Charlotte Observer NASCAR reporter Shane Connuck, alongside Alex Zietlow and Lou Bezjak, will be passing along updates from today’s Cup Series race at Darlington Raceway. See those musings in the section below.
Unofficial results from Darlington
Kyle Larson (P)
Tyler Reddick (P)
Chris Buescher (P)
William Byron (P)
Ross Chastain (P)
Brad Keselowski (P)
Bubba Wallace (P)
Chase Elliott (P)
Ryan Blaney (P)
Kyle Busch (P)
Joey Logano (P)
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (P)
Martin Truex Jr. (P)
Kevin Harvick (P)
Ty Gibbs #
Christopher Bell (P)
Denny Hamlin (P)
Michael McDowell (P)
Live updates: Southern 500 in Darlington
Lap 367: Kyle Larson holds off Tyler Reddick and the rest of the field to claim the Southern 500 crown jewel. The rest of the Top 10: Tyler Reddick, Chris Buescher, William Byron, Ross Chastain, Brad Keselowski, Bubba Wallace, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones. More to come soon!
Lap 338: Green again.
Lap 331: Denny Hamlin, Michael McDowell and Todd Gilliland are all involved in a wreck. Caution. More bad luck for a day riddled in some for Hamlin. Take a look at what happened here:
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) September 4, 2023
Lap 323: Green green green! Top 10: Kyle Larson, Chris Buescher, Tyler Reddick, Brad Keselowski, William Bryon, Ross Chastain, Bubba Wallace, AJ Allmendinger, Chase Briscoe, Carson Hocevar.
Lap 319: Daniel Suarez and Alex Bowman get into each other as the two make contact on the front straightaway. Caution. They collect Harrison Burton in their tangle, too. Bowman seemed to throw one-too-many blocks.
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) September 4, 2023
Lap 316: And we’re green green green!
Lap 311: Caution! Talk about an impossible situation! Kevin Harvick was running P2 and committed to pit road — and then Tyler Reddick slowed into Ryan Newman, who then spun out and prompted a caution before Harvick crossed the pit lane line. That’ll be a pass-through penalty for Harvick ... and there might go his winning chances. Brutal.
In the apt words of Harvick’s Stewart-Haas Racing social team: “PAIN.”
— Stewart-Haas Racing (@StewartHaasRcng) September 4, 2023
Lap 305: The home stretch begins! With just over 60 laps to go, here’s your Top 10: Tyler Reddick (who had some trouble getting around lapped car Ryan Newman), Kevin Harvick (what a story this would be!), William Byron, Kyle Larson, Chris Buescher, Erik Jones, Alex Bowman, Brad Keselowski, Bubba Wallace, Daniel Suarez.
Lap 269: Kyle Busch comes down pit road, and that prompts a bunch of cars to do the same. Another wave of green-flag pit stops commence. Denny Hamlin, who has been dominating the race up until now, seems to have a loose wheel. Has to come back down pit lane. Brutal timing for the driver of the No. 11 Toyota. He’s now a lap down with 92 laps to go.
Lap 267: Another update. Your Top 10: Denny Hamlin, Tyler Reddick, William Byron, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson, Erik Jones, Bubba Wallace, Chris Buescher, Chase Elliott.
Lap 236: And we’re green once more!
Lap 233: Not everyone files down pit road after the cluster of cautions at the end of Stage 2. But some do. Among them: Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney. Your Top 10 to start Stage 3: Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, Erik Jones, Tyler Reddick, William Byron, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Chris Buescher, Chase Briscoe and Bubba Wallace.
Lap 230: We go green with one lap to go before the Stage 2 conclusion — and Denny Hamlin holds serve. That’s the second stage win of the day for the driver of the 11 car. Those earning points for their Stage 2 finishes (in order): Hamlin, Kyle Larson, Erik Jones (what a run for the 43!), Tyler Reddick, William Byron, Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney, Austin Dillon, Brad Keselowski and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) September 4, 2023
Lap 225: And now we’re talking: Contact between Ty Gibbs and Austin Cindric — racing for 14th — prompts another caution. That comes with about seven laps to go in the stage. It’s unclear if Stage 2 will finish under yellow at this point.
Lap 222: Green once more!
Lap 216: Caution! BJ McLeod gets out of the way after having car issues. He has to be towed back to pit road. This is a huge blessing for Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who is the beneficiary of the wave-around and will restart on the lead lap.
Lap 203: A reminder of the Top 10: Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, Tyler Reddick, William Byron, Kevin Harvick, Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski.
Lap 192: Back green!
Lap 189: Anddddd we’re back. Yellow is out. In Denny Hamlin’s words: “Let there be light!”
Lap 188: Red flag. Cars parked. Lighting issue has still not been rectified; racing will restart once the lights come back on.
BK: “What are we doing here TJ?”
TJ: “They’re gonna red flag it”
BK: “I thought we all gave thumbs up??”
TJ: “The 5 said it’s not good to go”
BK: “The 5?? 90% of the dirt tracks he runs at have less lights than that!”
— RFK Racing (@RFKracing) September 4, 2023
Lap 182: During the caution, Chris Buescher’s right rear caught fire on pit road. Startling! The team later gave the all-clear message over the radio.
Lap 180: Caution for the lack of lights in Turns 3 and 4. NASCAR says electricians are working on the problem. Denny Hamlin, the leader, doesn’t mind the lack of light. (A shocker!) Kyle Busch, running P12, says the lights have been off for 40-50 laps: “I figured someone was going to do something about it!”
