Roush Rewind: Showtime Southern 500

The running of Saturday night’s Showtime Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway proved that for many drivers, the track really is “too tough to tame.” The Lady in Black sent many drivers home with battered cars and broken hearts. However, it seemed that the Roush Fenway Racing drivers were on her good side. Three finished inside the top 15, while one got caught a lap down to finish outside the top 20.

Greg Biffle had a fast car in the first practice session on Friday, but got loose in the second practice session and made contact with the wall in the No. 16 3M Ford. The damage to the primary car was too much to repair so the No. 16 team unloaded the backup car, which Biffle only got 15 minutes of practice in. The team put the engine from the damaged racecar in the backup car so their qualifying lap would count and Biffle wouldn’t have to start in the back. Biffle qualified 17th on Friday. The green flag flew, and Biffle hung around 20th position in the early going. He got loose on lap 83 and scraped the wall, but the damage didn’t look too severe. After pitting to repair the damage, Biffle restarted 29th. After he reported that there could be a problem with the alternator, Biffle switched over to the second battery, and his crew planned to replace the battery if they needed to, but a bigger problem arose. It seemed that the contact with the wall on lap 83 had affected the toe on the car. The caution the team needed to solve the problem didn’t come and pitting under green would not give the team enough time to fix it. Biffle went a lap down on lap 143 while fighting his ill-handling racecar. He pitted under green on the next lap and his team took a major swing in adjustments on the car. Around lap 200, the caution came out and Biffle got his lap back due to being in the Lucky Dog position. He pitted, thinking he had a tire going down. Biffle’s crew went to work adjusting the toe and hoped the change would be enough to get the car’s handling corrected. However, Biffle radioed to crew chief Greg Erwin that the changes had actually made it worse. Two more cautions came out and the crew once again made adjustments to the car. Biffle was up to the 16th position when green flag stops began around lap 336. He had just pulled onto pit road when a caution came out around lap 342. Biffle was trapped a lap down, despite not pitting and going on down pit road. He made his way back around for his final stop on lap 345. The crew put on two tires, fueled the car, and made a wedge adjustment. Biffle was 22nd for the final restart and maintained that position to take the checkered flag. The 22nd place finish caused Biffle to drop from 5th to 7th in the standings.

Carl Edwards and his crew struggled in practice to find the right setup for the race. Edwards was so unhappy with his racecar that his crew changed the entire rear-end housing on the No. 99 Aflac Ford between the practice sessions on Friday. The change did little to help Edwards out. He qualified a disappointing 41st and the No. 99 crew went to work making more changes to the car in preparation for Saturday’s race. In the early laps, Edwards’s racecar was a bit unpredictable. It was tight in the center of the turns, but free in entry and exit of the turns. Edwards went a lap down by lap 34, but the caution a few laps later allowed him to get his lap back by being in the Lucky Dog position. Edwards pitted and his crew took a swing at correcting the handling issues of the car, adding spring rubbers. Edwards restarted 29th and a few laps later the caution came out again. Once again, Edwards pitted so his crew could make more adjustments. From that point on, the Aflac crew continued to make changes whenever Edwards pitted, but the No. 99 began to get loose as the laps wore on. On lap 150, Edwards was running 26th and once again lost a lap to the leaders. The caution came out on lap 201, and Edwards was the Lucky Dog again. Back on the lead lap, Edwards restarted 22nd. He made it up to 17th after a pit stop under caution on lap 287, but a long green-flag run followed. By lap 340, Edwards was a lap down, but caught a break as a caution came out for the final time a few laps later. For the third time, Edwards was the Lucky Dog. Edwards had been planning to pit just as the caution came out for the last time. He stayed out and pitted under the caution since he was back on the lead lap. With 20 laps to go, the race restarted one last time. Edwards held on to finish 15th. He remains 11th in the standings.

David Ragan ran the two practice sessions and qualifying on Friday without earning an infamous Darlington Stripe, but it was a different story on Saturday. Ragan started in the 21st position in the No. 6 UPS Ford. Ten laps into the race, Ragan informed crew chief Donnie Wingo that the car was “wrecking loose”, and soon after, Ragan acquired a Darlington Stripe after making contact with the wall on lap 16. He pitted under green so his crew could repair the damage. He lost two laps in the process, and spent nearly the entire race trying to get back on the lead lap. When the caution came out around lap 46, crew chief Donnie Wingo opted for wave around so Ragan could get one of his laps back. Shortly after, the caution came out again. Ragan pitted for fuel, four tires, wedge adjustments, and more repairs to the sheet metal on the car. He restarted 38th and began to fight his way through the field. Loose-handling conditions plagued the No. 6 and had Ragan looking for more grip. Even after track bar and air pressure adjustments, the handling didn’t improve and Ragan lost a lap. Wingo opted for the wave around once again before the green flag waved on lap 179 following a caution. Ragan was now a lap down, and the goal was to be the Lucky Dog. It would be lap 228 before Ragan finally got his lap back. However, as the field took the green flag, the field checked up when Martin Truex Jr. slowed. Ragan had to lock up the brakes and slid his tires. He suffered some fender damage after that crazy restart and had to pit. The UPS crew repaired the damage and put four fresh tires on the car—all without losing a lap. Ragan restarted 13th and maintained that position for quite a few laps, but on the final lap, teammate Matt Kenseth got around him. Ragan’s 14th place finish helped him gain two spots in the standings. He moved up from 23rd to 21st.

Matt Kenseth was sixth out for qualifying on Friday. Due to the early draw, Kenseth qualified 29th in the No. 17 Crown Royal Black Ford. At the drop of the green flag, Kenseth began to make his way through the field. He was inside the top 20 by lap 40. The first caution of the night on lap 46 gave Kenseth the opportunity to radio to crew chief Todd Parrott that the car was a little free in the entry of the turns and that he needed a little more grip. Kenseth pitted on lap 47 for four tires, fuel, and a track bar adjustment. He restarted 14th, and by lap 59, Kenseth had cracked the top 10. As the laps wore on, the No. 17 began to get loose. After a pit stop on lap 145, Kenseth felt a bad vibration in the car and began to lose positions. He held on until the caution came out on lap 172. The Crown Royal crew quickly went to work putting four fresh tires on the car. Kenseth stayed inside the top 20 as the laps wound down. Around lap 280, Kenseth joined the many drivers who had gotten a Darlington Stripe. The contact with the wall wasn’t a major concern to Kenseth or his team. The car went from being loose to being tight due to the right front fender being pushed in slightly. On lap 342 Kenseth pitted for two tires and a track bar adjustment. Just as he was leaving pit road, the caution came out. Kenseth went a lap down, but thanks to that caution, he was able to take the wave around. He was 15th for the final restart and gained two positions to finish 13th. Despite the good finish, Kenseth still dropped a spot in the standings from 4th to 5th.

There were many drivers who tried to tame Darlington, but in the end only one was able to defeat the Lady in Black. After winning the Royal Purple 200 presented by O'Reilly Auto Parts on Friday night, Denny Hamlin went on to win Saturday's Showtime Southern 500 to sweep the weekend. Congratulations to Denny Hamlin and the No. 11 on yet another great victory in this season!

Next up: Autism Speaks 400 presented by Hershey's Milk & Milkshakes at Dover International Speedway
Roush Rewind: Showtime Southern 500 Roush Rewind: Showtime Southern 500 Reviewed by Whitney R. on Monday, May 10, 2010 Rating: 5