Event: Bojangles’ Southern 500 (Round 25 of 36)
Series: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Location: Darlington (S.C.) Raceway (1.366-mile oval)
Format: 367 laps, broken into three stages (100 laps/100 laps/167 laps)
Start/Finish: 11th/4th (Running, completed 367 of 367 laps)
Point Standing: 4th (864 points, 119 out of first)
Race Winner: Erik Jones of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 1 Winner: Kurt Busch of Chip Ganassi Racing (Chevrolet)
Stage 2 Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-100):
● Kevin Harvick started 11th and finished 12th.
● Weather forced the start of the Southern 500 to be delayed by nearly four hours. Within a few laps of the start of the rain-delayed event, Harvick reported that the No. 4 Busch Big Buck Hunter Ford Mustang was handling on the tight side.
● The team made a slight air pressure adjustment during the competition caution on lap 35, while they also changed four tires and added fuel.
● The adjustments did not help the tight-handling condition, as it persisted during the next several circuits around the track.
● Caution was displayed for an incident on lap 69. Harvick reported that the balance on the car improved a bit during the course of a longer run but that he still needed help getting the car to turn better. The team made an air pressure adjustment, changed four tires and added fuel.
● Harvick lined up 13th for the restart. He quietly logged laps during the final laps of Stage 1, finishing the segment in 12th place.
● At the conclusion of Stage 1 Harvick explained that the adjustments didn’t help the car’s handling and that it simply would not rotate. The team went back on the air pressure adjustment, made a wedge adjustment, changed four tires and added fuel.
Stage 2 Recap (Laps 101-200):
● Harvick started 12th and finished 10th, collecting one bonus point.
● The start of Stage 2 featured more of the same on the No. 4 Busch Big Buck Hunter Ford Mustang as the tight handling condition continued to be a problem.
● The 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion was in 11th place when caution was displayed on lap 140. He reported that the car would not turn. The team continued to work on the handling with another round of air pressure and chassis adjustments, changed four tires and added fuel.
● Harvick lined up 11th for the restart on lap 145.
● It was a mere 11 laps later when Harvick reported that his battery was not charging.
● Caution on lap 159 gave the team the time it needed to talk through the battery concerns. Crew chief Rodney Childers directed Harvick to switch batteries with the goal being to get to the end of Stage 2. The team also used the break to change four tires and add fuel.
● Harvick lined up 13th for the restart on lap 162. During the restart the Busch Buck Hunter Ford Mustang made slight contact with another car and sustained slight damage. The team reviewed the damage and determined that the small hole they found in the nose of the car would not require a green-flag pit stop for repairs.
● During the next several circuits Harvick quietly logged laps. Caution was displayed for a single-car incident on lap 107. Harvick reported that the balance on the car improved during the run but that he still needed the front of the car to turn better.
● Stage 2 ended under caution with Harvick in 10th place. The team made a wedge adjustment, changed four tires and added fuel during the stage break.
Final Stage Recap (Laps 201-367):
● Harvick started 13th and finished fourth.
● Leveraging the restart, Harvick was able to maneuver the No. 4 Busch Big Buck Hunter Ford Mustang back inside the top-10 on lap 225.
● Green-flag pit stops started on lap 250 with the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team making its own trip to pit road on lap 251 for an air pressure adjustment, four tires and fuel. Once green-flag stops cycled through, Harvick was back in 10th place.
● Harvick was in ninth when caution came out on lap 275. He reported that the car’s handling could still use some help. The team used the break to work on the damaged nose of the car, hoping to improve the car’s overall balance. Swift work by the team resulted in Harvick losing only one spot on pit road, so he lined up 10th for the restart on lap 280.
● The Busch Big Buck Hunter driver went from 10th to sixth within the first couple of laps.
● The adjustments and work on the nose of the car helped. Harvick maintained his position among the top-10 and moved into fifth place on lap 308.
● On lap 317 Harvick reported the car had started to lose grip in turns one and two. Green-flag pit stops started around the same time, and the No. 4 Busch Buck Hunter team made their own stop for four tires and fuel on lap 320.
● Another round of green-flag pit stops on lap 328 saw the No. 4 team making what would be its final stop of the race for four tires and fuel. Once stops had cycled through Harvick was back in fifth place.
● Harvick took over the fourth position on lap 341. He was turning lap times as fast as the those of the leaders, but he ran out of time to make a bid for the win and finished in fourth place.
● Harvick earned his eighth top-five and 16th top-10 of the season and his eighth top-five and 12th top-10 in 23 career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts at Darlington.
● This is Harvick’s second straight top-five at Darlington. He also finished fourth in last year’s Southern 500.
● Since joining SHR in 2014, Harvick has finished among the top-10 in every race at Darlington. He has finished no worse than ninth in his six starts as a member of SHR.
● Harvick’s eight top-fives at Darlington are the most among active Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers.
● Erik Jones won the Bojangles’ Southern 500to score his second career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory, his first of the season and his first at Darlington, and it came in his milestone 100th career start. His margin of victory over second-place Kyle Larson was 4.058 seconds.
● There were seven caution periods for a total of 35 laps.
● Only 12 of the 39 drivers in the Bojangles’ Southern 500finished on the lead lap.
● Kyle Busch remains the championship leader after Darlington with a 64-point advantage over second-place Joey Logano. Busch clinched the regular-season championship.
Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Busch Big Buck Hunter Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
“It was just a different race as far as when it started in the dark. I think that was actually good for us to start in the dark. We made a lot of changes to the car before the race and made a lot of changes to the car during the race. That’s just what we had to do to have a decent night because this is a strange race track with this particular rules package as far as what you want in the car and how you want the car. So I think we would do it different if we had to come back tomorrow or next week to race again, but you’ve got to find out. You’ve got to come run the race and we were just not where we wanted to be all weekend. All weekend we just struggled with the front of the car. Really, they (the No. 4 team) did a great job to do the things that we did tonight to finish fourth. They made the car better all night and just had a solid night and finished fourth.”
The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Brickyard 400 on Sunday, Sept. 8 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race starts at 2 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by NBCSN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.