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NASCAR Cup Series

Harvick Tames the Lady in Black to Kickoff Playoffs

Kevin Harvick celebrates after winnint the Southern 500 - Chris Carlson - Associated Press

NASCAR Cup Champion Kevin Harvick wins at Darlington as race leaders Chase Elliott and Martin Truex Jr. tangle at the Lady in Black.


The NASCAR Cup Series playoffs officially began Sunday at Darlington Raceway for the Cook Out Southern 500.  Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin entered the postseason with a sizable points lead while Hendrick Chevy Pilot Chase Elliott secured the Pole award.

Cook Out Southern 500 – Stage 1 recap:

The Green Flag flew to officially start the Championship Playoffs.  Chase Elliott dominated the early lead of the Cook Out Southern 500, leading the 81 opening laps in Stage 1.  Decreased Sunlight hampered Elliott’s handling as nightlight adorned the track.

Denny Hamlin patiently drove his way to the front midway through Stage 1 as Chase slipped backward.

Major Issues for Cup Champion and Playoff Contender Brad Keselowski as Ryan Blaney tagged his teammate sending Brad in to the safety barrier wall requiring pit attention.

Truex Jr.’s expedited pit service bolted his JG Racing Toyota out of pits in the lead.  Martin Truex Jr. capitalized on the service and captured the Stage 1 checkers.

Cook Out Southern 500 – Stage 1 Results

  1. Martin Truex Jr.
  2. Jimmy Johnson
  3. Chase Elliott
  4. Denny Hamlin
  5. Kurt Busch
  6. Alex Bowman
  7. Joey Logano
  8. William Byron
  9. Kyle Busch
  10. Kevin Harvick

The late-summer South Carolina heat produced a slick race track as the day turned into night and the temperatures began to play a handling factor. Mid-Race adjustments must be utilized to contend with changing track conditions.

Cook Out Southern 500 – Stage 2 recap:

Martin Truex Jr. proved convincingly that he is the driver to contend by controlling Stage 2.

NASCAR Cup Champion Kurt Busch hasda brief stint leading the race only to be recycled by Truex Jr. Regular Season Champ Kevin Harvick driving on a prayer, stayed out 17 laps longer than most contenders for pit service hoping for caution soon. A Bubba Wallace caution allows Harvick to acquire pit service as front runners additionally pit.

Cream rises to the top as Martin Truex Jr. regained the lead as the Stage contenders shrunk in his rear view mirror.  Truex Jr. swept both Stages in a dominating form.

Cook Out Southern 500 – Stage 2 Results

  1. Martin Truex Jr
  2. Denny Hamlin
  3. Kevin Harvick
  4. Alex Bowman
  5. Jimmie Johnson
  6. Kyle Busch
  7. Erik Jones
  8. Austin Dillon
  9. Clint Bowyer
  10. Kurt Busch

Cook Out Southern 500Race recap:

Lap 245 brought out a John Hunter Nemecheck caution allowing playoff contender Matt DiBenedetto a free pass back on the lead lap.  This put all playoff players will be on the lead lap to battle for the win and playoff advancement.

With only 100 circuits remaining,  Joe Gibbs racing drivers:  Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin made up the top three spots, respectfully.  Truex Jr. continued to hold a 3 second advantage over Kyle Busch in second. Debris on the track on lap 46 brought out the 7th caution of the day on brought in most drivers for final service.

Elliott would bring the field to green as Truex Jr. and Harvick advance.

Martin Truex Jr. catches Chase Elliott as both tangle for position, smacking the fence collecting their Darlington stripe.  These two dominant cars would eliminate their chances of victory as Kevin Harvick and Austin Dillon drive to the front.

Kevin Harvick hit his preferred lines and pulled away 10 car length lead over second place Austin Dillion with 3 laps to go.  Dillon would not go down quietly as he noticed Harvick missing his marks through the final turns. Harvick’s cushion was enough to hold off a charging Dillon battling for the win.

Chase Elliott finished 20th, while Martin Truex Jr. cut a tire from their collision and dropped to 22nd.

Cook Out Southern 500Finishing Order of Playoff Drivers

1. Kevin Harvick

2. Austin Dillon

3. Joey Logano

5. William Byron

6. Alex Bowman

7. Kyle Busch

8. Kurt Busch

9. Aric Almirola

10. Clint Bowyer

11. Brad Keselowski

12. Cole Custer

13. Denny Hamlin

20. Matt DiBenedetto

22. Martin Truex Jr.

24. Ryan Blaney

Kevin Harvick’s Cookout Southern 500 Victory marks his 57th NASCAR Cup Series victory passing Reigning NASCAR Cup Champion Kyle Busch at 56.

Average Speed: 132.256

Margin of Victory: .343 sec.

Caution Flags :  7 for 34 laps; Laps: 27-31 (Competition Caution [77]); 82-86 (Debris Turn 4 [13]); 117-121 (Stage 1 Conclusion [96]); 181-185 (#43 Spin Turn 4 [38]); 232- 235 (Stage 2 Conclusion [34]); 246-250 (#38 Incident Frontstretch [21]); 322-326 (Debris on Backstretch [6]).

Lead Changes : 18 among 6 drivers; C. Elliott (P) 1-71; D. Hamlin (P) 72; K. Busch (P) 73-74; C. Elliott (P) 75-83; K. Busch (P) 84-85; M. Truex Jr. (P) 86-117; C. Elliott (P) 118; M. Truex Jr. (P) 119-172; K. Busch (P) 173; K. Harvick (P) 174-181; A. Bowman (P) 182; M. Truex Jr. (P) 183-231; D. Hamlin (P) 232-247; M. Truex Jr. (P) 248-306; D. Hamlin (P) 307-308; K. Harvick (P) 309-319; C. Elliott (P) 320-352; M. Truex Jr. (P) 353-354; K. Harvick (P) 355-367.

The NASCAR Cup Series Championship Playoff Race #2 locates to Richmond Raceway – Saturday, September 12th for the Federated Auto Parts 400  – 7:00 p.m. ET  (NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM 90 NASCAR Radio).

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