martin Truex Jr.||Toyota||366||3:47'32.733||1 Lap||3.988||196|
|23||8||Tyler Reddick||Chevrolet||366||3:47'55.102||1 Lap||22.369|
|24||12||Ryan Blaney||Ford||366||3:47'56.771||1 Lap||1.669|
|25||96||Daniel Suarez||Toyota||364||3:47'37.994||3 Laps||2 Laps|
|26||17||Chris Buescher||Ford||364||3:47'42.134||3 Laps||4.140|
|27||13||Ty Dillon||Chevrolet||363||3:47'29.507||4 Laps||1 Lap|
|28||15||Brennan Poole||Chevrolet||362||3:47'58.949||5 Laps||1 Lap|
|29||77||Ross Chastain||Chevrolet||360||3:47'38.101||7 Laps||2 Laps|
|30||27||J.J. Yeley||Ford||360||3:47'38.419||7 Laps||0.318|
|31||00||Quin Houff||Chevrolet||357||3:47'59.992||10 Laps||3 Laps|
|32||7||Josh Bilicki||Chevrolet||356||3:47'40.289||11 Laps||1 Lap|
|33||51||Joey Gase||Ford||351||3:47'40.856||16 Laps||5 Laps|
|34||95||Christopher Bell||Toyota||349||3:47'52.049||18 Laps||2 Laps|
|35||66||Timmy Hill||Toyota||296||3:30'31.527||71 Laps||53 Laps|
|36||38||John Hunter Nemechek||Ford||245||2:34'00.452||122 Laps||51 Laps|
|37||32||Corey Lajoie||Ford||234||2:28'08.550||133 Laps||11 Laps|
|38||43||Bubba Wallace||Chevrolet||217||2:50'03.473||150 Laps||17 Laps|
|39||53||James Davison||Chevrolet||162||1:42'47.189||205 Laps||55 Laps|
Ryan Blaney penalized, crew chief suspended at Darlington
Truex on run-in with Elliott: "Just two guys going for the win"