Race Weekend Central

Kyle Larson Survives for 1st Cook Out Southern 500 Win

As it did last season, Darlington Raceway lived up to the moniker Too Tough to Tame for a myriad of playoff contenders on Sunday night (Sept. 3) in the NASCAR Cup Series’ annual Cook Out Southern 500.

In the end, it was Kyle Larson who survived and took home his first Southern 500 win and his third of the season. The 2021 Cup champion also locked himself in to the Round of 12 and won’t have to worry about the upcoming races at Kansas Speedway or Bristol Motor Speedway.

“We kept our heads in the game,” Larson told NBC Sports. “That was really important. This race is all about keeping your head in it. I’ve been pretty hard on myself the last couple of months, but having a leader like Cliff (Daniels) is good for my mind.”

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Kevin Harvick Hit With Closed Pit Road Penalty After Reddick, Newman Collision

“Adding this trophy in the collection is going to be amazing … just proud of this bunch again. Pit crew came in clutch to get us out and into the lead … just kind of fell in our lap there and we were able to take advantage of it.”

Larson’s win marks No. 299 for Hendrick Motorsports.

Tyler Reddick fought valiantly to finish second, while Chris Buescher, William Byron and Ross Chastain rounded out the top five. Chastain had to overcome a less than stellar first half of the race to get there.

“Kyle and I were pretty close the majority of the day, honestly,” a disappointed Reddick told NBC Sports. “He just got ahead of us there unfortunately on pit road, but all in all this is the day we need to have, so really just thankful for the hard work from my pit crew, from the team, everyone at the shop.” Reddick’s big day netted him a 30-point cushion over the cut line heading into Kansas Speedway, where his team swept both races last season.

Brad Keselowski came home sixth, while Bubba Wallace, who survived a spin at the end of the first stage finished in seventh. Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney and last year’s winner Erik Jones rounded out the rest of the top 10.

Christopher Bell was the first to draw the ire of the infamous outside wall at the famous South Carolina track as he smacked it in stage one, and the polesitter was rendered a non-factor all evening from that point. Joey Logano had also earned a Darlington stripe, but he was able to salvage his race with a 12th-place run. Martin Truex Jr. finished 18th.

Of course, the biggest misfortune of the night went to two of the most decorated veterans of the Cup Series. Denny Hamlin had the clear-cut best race car on the track for much of the race, winning two stages and leading 140 plus laps. On lap 273 though, following a green flag pit stop, Hamlin felt something amiss in his Toyota Camry and came back to pit road thinking he had a loose wheel.

Hamlin immediately fell from the top of the leaderboard to 30th place, one lap down. He never recovered, and with 34 to go, got caught up in a crash that also eliminated fellow playoff driver Michael McDowell and put the nail in the coffin for Bell’s night. Hamlin continued, but finished back in 25th, while Bell finished ahead of him in 23rd.

Kevin Harvick also suffered big misfortune not long after Hamlin’s incident. As Harvick was committing to pit road, Ryan Newman slowed up thinking leader Tyler Reddick was pitting. The sudden change in speed sent Newman around, and caused him to spin, bringing out the caution. Harvick entered pit road, mere seconds after NASCAR closed it. That resulted in a penalty, and the 2014 champion couldn’t recover. He was running second and challenging for the lead moments before. He finished a disappointing 19th.

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'Just a Bad Day' - Joe Gibbs Racing Starts Playoff Bid with Struggles

Tempers also flared between two non-playoff drivers late in the race. With 50 to go, Daniel Suarez and Alex Bowman were racing hard within the top 10. Going down the frontstretch, Bowman threw two blocks on Suarez, the second of which caused them to get locked together heading into turn one. Both cars were destroyed in the ensuing crash.

Bowman owned his part in the crash, telling Frontstretch reporters: “I meant to block low, I didn’t realize he had gotten outside or I wouldn’t have moved up like that … He blocks me every time I’m around him. We needed to hold onto all the track position we could, we were so good on long runs but just too tight on short runs. It didn’t work out and I didn’t know he was outside of me.”

Suarez responded: “I gave him a break once, I won’t give him a break twice. He’s smarter than that … he had five minutes of being a dummy and he used it against the 99, I guess.”

Cup Results at Darlington

The NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs continue at Kansas Speedway on Sunday (Sept. 10). Coverage begins on USA Network, MRN, and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio at 3 p.m. ET.

About the author

Garrett joined Frontstretch as a news writer in 2023, and became a fantasy racing and betting writer in 2024. Hailing from the heart of coal country in southern West Virginia,  he's a married father of three and currently enrolled in the Physical Therapy Assistant Program at New River Community Technical College in Beaver, WV. He has been a racing fan since 1998, primarily watching NASCAR, but branching out to F1 and IndyCar as his love for motorsports has grown.

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3 Comments
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Echo

Are you hearing and feeling things that aren’t there Denny. Team says the wheels were fine. Way to go Larson. Did bubba suddenly learn to drive this year ! Wonder about Hamlin , Reddick and bubba being the only good Gibbs cars.

Bill B

Seems to me clean air mattered more than anything else.

My night was made when Hamlin had his supposed “issue”. I really didn’t care who won just so it wasn’t him

Nice that three drivers that aren’t even contenders for the championship (Newman, Bowman and Suarez) determined the outcome of the race more than anything else. WTF is Newman’s problem anyway? I am all for making it tough to pass when a car is on the lead lap, but after that it’s just being a dick more than anything else. There’s no penalty for being a dick but maybe there should be.

DoninAjax

Newman is in the 51. It’s in the job description to bring out cautions, just like the 15 did earlier. Mission accomplished. They can play musical drivers but it doesn’t matter in the events. I wasn’t surprised when they brought out the cautions. Its history repeating itself.

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