Darlington Raceway is a track that drivers love to hate or hate to love. Even the best drivers come here expecting the worse.
On Saturday night the NASCAR Sprint Cup series drivers were looking to tame the lady in black. For a few drivers they couldn’t leave Darlington county fast enough for one driver they were able to tame the lady in black.
Polesitter Jamie McMurray led the field to green but it did not take long for Jeff Gordon to take the lead away. He led early until his car started to get tight he lost the lead and was running in second.
Kyle Busch who started at the rear was going to need strategy to get his car to the front.
The first caution of the night was on lap 45 for Michael McDowell who smacked the wall in turn two. That brought all the cars onto pit road and allowed Busch to just take two tires.
It was not an easy night for Jimmie Johnson. Early on he hit the wall causing damage to his right rear quarter panel. The team kept making repairs on the car but they were never able to get the handling on the car.
After multiple pit stops Johnson was deep in the pack and not moving forward after suffering more damage to the car.
Bobby Labonte and Joey Logano both had very eventful nights as they simultaneously brought out the second caution flag when Labonte spun and did hit anything. Logano on the other hand was not as lucky as he hit the inside wall hard.
Up front early it was Gordon and McMurray and Denny Hamlin who throughout the night consistently ran up front.
Just prior to halfway A.J. Alllmendinger who had no brakes got loose on the apron of the track. He spun and in the process t-boned Johnson, both their nights were over.
Johnson walked away with his third DNF of the season and a 36th place finish. Meanwhile Allmendinger finished 37th.
The lady in black took no prisoners Greg Biffle, Martin Truex, Jr., David Ragan, Sam Hornish, Jr. were just a handful of the drivers that were bit by Darlington.
Once again we saw comers and goers in the race and two of those comers were Kasey Kahne, who early in the race was running down the leaders. The team struggled in the second half of the race and was lapped by 320, in the end they finished 20th.
Marcos Ambrose started seventh but early contact on a restart saw Ambrose lose three laps to the leaders and instead of contending for the lead, it was a disappointing 25th place finish.
In the end the leaders were looking at making their final stop a green flag stop. As some of the leaders hit pit road it was Gordon who made a mistake and missed pit road when he couldn’t slow down fast enough.
By the time he made it back around the caution flew for Logano who spun. Gordon did not stop and pit he drove through and beat leader Hamlin cross the start finish line. He ended up one of the last cars on the lead lap.
He wasn’t the only one to make a mistake on pit road; Burton ran over the air hose and was starting at the tail end of the lead lap.
It was two veteran drivers making costly mistakes that took them out of a shot at the win on Saturday night.
Unlike the last few races there was no green, white checkered to bunch up the field following the final caution for Logano.
Hamlin was able to pull away on the restart and go on to sweep the weekend at Darlington. His third win of the season, ties him with Johnson in the win column.
The rest of the top ten were McMurray, Kurt Busch, Gordon, Juan Pablo Montoya, Kevin Harvick, Busch, Burton and Ryan Newman.
A few notable finishes after starting 41st, Carl Edwards worked his way to a 15th place finish. From where this team was on Friday that is as good as a victory.
Tony Stewart had another disappointing race; the team once again struggled with the handling of the car. They finished 23rd.
Harvick continues to lead the standings over Johnson, Busch, Gordon and Matt Kenseth.
Next the series heads to the concrete mile of Dover International Speedway.