Erik Jones steals the show with a surprise win at Darlington

Erik Jones slid under the radar to win the Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway as everyone else was focused on the drivers who were competing in the Playoffs.

And, he did it in style, capturing the 200th win for the 43 number that was made famous by NASCAR’s “King,” Richard Petty.

It was Jones’ third career victory in the NASCAR Cup Series and his second Southern 500 victory.  

“We’ve been so close all year, and I didn’t think today was going to be the day,” he said. It was going to be a tough one to win, I knew, but no better fitting place. I love this track. I love this race. On that trophy twice, man. I was pumped to be on it once, but to have it on there twice — pretty cool.

Well, I mean, I never lost any belief in myself through any of it,” Jones continued. “I knew I could still do it, and I just knew we needed to grow the program to do it, and we have. We’ve brought on a lot of great people in the last year. Dave Elenz called a great race today. His first Cup win — that’s pretty cool for him.

“I’m excited, man. We’ve been talking about this day for a long time, and it is redemption in a lot of ways. Very fitting that it’s here at this race again. I felt like this was the race that saved my job the first time around, and coming back here with this win, I guess it puts you back on the map.”

The Track Too Tough To Tame lived up to its moniker in a tumultuous race that included 21 lead changes among 11 different drivers and nine cautions for 58 laps.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin finished second and his teammate, Christopher Bell, was scored in fifth place.  Tyler Reddick was third in his No. 8 Richard Childress Chevrolet and Team Penske driver Joey Logano was fourth.

But not all of the Joe Gibbs Racing drivers were as fortunate as Hamlin and Bell. Kyle Busch saw a potential win slip away after leading a race-high 155 laps when his engine blew and he had to settle for a 30th place result.

“Real proud of the guys for their fight,” Busch said. “The guys on pit road tonight were awesome. So I had a lot of fun being up front, leading laps like that, being able to show what we’re made of. I just hate that we can’t finish with the points we need.”

Busch’s teammate, Martin Truex Jr., didn’t make the Playoffs, but ran strong throughout the race, leading 48 laps before he suffered a power steering failure.

One of the biggest surprises was Chase Elliott who entered the Playoffs on top but spun toward the end of Stage 1 and damaged the back of his No. 9 Chevrolet. The team was unable to make repairs within the time frame of the damaged vehicle policy and he was relegated to a last-place finish.

“I just hit the wall in (Turns) 1 and 2 and broke something in the right rear,” Elliott said. And, when asked how he would approach the next playoff race at Kansas Speedway? “A lot better than we did today.”

Elliott leaves Darlington Raceway in ninth place in the playoff standings.

Kevin Harvick was another driver who left Darlington frustrated and angry after a fire in his car put him on the sidelines with a disappointing 33rd-place finish.

When asked by NBC Sports’ Marty Snider what caused the fire, Harvick said, “I’m sure it’s just crappy parts on the race car like we’ve seen so many times. They haven’t fixed anything. It’s kind of like the safety stuff. We just let it keep going and keep going.  

“The car started burning and as it burned the flames started coming through the dash. I ran a couple of laps and then as the flame got bigger it started burning stuff up and I think right there you see all the brake fluid that was probably coming out the brakes and part of the brake line, but the fire was coming through the dash.  

“What a disaster for no reason. We didn’t touch the wall. We didn’t touch a car and here we are in the pits with a burned-up car and we can’t finish the race during the playoffs because of crappy-ass parts.”

Drivers Austin Cindric, Austin Dillon, Chase Briscoe and Harvick are the four drivers who are now below the cut line with two races remaining in the Round of 16.

Next week the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Kansas Speedway for the Hollywood Casino 400 as the Playoffs continue.



The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

Angela Campbell
Angela Campbell
A native of Charlotte, NC, Angela (Angie) was first introduced to racing by her father. An avid fan of NASCAR, she found a way to combine her love of racing with her passion for writing. Angie is also an award-winning member of the National Motorsports Press Association. Follow her on Twitter @angiecampbell_ for the latest NASCAR news and feature stories.

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