Roush Rewind: Showtime Southern 500

Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR
The Sprint Cup Series headed to Darlington Raceway for the running of the Showtime Southern 500. On Friday, rain moved into the area and shortened the only practice session the teams ran. The rain moved out just in time for the track to be dried for Cup qualifying. Known as the "The Lady in Black", Darlington has gotten the best of many drivers who have tried to get a win at the historic track. Saturday night was no exception. Many drivers earned an infamous Darlington Stripe while others found their nights ending early.

Roush Fenway Racing has fifteen Nationwide Series wins and five Cup wins at Darlington. The organization hoped to score their 21st victory on Saturday night but Carl Edwards fell just one position short of earning the win. Greg Biffle earned a hard-fought top-10 finish. David Ragan finished 21st, despite being caught up in an incident on Lap 230. Matt Kenseth learned the hard way why the track is known to be “Too Tough to Tame” as he finished 25th - five laps down to the leader.

Matt Kenseth: Started 20th, Finished 25th.

With a new sponsor on board at Darlington, Matt Kenseth qualified 20th in the No. 17 Wiley X Sunglasses Ford. In the early laps of the race on Saturday, he informed his crew that the car was tight in the center of turn 4 and aero tight in turns 1 and 2. He was 19th when the caution out on Lap 36 when the No. 46 of J.J. Yeley lost an engine. By that time, the No. 17 Ford had become plowing tight through turns 3 and 4. Kenseth pitted for four tires, fuel, air pressure and track bar adjustments.

Shortly after the restart, he made contact with the No. 9 of Marcos Ambrose. As a result, Kenseth began to lose positions quickly afterward - dropping as low as 35th. Crew Chief Jimmy Fennig decided to have Kenseth come in for an unscheduled pit stop under green. As Kenseth headed for the pit road entrance, he reported that a tire had popped as he was slowing down. Not only did Kenseth miss the commitment line due to the tire going down but he also couldn’t get slowed down enough once he did make it to pit road. He was forced to serve a pass-through penalty because of it and returned to the track in the 35th position - three laps down.

For Kenseth, it was a long night but he was able to finish 25th. He is 10th in the standings.

David Ragan: Started 11th, Finished 21st.

David Ragan earned his career-best Darlington qualifying effort on Friday and the No. 6 UPS Ford took the green flag from the 11th position on Saturday night. Once the race started, Ragan immediately reported that the car was bouncing off the splitter which made the No. 6 Ford a very ill-handling machine. He began to lose positions early in the race. A caution came out on Lap 36 when the No. 46 of J.J. Yeley lost an engine. Ragan pitted for four tires, fuel and Crew Chief Drew Blickensderfer also called for a shim to be added to the right-front shock. Adding the shim took a little extra time in the pits but it helped the car’s handling.

Throughout the next few runs, the team continued to work on the car’s handling. On the second pit stop of the night, the team added a shim to the left-front. Air pressure and track bar adjustments were made nearly every pit stop. The handling began to improve and Ragan slowly picked up positions. On Lap 230, Ragan was in the 17th position when he had to ease up off the throttle which caused the No. 83 of Brian Vickers to get into the back of the No. 6 Ford. Ragan’s car got sideways and the right-front hit the No. 83 just behind the left-front fender. The contact resulted in the sheet metal being peeled off the left side of Vicker's car but Ragan’s car only sustained damage to the right-front.

Ragan pitted multiple times for repairs under the caution that followed his run-in with Vickers and he was able to remain on the lead lap. As a result of the damage, the No. 6 Ford’s handling would go from being tight one second and loose the next. Ragan went a lap down to the leader in the closing laps and ultimately finished 21st. He is now 19th in the standings.

Greg Biffle: Started 22nd, Finished 8th.

Due to the rain on Friday, Greg Biffle wasn’t able to really see what his No. 16 3M Ford was capable of during practice. Later that evening, he qualified 22nd which is his worst qualifying effort at Darlington thus far.

He slowly began to gain positions once the green flag waved on Saturday. In the early run, the No. 16 Ford was sliding the nose and just a little loose. Biffle pitted under the caution that came out on Lap 36 for tires, fuel and multiple adjustments. The changes seemed to work as Biffle once again began to gain positions. Handling issues continued to plague the No. 16 Ford so the team made adjustments when they could.

Biffle made his final pit stop of the night on Lap 359 for tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment. He restarted 13th and quickly began to move up through the field. With just a few laps remaining, the caution came out for a multi-car incident that happened in front of Biffle - who was able to avoid it. The race came down to a green-white-checkered finish as Biffle restarted 10th and he picked up two positions before the checkered flag waved to finish 8th. The finish moves him up to 12th in the standings.

Carl Edwards: Started 4th, Finished 2nd.

The No. 99 Aflac Ford took the green flag from the 4th position on Saturday night and Edwards felt he had a shot to win the race. The car was tight at the start of the race; therefore, Edward's pit crew made wedge and air pressure adjustments during pit stops in the first stretch of the race. He continued to run inside the top-10 and he was leading the field by Lap 115.

On Lap 189, Edwards earned an infamous Darlington Stripe after getting loose and scraping the wall but it did nothing to slow him down. He continued to run inside the top-5. His crew either helped him gain positions or maintain his position on every stop. With just 26 laps remaining, Edwards took the lead again and began to put some distance between him and the second place driver. Just when it looked as though Edwards would run away with the lead, the caution came out with 10 laps remaining. He gave up the lead to come down pit road for right-side tires. Three drivers stayed out and Edwards restarted 4th. He easily passed the two drivers in front of him to move up to the 2nd position.

The caution came out again a few laps after the restart, which meant it would all come down to a green-white-checkered finish. Edwards restarted second as the No. 78 of Regan Smith led the field back to the green flag. Edwards was in hot pursuit of Smith in the last two laps. Both drivers scraped the wall off of turn 4 on the final lap but Edwards still couldn’t get around Smith. He finished second and remained atop the point standings.

Race winner: Regan Smith

Regan Smith and his team took a gamble by staying out under the next to last caution of the night to take the lead. It paid off big time as Smith held off a hard-charging Carl Edwards to win the race at one of NASCAR’s most historic tracks to capture his first win in the Cup Series. Congratulations to Regan Smith and the No. 78 team on their victory!

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Roush Rewind: Showtime Southern 500 Roush Rewind: Showtime Southern 500 Reviewed by Whitney R. on Tuesday, May 10, 2011 Rating: 5