By: Billy Tewes
Once a year, one lucky driver is able to say they conquer “The Lady In Black”. The track that is often too tough to tame was handled by one man tonight. That man was Matt Kenseth. After running in the top 5 for majority of the race, Kenseth’s crew made a late race adjustment on the final caution and passed race leader Kyle Busch with 13 laps to go to win the Bonjangles Southern 500. The Southern 500 is Kenseth’s 27th win and his very first at Darlington!
This race meant the world to Kenseth. “Honestly, I’ve only dreamed about winning the Southern 500,” Kenseth said. “This to me feels to me probably bigger than any win of my career. Kenseth who started 7th, ended up leading a total of 17 laps. Kenseth led the final 13 laps and faced no challenges after he blew past Kyle Busch who said he had a tire going flat.
The Lady In Black was manhandled by Kyle Busch tonight. Busch led 265 of the 367 laps. With 35 laps to go, Busch took the air off the left rear quarter panel of the 5 car of Kasey Kahne as Kahne tried to pass him on the high side. Kahne got loose and slid up into the wall which caused the final caution. . This is last caution where the Husky Tools #20 team made the right adjustment to make Kenseth’s car the superior one. If Kahne had not spun and if there was no caution, I don’t think Kenseth’s team would have been able to put him in position to win. Not to mention that Kyle Busch was the class of the field and Kenseth lucked out with Busch getting a flat around 15 laps to go. Somehow Kyle Busch was able to hang on to finish sixth
This race was relatively clean for a Darlington race. There were only five cautions and there was plenty of green flag racing. Talladega race winner David Ragan would end up finishing 39th with a blown engine.
There were only two lap leaders other than Kenseth and Busch. Kyle’s brother Kurt who qualified first led 69 laps and Jeff Gordon, who started his 700th career race, led 16.
For Kenseth and crew this win was giant. Kenseth’s crew cheif Jason Ratcliffe was suspended for only 1 race after Joe Gibbs Racing appealed the bogus penalty that was handed to Kenseth and co. after their Kansas victory earlier this year. Originally Kenseth was penalized 50 points and his crew chief Jason Ratcliffe was going to be suspended for six races. The Nascar appeals process changed this penalty to 12 points and only a one race suspension for Ratcliffe. Tonight, interim crew chief Wally Brown took over and won his first race as a crew chief!
For the first time all year I was correct in picking the race winner. He didn’t lead the most laps, but he did win the race! Next week is the Spint Cup Showdown (formerly known as the All-Star race) which is one of the most fun races to watch. The winner gets $1,000,000 and there are three different segments throughout the course of the night. Due to the nature of it being a non points paying race and that the winner takes home $1,000,000, this race has intensity written all over it. In a wacky turn of events, I see Kurt Busch taking home the victory for Furniture Row Racing!
Jimmie Johnson celebrating his all-star victory in last years Sprint Cup Showdown!