After a lengthy, four-hour rain delay, NASCAR was able to complete the Southern 500, in its entirety, tonight and into the wee hours of the morning. Erik Jones, rocking his first-ever stock car paint scheme for Throwback Weekend in his 100th career Cup Series start, scored his first victory of 2019 after taming “The Lady In Black”. Jones fought off his teammate, Kyle Busch and a charging Kyle Larson in the latter portion of the final stage to complete the job. Jones is securely into the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs and has given team owner, Joe Gibbs, is 13th win of the season with all four Gibbs cars reaching victory lane.
In spurts, the racing was as intense as it could get. Chase Elliott and Joey Logano duked it out in stage two. Daniel Suarez and Ryan Newman suffered an incident as they continue to fight for a spot in the playoffs. Jimmie Johnson looked to have one of his best performances of 2019 until a big crash in the final stage collected himself along with Denny Hamlin, William Byron, and Kurt Busch. However, it was all-Joe Gibbs Racing for the lead in the end with Kyle Busch desperately chasing down his own protégé. With two laps to go, Kyle Busch slammed the wall off of turn two, which reminisced his Xfinity race at Auto Club back in 2016 when the caution did not come out after Busch blew a tire. As with that race, the caution would not come out and Kyle Busch wound up finishing third.
Fan favorite, Matt DiBenedetto picked up his sixth top-ten of the season and his second straight finish of such a manner. Chris Buescher has flown criminally under-the-radar as he picked up his 14th straight top-20 finish after a 12th-place run. Paul Menard showed some life today as he claimed his first top-ten finish since Richmond back in the Spring. In the eight races since his first career win, Alex Bowman only has one top-ten, which came at Michigan. It’s an understatement to say that the 88 team is crawling their way into the playoffs.
NASCAR made it official that Kyle Busch is the 2019 regular-season champion. This will tack on 15 more playoff points for him and could more than likely see him cruise into the Championship 4 at Homestead. Besides Jones, Larson, Ryan Blaney, Byron, and Aric Almirola have clinched playoff berths; leaving two playoff spots available for four drivers: Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman, Daniel Suarez, and Jimmie Johnson. Bowyer is on the positive end of the cutline with an eight-point cushion. Newman and Suarez are tied for that 16th and final spot and Johnson sits 18 points behind that cutline.
Next weekend, NASCAR heads to the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the final race of the regular season.
Photo via @TooToughToTame(Twitter)