The Cook Out Southern 500 on Sunday should have belonged to Chase Elliott or Martin Truex Jr.
Elliott and Truex had been running side-by-side throughout the race and entered the final 15 laps of the marathon competition well ahead of the pack. No one was within four seconds of their cars.
An aggressive turn by Truex, however, sent each driver into the wall and tumbling out of contention at Darlington.
“Sorry, guys, hell of a car,” Truex told his team after the race. “Sorry, man, I was going for it. I guess I shouldn’t have.”
Kevin Harvick, who had been a distant third, cruised past to victory in a continuation of his fabulous 2020 season. The playoff-opening triumph was Harvick’s second win at Darlington in 2020 and his eighth win overall this season.
Elsewhere among Round of 16 contenders, Austin Dillon exceeded expectations by coming in second and Joey Logano gained third place following the late incident. Brad Keselowski was nearly forced out of the race by a crash that caused significant damage, but his crew salvaged his vehicle and he rallied to a respectable 11th-place finish. Denny Hamlin missed a pit in the final stage and settled for 13th.
Below is more information about the race, from Harvick’s perspective to the updated playoff standings:
Nicknamed “The Closer,” Harvick usually causes stress when lurking behind the leaders down the stretch of a race. While the veteran’s Sunday win at Darlington was less about him than the self-inflicted damage of Elliott and Truex, being in position to pounce on a mistake was typical of his racing abilities.
Harvick acknowledged he was fortunate to claim the Cook Out Southern 500 but also noted the role of his persistence in the result.
“Just wound up fighting all night long, this (car) wasn’t where we wanted it to be, but the leaders got tangled up there and next thing you know we were racing for the win,” Harvick told reporters. “Anytime you can win the Southern 500 it’s a good day. This is one of the most prestigious races in our sport and one of the most prestigious race tracks in our sport. Any time you can win at Darlington it’s a big deal.”
Harvick and Hamlin continue to hold a huge lead over everyone else because of their regular-season success, while Logano cemented his own comfortable position with a third-place finish at Darlington.
The next NASCAR playoff race will be at Richmond next Saturday. The playoff field will be trimmed from 16 drivers to 12 following the race at Bristol on Sept. 19. Harvick clinched an automatic berth in the Round of 12 with his win in the Southern 500.
Here’s how every driver still in contention looks:
Material from the NASCAR Wire Service was used in this report.
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