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) September 4, 2023
Lap 164: Christopher Bell finally heads down pit road. He got into the wall and suffered some damage and then began free-falling through the field. The 20 team stayed out as long as they could, hoping for a caution, but a yellow never came. He’s now running a lap down.
Lap 152: Another wave of green flag pit stops begin. (This year’s race is completely different from last year’s race thus far — am I right?) Martin Truex Jr. had a loose wheel and has to come back down pit road. Tough break. As the field cycles through, your Top 10: Christopher Bell, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, William Byron, Ryan Blaney, Chris Buescher, Tyler Reddick, Aric Almirola, Brad Keselowski.
Lap 123: And we’re green green green!
Lap 119: Stage break pit stops have cycled through. Denny Hamlin had a reliably good stop; he’ll maintain the lead. Christopher Bell fell out of the Top 10. Your leaders to start Stage 2: Hamlin, Tyler Reddick, Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Chris Buescher, Aric Almirola, Erik Jones, William Byron.
Also, some fun history:
— Shane Connuck (@shane_connuck) September 3, 2023
Lap 116: A caution-free Stage 1? Pretty much. Denny Hamlin picks up where he left off yesterday — in P1 — to take his sixth stage win on the season. Your Top 10 who are claiming those all-important stage points: Denny Hamlin, Tyler Reddick, Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, Christopher Bell, Chris Buescher, Aric Almirola.
Bubba Wallace spins out on Turn 4 after contact with Joey Logano, and that prompts the first yellow of the day. That sullies a solid finish in Stage 1 for Wallace, but it’s also not disastrous (assuming no car damage) because the yellow was coming out soon afterward.
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) September 3, 2023
Lap 93: Denny Hamlin has overtaken Tyler Reddick. The 11 is your new leader. Kyle Larson isn’t far behind. The three drivers are navigating around their fair share of lapped traffic now. That’s what happens when you have long green-flag runs here.
Lap 74: More green-flag pit stops began on Lap 69. Kyle Larson entered pit road early and subsequently leap-frogged a few people with fresher tires. He’s running P3 — 4.5 seconds behind the leader, Tyler Reddick. Your Top 10 at the moment: Reddick, Denny Hamlin, Larson, Kevin Harvick, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Christopher Bell, Brad Keselowski, Chris Buescher, Chase Elliott.
Lap 33: Michael McDowell, Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano are among the first to make trips down pit road. A nine-second four-tire pit stop for Kevin Harvick has set him up well. Christopher Bell, with Ty Gibbs’ old pit crew, has more troubles on pit road. That’ll bring a new leader. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. suffers a pass-through penalty.
Will all of that considered ... her’s your new Top 10 as the green flag stops have cycled through: Tyler Reddick, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Christopher Bell (thanks to that 15-second pit stop), Kevin Harvick, Chris Buescher, Kyle Larson, Aric Almirola.
Lap 7: Just like in yesterday’s Xfinity race, drivers are getting in a groove, testing out different racing lines. Decent racing in the back half of the field; the rest of the field is single file. Your Top 10: Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Chris Buscher, Aric Almriola, Austin Cindric.
Green flag, 6:21 p.m.: Annnnnnd we’re green!
6:15 p.m.: Engines fired! Cars are driving around the track. Racing soon!
5:33 p.m.: Only one car will drop to the rear prior to the green flag to start tonight’s race: the No. 8 (Kyle Busch) for unapproved adjustments. Christopher Bell starts on the pole, with his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin right next to him. See full starting lineup below.
5:31 p.m.: Darlington Raceway president Kerry Tharp was given the SC Order of the Palmetto by SC Gov. McMaster. The Order of the Palmetto is the highest civilian honor awarded in South Carolina and given to South Carolinians who demonstrate extraordinary lifetime achievement, service and contributions of national or statewide significance. Tharp is retiring at the end of the year.
5:29 p.m.: Darlington Raceway has officially announced that the grandstands are sold out for the 74th running of the Southern 500. Another notch in NASCAR’s belt.
5 p.m.: Some pre-race timing considerations ... Invocation: 6:01:20 p.m.; National Anthem: 6:02:00 p.m.; Command: 6:09:00 p.m.; Green Flag: 6:19:00 p.m. This one will be a long one — the average time of this race is 4:01:45. An arduous evening begins soon on USA Network. You can also listen on MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Clear skies. 89 degrees. Stay tuned!
4:45 p.m.: Denny Hamlin stole the Xfinity Series show on Saturday. Can he do the same today with a spot in the Round of 12 on the line? He’s certainly among the favorites. Per SportsLine this morning: Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr. are favorites at +500 to win, with William Byron (+750), Hamlin (+750) and Ross Chastain (+850) immediately following them.
OK ... but who do we think will win? Alex Zietlow is rolling with Kevin Harvick — the thought being that Mr. Consistent will triumph in a race where attrition generally looms large. Shane Connuck thinks Denny Hamlin will win, carrying his momentum from yesterday’s Xfinity Series victory as the veteran driver chases his first Cup Series title. And Lou Bezjak is taking Kyle Larson because he always runs well here; he’s been flying under the radar, but it shouldn’t shock everyone when he starts the playoffs on a good note.
Pre-race reading at Darlington
NASCAR playoff-opening race details
Race: Cook Out Southern 500
Distance: 501.32 miles (367 Laps)
Stages: Stage 1 ends on Lap 115, Stage 2 ends on Lap 230, Stage 3 ends on Lap 367
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR (Channel 90)
Where: Darlington Raceway
When: 6 p.m., Sunday
Starting lineup for Darlington race
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Martin Truex Jr.