DARLINGTON, S.C. — Martin Truex Jr. took the lead with 28 laps to go and held off Kevin Harvick on the final restart to win the Southern 500 on Sunday night.
Truex started the summer season by leading an astounding 588 of 600 miles to win at Charlotte on Memorial Day weekend. He closed the season by outracing Harvick on Labor Day weekend for his second crown jewel win of the season.
Truex pulled up to the inside wall to greet his crew, then taking off for some celebration donuts at the track “Too Tough To Tame.”
Harvick had the dominant car — he led 214 of 367 laps — but this run was cut short by slow pit stops. At one point, Harvick fell 11 spots from first to 12th after a super slow 16.6-second stop. He battled back toward the top, but could not chase down Truex.
Last week’s winner at Michigan, Kyle Larson, finished third and Denny Hamlin was fourth. Joey Logano was fifth, followed by Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman, Brad Keselowski and Chase Elliott.
Truex moved past leader Newman on lap 339 to take the lead and stayed in front on a final restart to win another of what was once considered of one of NASCAR’s most-prized races.
“This is unbelieveable,” Truex said. “I’ve always loved this race track. I’ve led a lot of laps here and I feel like something always happens. I’m proud to get to victory lane with this group.”
It’s the second time in the past six Southern 500s that single-car Furniture Row Racing wound up in victory lane. Regan Smith stunned the Sprint Cup garage in 2011 with his win here.
Truex, who made last year’s championship Chase and is locked in this year, is no surprise — and may have stamped himself a significant contender for the Sprint Cup crown.
“It was definitely worth the wait,” he said.
Harvick could not overcome his shoddy pit showing and was frustrated with his team.
“We have championship cars and we’re just mediocre on pit road. It’s been that way for a few years,” he said.
WHO’S HOT: Kyle Larson followed up his win at Michigan last week with a third-place at Darlington. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver led 45 laps and felt good about running up front for a second straight race.
WHO’S NOT: Jimmie Johnson had his troubles at Darlington where he’s won three times. He was called pass-through penalty after his crew made a modification on pit road NASCAR didn’t like, then fell two laps down.
On lap 214, Johnson spun out and slid into the inside wall. His crew brought the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports machine behind the wall.
It was Johnson’s ninth finish outside the top 10 in his last 12 races, not the form his team hoped to have in chasing a seventh Sprint Cup title.
THEY SAID IT: “It’s kind of like an out of body experience,” Tony Stewart on the radio while watching his old, Home Depot-style paint scheme being driven by Carl Edwards in the Southern 500.
THE BIG ONE: That involved Tony Stewart, too. The three-time series champ making his final run at Darlington was trying to get out lapped car Brian Scott. When that didn’t work at first, Stewart looked like he nudged Scott’s bumper and sent him spinning.
Scott thought Stewart was mad at him and ran into him on purpose. “I’m not sure if he thought I was trying to hold him up. I wasn’t,” Scott said. The move also picqued NASCAR’s interest. Officials called Stewart and crew chief Mike Bugarewicz to their hauler at the end. When told of NASCAR’s demand, Stewart said, “Hey man, made it 25 races, I’d say that’s pretty good.”
His race ended short of the finish when Stewart’s overheating engine finally expired 49 laps from the end.
UP NEXT: Richmond International Raceway, Richmond, Virginia, Sept. 10. Matt Kenseth is the defending champion.