NASCAR Playoffs at Darlington: Erik Jones drives the No. 43 to Victory Lane for the first time in eight years

On September 4, 1967, Richard Petty won the Southern 500 for the only time in his unparalleled stock car racing career. In the 55 years since then, wins for Petty’s car number had gotten harder and harder to come by, until Sunday night when Petty’s driver put the No. 43 back where it belongs.

After taking the lead when Kyle Busch blew up an engine under caution, Jones passed Denny Hamlin over the final 20 laps to the checkered flag, stopping him to win the Cook Out Southern 500 for the second time in his career.

Jones’ win is much more than the third of his career and the first in three years: It’s the first win for Richard Petty’s No. 43 since 2014, and the 200th win in car number history.

Cook Out Southern 500 Unofficial Results

  1. Mobile #43
  2. #11 – Denny Hamlin
  3. #8 – Tyler Reddick
  4. #22 – Joey Logano
  5. #20 – Christopher Bell
  6. #34 – Michael McDowell
  7. #6 – Brad Keselowski
  8. #24 – William Byron
  9. Mobile #45
  10. #48 – Alex Bowman

Jones had been running third with 28 laps to go when the final caution came out for a Cody Ware crash, setting up a final round of caution pit stops that saw Jones start second behind Kyle Busch. Then, under caution, Busch’s engine suddenly went up in smoke, putting Jones into the race lead and giving him a chance to end a three-year winless drought that had lasted, coincidentally, since he first won. the Southern 500 in 2019, and that had seen him land with Richard Petty’s team after Joe Gibbs Racing dropped him at the end of the 2020 season.

“Just amazing. I’m so proud of these guys at Petty GMS, the FocusFactor team,” Jones told NBC Sports. “Man, we’ve been so close, here and there all year. I didn’t think today was going to be the day. It was going to be tough to win, I knew it. But there’s no better place, man. I love this track, I love this career, and I’m in that trophy twice, man. I was excited to be in it once, but to have it there twice is great.”

Jones becomes the 17th different driver to win a Cup race this season, setting a modern-era record for the most different winners in 27 races. He is also the seventh different driver to win in the No. 43: in addition to Richard Petty (192), other drivers now joining Jones include Jim Paschal (2), Bobby Hamilton (2), Lee Petty (1), John Andretti (1) and Aric Almirola (1).

As a non-playoff driver, Jones prevented any of the playoff drivers from getting an automatic spot in the round of 12, beating them all in a race in which many suffered mechanical problems.

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wear stroke

From the moment this race began in 1950, the Southern 500 heralded itself as one of NASCAR’s most brutal tests of man and machine, with Darlington being tough and unforgiving on driver and team alike. On Sunday night, the Southern 500 lived up to her old reputation, with The Lady in Black fending off many of the playoff suitors who tried to court her.

Early in the race, Kyle Larson began experiencing electrical problems with his engine, losing four laps that he would eventually make up on his way to 12th. He was lucky to do it, because his fellow playoff competitors weren’t so lucky.

Chase Elliott crashed on lap 113 and suffered terminal damage to his rear control arms in a crash that also cost Chase Briscoe. Ross Chastain worked his way up to third, but his chances of winning came to a halt when something went wrong with the left rear suspension pins.

Kevin Harvick had a terrifying exit from the race, when his Stewart-Haas Racing Ford caught fire after his right front rocker panel caught fire. Harvick, who made strong comments earlier in the week about how he felt NASCAR was not acting appropriately on safety concerns with the construction of the Next Gen car, made even stronger comments about the quality of Next Gen auto parts later. exiting his machine as he was consumed by fire.

“I’m sure it’s just the faulty race car parts, like we’ve seen so many times. We haven’t fixed anything,” Harvick told NBC Sports, sharing that flames had started to spread through the dashboard of his car. “…What a mess, man. There’s no reason. We didn’t hit the wall, we didn’t hit a car, and here we are in the pits with a burned out car and we can’t finish the race, during the playoffs, because of shitty parts.”

Martin Truex Jr. seemed to have the race under control and was on his way to his first win of the season when he suddenly lost power steering and then saw his engine running on it. That left the race in the hands of Kyle Busch until his engine suddenly and inexplicably expired while driving under caution.

“He just had a great car and I don’t come out with anything to show for it. That’s what I really hate about him,” Busch told NBC Sports. “…I don’t know. The sun will rise tomorrow.”

playoff picture

With Chase Elliott crashing out and finishing last, Joey Logano has now taken a six-point lead over William Byron in the Round of 16 standings. Elliott has dropped to ninth (-24), but was able to stay 14 points over the cutoff thanks to the large number of playoff points he had earned by winning the regular-season championship.

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Daniel Suarez, who finished 18th after an up-and-down day, currently holds the last transfer spot to reach the Round of 16. The four drivers below the cutoff after the first playoff race are Austin Cindric (-2), Austin Dillon (-4), Chase Briscoe (-10) and Kevin Harvick (-13).

Summary of race results

  • As they are two of the most iconic numbers in NASCAR history, Jones’ victory following Austin Dillon’s win at Daytona last weekend marks the first time Richard Childress Racing’s No. 3 and No. Richard Petty’s 43 wins in consecutive weeks since 1999 John Andretti scored a dramatic win at Martinsville in the No. 43 Petty, and the following week saw Dale Earnhardt take the No. 3 to victory in the DieHard 500 at Talladega.
  • With a seventh-place finish, Brad Keselowski tied his best finish of the season and also posted his fourth top-10 finish of the season. That now gives Keselowski more than twice the top 10 he had in his worst statistical season in 2010, another indicator that the glass is half full for Keselowski.
  • The Southern 500 marked William Byron’s strongest race in months as he led twice for a total of 50 laps before finishing eighth, his first top-10 finish since Sonoma in June. It was the fourth-most laps Byron has led in a race all season, though it pales in comparison to his totals from Atlanta (111), Richmond (122) and Martinsville (212).
  • Cole Custer still looks like he was able to turn a corner. Custer ran well all night and finished a respectable 14th, marking his third straight finish of 16th or better after what had been another disappointing year for the former Cup Rookie of the Year.
  • Ty Gibbs drove 23XI Racing’s No. 23 to a 15th-place finish, marking his third top-15 finish in now seven races as a replacement driver for Kurt Busch. Gibbs’ result meant both 23XI cars finished in the top 15 after his number change to give the No. 45, driven to a ninth-place finish by Bubba Wallace, the best possible chance at an owners’ championship.
  • Corey LaJoie enjoyed another strong run at the Southern 500, sitting out under caution to take the lead and holding his own in the top 10 after running with the leaders all night. Unfortunately, LaJoie would later report fuel pump issues and fade to 24th.

next race

NASCAR’s playoff round continues in the heat next week when the Cup Series returns to Kansas Speedway for the Hollywood Casino 400 next Sunday at 3 p.m.

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