Erik Jones wins the NASCAR playoff opener at Darlington in the famous No. 43 car – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

Erik Jones took the lead when Kyle Busch’s engine blew, then pulled away from Denny Hamlin after a late restart with 20 laps to go to win the opening race of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs at Darlington Raceway on Sunday night. .

Hamlin, the sixth seed in the playoffs, got close to Jones’ rear bumper on the final lap but couldn’t make the game-winning pass. Jones recorded his second career win at Darlington and third NASCAR victory.

It was also the 200th win for the iconic No. 43 car, with the most tied with Hall of Famer Richard Petty.

“He said if I won, he was going to give me a (cowboy) hat,” Jones laughed.

Jones became the first non-playoff driver to win Game 1 of NASCAR’s 10-race streak to a title. And he did as many of the top seeds had breakdowns and accidents.

Along with Busch’s explosion, No. 9 seed Kevin Harvick saw his car go up in flames in a terrifying sight. Harvick backed away from his stopped car to get to safety.

Chase Elliott, the top seed, had gone off during the first stage, sliding into the wall and hitting Chase Briscoe when he broke his suspension and was out of the race.

Kyle Larson, the defending series champion, was down three laps in the opening stage after engine trouble. Larson finished 12th.

Hamlin was second followed by three more playoff chasers in Tyler Reddick, Joey Logano and Christopher Bell. Michael McDowell was sixth, then Brad Keselowski, William Byron, Bubba Wallace

Busch led 155 of 367 laps, more than anyone else. He finished in 30th place.

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“These are unfortunate circumstances,” Busch said. “We just had a great car and we didn’t come out with anything to show it. That’s what I hate about it.”


Chase Elliott was out of the Southern 500 before he even got to the halfway point. Elliott slid into turn one and then picked up playoff contender Chase Briscoe. Elliott’s suspension was damaged. His team couldn’t fix it in the pits and took it to the garage.

Elliott finished 36th, last in the field. His plans for the future: “Run better than today.”


The scariest incident came on the final stage when Harvick caught fire on lap 276 going down the main straight. Harvick quickly pulled the car onto the grass and jumped out of the car, running to safety.

Moments later, during Harvick’s caution, JJ Yeley’s car headed into the pits on fire. That fire was also extinguished.

Harvick said it’s another safety issue with the Next Gen car that NASCAr needs to fix.

“What a mess, man,” Harvick said. “No reason… here we are in the pits with a burnt car and we can’t finish the race during the jump-off” due to unreliable parts.


The first round of the playoffs continues in Kansas next Sunday. Kurt Busch, currently recovering from a concussion in an accident at Pocono, won the race there in May. He gave up his playoff spot because he has not been medically cleared to return to the track.

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