ThatsRacin

NASCAR: Martin Truex Jr. races to Darlington victory

Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the No. 78 Toyota, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on Sunday.
Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the No. 78 Toyota, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on Sunday. Getty Images

Martin Truex Jr. was strongest when it mattered most Sunday, winning the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

Truex, whose previous victory this season came at the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, outlasted Kevin Harvick, who led a race-high 214 laps but was ultimately undone by errors by his pit crew.

It was the second Southern 500 victory for Truex’s Denver-based Furniture Row Racing. Regan Smith won for the organization in 2011.

Kyle Larson finished third, Denny Hamlin fourth and Joey Logano fifth. Ryan Newman, who finished eighth, drew to within seven points of Jamie McMurray for the 16th and final spot in the Chase, which begins in two weeks.

Harvick was upset with his pit crew for errors that cost him the lead.

“I’m through with being a cheerleader,” he said of his crew. “They get paid a lot of money to do their jobs.”

Turning point

Truex took the lead over Newman on Lap 339 stayed out front for 28 of the final 29 laps. That included keeping Harvick at bay on a restart on Lap 355 and winning by several car lengths.

Three who mattered

Martin Truex Jr.: Has performed well on the sport’s biggest stages this season, finishing second in the Daytona 500 and winning the Coca-Cola 600 in dominant fashion.

Kevin Harvick: Led the 10,000th lap of is career during the race, joining Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth as only active drivers to lead that many. But pit-road problems plagued him Sunday and he finished second.

Kyle Larson: Backed up first victory of his career last week with a third-place finish.

Observations

▪ It took a while for the yellow flag to be shown. Trevor Bayne spun in Turn 4 for the race’s first caution on Lap 96.

▪ Jimmie Johnson was penalized for an illegal body modification and was hit with a pass-through penalty. That precipitated a humorous conversation on his radio between spotter Earl Baban and crew chief Chad Knaus:

Baban: “We’re the ‘lucky dog’ now, right?”

Knaus: “No, we’re two laps down, Earl.”

Baban: “Oh, fudge.”

Johnson later crashed on the front stretch and finished 33rd.

▪ Rookie Brian Scott clipped the inside backstretch wall on Lap 204 when Tony Stewart hit him from behind. Stewart later claimed innocence, but NASCAR summoned he and crew chief Michael Bugarewicz for a postrace meeting.

“Hey man, I made it 25 races,” Stewart said on his radio. “I’d say that’s pretty good.”

Stewart’s engine blew on Lap 318 and he finished 35th.

▪ Jeff Gordon, driving the “Gray Ghost” throwback car for Dale Earnhardt Jr., was 14th

They said it

“This is unbelieveable. I’ve always loved this race track. I’ve led a lot of laps in my career, but something’s always happened.” -- Truex.

Next race

Federated Auto Parts 400

Where: Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.

When: 7:30 p.m., Saturday.

TV: NBC Sports Network.

Radio: Motor Racing Network.

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