On lap 340, Carl Edwards took the lead from Kasey Kahne. With 15 laps to go, Edwards had pulled away. Unless a caution came out, Edwards was going to win the Showtime Southern 500 at Darlington. However, luck was not on his side.
With ten laps to go, Jeff Burton’s car broke down and smoke spewed out of the back. This forced NASCAR to throw the caution. Edwards did not want to see the caution. Now as Darrell Waltrip said during the telecast, “Carl is a sitting duck.” Now Edwards and his crew chief Bob Osborne were faced with a tough decision. Do you stay out on old tires and watch everyone pit, or do you give up the lead for fresh tires? Edwards and his team decided to pit for fresh tires, as did most of the leaders. Only three cars would gamble and stay out: Regan Smith, Brad Keselowski, and Tony Stewart. This would set up a frantic finish.
Edwards won the race off pit road, and would restart fourth. The field took the green flag with five laps to go. Smith was able to pull away from Keselowski on the restart. In turns one and two, Edwards made quick work of the drivers on old tires, as he knifed through Stewart and Keselowski. Edwards had his sights set on the lead.
One lap later, the caution flew again. Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, and Clint Bowyer were three-wide coming off of turn four. They all bounced off each other, sending Bowyer spinning into the inside wall. Then, Busch turned down and spun Harvick in turn one. All three of the drivers were running in the top-ten. A frustrated Clint Bowyer emerged out of his car, and slammed his HANS device (a safety harness the drivers wear around their head and neck).
More drama was to follow, as the race would need a Green-White-Checkered Finish (NASCAR’s version of overtime). On this restart, Smith and Edwards were the front row. If Edwards was able to get a good jump, then Smith’s shot at winning was over. The green flag was back in the air. Keselowski pushed Smith into the lead heading into turn one. The leaders sorted themselves out as they exited turn two, and Edwards was able to hold off Keselowski for second. The white flag waved, only one lap to go. Edwards was closing on Smith. He did not want to lose this race now. Neither did Smith. Both drivers overdrove their cars in turn two, but somehow they were able to keep their cars off the wall. Chaos ensued behind the leaders as Marcos Ambrose spun Bobby Labonte and the field had to scramble to avoid him.
The race stayed green, and the finish would be determined back at the start/finish line. Smith remained in front of Edwards coming off the final turn. Edwards needed to make his move, but he was never able to get close enough. Smith held on to win his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
Fireworks lit the sky during Smith’s celebratory burnout. However, all eyes were glued to the fireworks on pit road. Kevin Harvick had some unfinished business with Kyle Busch. After the checkered flag waved, Harvick hunted down Busch and chased him on the track (the drivers were still in their cars). Busch tried to dive onto pit road, but Harvick blocked him. They sat on the track for a few seconds. Busch tried to get around Harvick one more time, but it was to no avail. Then, Harvick stopped on pit road and trapped Busch. He climbed out of his car and approached Busch.
Harvick took a swing at Busch. Busch just stepped on the gas and wrecked Harvick’s car again to get to the garage area. “But that’s not all folks.” Then, a brawl occurred between the drivers’ crews in the garage area. NASCAR officials had to take action and separated everybody. In addition, NASCAR called the two drivers to the hauler (NASCAR’s version of the Principal’s office). Both drivers are expected to receive penalties on Tuesday.
Meanwhile in victory lane, Smith celebrated his first career victory. Smith was ecstatic. He said, “I’m not supposed to win this race. I’ve never had even a top-five. I guess in this series, it just shows anyone can win.” On Mother’s Day eve, every drive wanted to win. Smith mentioned that he was disappointed that his mother could not make it to the race, because she was in Alabama helping with the relief efforts for the Tuscaloosa tornadoes. Smith said, “She’s always been there for all my wins, all my races. She doesn’t miss any of them. That got me a little choked up. It does now too.”
Everyone was happy to see Smith win. Keselowski and Greg Biffle came to congratulate him in victory lane. Even Carl Edwards was happy for him, despite being the victim of bad luck. Edwards said, “Gotta congratulate Regan. That’s a huge day for him. I just told him this is a really big deal, and he knows that.” Edwards also mentioned how he wished he could have brought that trophy home, and there would have been “at least six things I would have done differently”.
Edwards controlled his emotions, unlike Harvick. After the race, Harvick said, “I’m really excited for Regan Smith, and I’m sorry you are not there talking to him.” So, what happened in the hauler? Harvick and Busch refused to reveal anything. All they would say is that it was hard racing, and Harvick added, “Things happen.”
For the second week in a row, tempers flared on the race track. Will there be another feud as NASCAR heads to the “Monster Mile” in Dover, Delaware next week. Fans should expect more of the same carnage as they saw last night.
Quotes Courtesy of: ESPN, NASCAR.Com, and Fox Sports
Images courtesy of: Cache.dailylife.com (Bowyer), Fox Sports (Harvick Punch), Mercedsunstar.com (Smith and Edwards), and CNN.net (Smith in Victory Lane)