The Latest: Keselowski sweeps weekend with Southern 500 win
DARLINGTON, S.C. (AP) — The Latest from NASCAR racing at Darlington Raceway on Sunday (all times EDT):
Brad Keselowski beat leader Kyle Larson out of the pits with 22 laps to go, then pulled away on a restart to win the Southern 500 and sweep the weekend at Darlington Raceway.
Keselowski took the Xfinity race Saturday when leaders Ross Chastain and Kevin Harvick wrecked late. This time, Keselowski and his crew took advantage on the final caution to move in front with a fast pit stop.
Keselowski took care of the rest as he opened a second-and-a-half lead down the stretch.
It was Keselowski’s first win of the season and the first time a Team Penske driver has won at Darlington since Bobby Allison in the 1985 Southern 500.
Joey Logano, Keselowski’s Penske teammate, finished second, and Larson was third.
Larson won the first two stages and led 284 of the 367 laps. Yet, he leaves disappointed with his seventh top-three finish of the season.
Kyle Larson continues to dominate at Darlington Raceway to win stage two in the Southern 500.
Larson, who started second, has led 159 of the 200 laps run so far. Larson’s Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet stayed out of the track while competitors pitted in the middle of the stage and wound up with a lead of more than 17 seconds.
Larson will have 167 laps left once the green flag drops as he tries for his first win of the year.
Brad Keselowski, who won the Xfinity event here Saturday, was in second and Penske teammate Joey Logano was third.
Chase Elliott was fourth and Erik Jones fifth.
Kyle Larson passed pole-sitter Denny Hamlin for the lead early and was rarely challenged as he took stage one at the Southern 500.
Larson took the lead on the 12th lap and led the rest of the stage, sometimes stretching his lead to seven or eight seconds in front of the next competitor.
Erik Jones was second and Martin Truex Jr. third. Joey Logano was fourth followed by Brad Keselowski, the Xfinity winner here Saturday, in fifth. Kevin Harvick was sixth, then came pole-sitter Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott.
Seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson struggled through much of the opening segment. He started from the back of the field because of unapproved changes from qualifying, then served a pass-through penalty after getting called for a commitment line violation when trying to enter pit road.
There were no cautions after the race was delayed about 45-minutes due to threatening weather.
Things are finally underway at Darlington Raceway after a weather delay of about 45 minutes.
After track officials had twice cleared the stands due to the potential severe weather in the area, NASCAR drivers fired up their cars and got rolling at the track “Too Tough To Tame.”
Pole-sitter and defending champion Denny Hamlin led the field to the green flag. Kyle Larson started second and last year’s series champion Martin Truex Jr. was third.
Seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson was forced the back of the field because of unapproved adjustments.
The race is scheduled for 367 laps on the 1.366-mile egg-shaped layout.
The wait is on for the start of the Southern 500.
It looked like the potential for bad weather had cleared the area right about the time of the race’s schedule start of 6:15 p.m. start. But moments after the singing of the National Anthem, drivers were told to leave their cars and fans asked to clear the grandstands and seek shelter.
Some dark clouds were around the track, although it had not yet rained nor had lightning flashed.
There was no immediate indication how long the weather delay would last.
Officials at Darlington Raceway have cleared the grandstands and postponed driver introductions for the Southern 500 because of severe weather in the area.
The warning came about 30 minutes or so before the NASCAR Cup race’s scheduled start. It appears the delay also would push back the start time of the 500-mile race.
Fans walked down the steep stands to the exits and were asked to find shelter in their vehicles until the bad weather passes.
There had been several dark storm clouds appearing over the track the past few hours.
There was no immediate indication how long the warning for Darlington would last.
Fans at the Southern 500 will notice a different look at Darlington Raceway. They’ll feel it, too.
The track completed some $7 million in improvements, nearly all of it going into its aging and often uncomfortable grandstands. Darlington leaders replaced and widened seating and aisles in its main Tyler, Colvin and Wallace grandstands.
The track also installed a “Wall of Honor” in its grandstands circling the 1.366-mile egg-shaped layout. Banners listing all 49 of Darlington’s winners since its first race in 1950 are set up in what had been seating closest to the track.
Darlington Raceway president Kerry Tharp said the seats lost to the project were some of the worst in the facility. The redo has given all fans improved comfort and sight angles, Tharp said.
Denny Hamlin will look to end a yearlong drought in NASCAR’s top series when he starts on the pole for the Southern 500.
Hamlin has not won since taking the checkered flag at Darlington Raceway a year ago. He showed his Darlington touch might be back when he turned the fastest lap in qualifying, and then finished fourth in the Xfinity race Saturday.
Hamlin is on the verge of clinching one of the four remaining spots in NASCAR’s playoffs. He needs eight points to lock up his 12th playoff berth in 13 seasons.
Kyle Larson starts second Sunday night and last year’s Cup series champion Martin Truex Jr. is third. Current points leader Kyle Busch qualified fifth while series wins leader Kevin Harvick will start 22nd.
More AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-AutoRacing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports