Erik Jones survived late pressure from Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota team-mate Kyle Busch at Darlington to clinch his first win of the 2019 NASCAR Cup season in his 100th start.
While stage two winner Busch had controlled the early part of the final stage of the rain-delayed 367-lap race, he lost ground in the penultimate pitstop cycle of the race during a lap 274 caution and was jumped by Kyle Larson and Jones.
Ganassi driver Larson and Jones, who had surged into contention during stage two, exchanged the lead on several occasions at the restart, before the JGR driver was able to establish an advantage that he managed to retain through the final green flag pitstops.
But Busch managed to vault ahead of Larson during his stop and threatened Jones in the closing stages. He closed to within tenths of his team-mate’s bumper before sliding into the wall at Turn 2 with three laps to go, causing significant damage in the process.
Busch was passed by Larson, who scooped second. Busch completed the final lap and a half riding the wall to end up 17 seconds off the lead but retaining third.
Having started the race at the rear of the field following a post-qualifying engine change, Busch had gained nine positions in pitstops during the opening two stages, assisting his rapid ascent through the field.
Larson, who led 44 laps en route to second, has now secured his place in the playoffs with one race of the regular season remaining.
Kevin Harvick finished fourth, despite battling a faulty battery in the second half of the race as well as grappling with left-front fender damage after contact with Chris Buescher.
Penske’s Brad Keselowski led the race early on but ended up fifth.
After entering the race two points adrift of the playoff cut-line, Clint Bowyer (pictured above) vaulted ahead of his Stewart-Haas Racing team-mate Daniel Suarez and holds a provisional spot in the playoffs, 15th in the points standings, after finishing the race in sixth.
He is eight points clear of Suarez and Ryan Newman who, after ending up 11th and 23rd respectively, leave Darlington level on points either side of the playoff line.
The two made contact in stage two, as Suarez made light contact with Newman while they battled on the periphery of the top 10, pitching Newman’s Ford into a spin.
Despite finishing stage one in second place and consistently fighting in the top five in the opening two stages, Jimmie Johnson’s race ended in 16th and he is now 18 points adrift of a playoff spot.
He was tangled up in a lap 274 crash, triggered by a spinning Daniel Hemric and collecting stage one winner Kurt Busch, along with fellow top 10 runners Denny Hamlin and William Byron.
Darlington hosts NASCAR’s ‘throwback’ weekend where cars are painted with special liveries to honour teams, drivers and culture from the series’ history.
The start of the race was delayed by over three hours after prolonged rainfall that rolled in at the scheduled race start time, meaning it was nearly 2am local time when the chequered flag finally came.
|1||Erik Jones||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||367||3h44m46.s|
|2||Kyle Larson||Chip Ganassi Racing||Chevrolet||367||4.058s|
|3||Kyle Busch||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||367||17.168s|
|4||Kevin Harvick||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||367||19.778s|
|5||Brad Keselowski||Team Penske||Ford||367||22.999s|
|6||Clint Bowyer||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||367||23.160s|
|7||Kurt Busch||Chip Ganassi Racing||Chevrolet||367||23.605s|
|8||Matt DiBenedetto||Leavine Family Racing||Toyota||367||23.940s|
|9||Paul Menard||Wood Brothers Racing||Ford||367||25.180s|
|10||Austin Dillon||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||367||27.556s|
|11||Daniel Suarez||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||367||29.773s|
|12||Chris Buescher||JTG Daugherty Racing||Chevrolet||367||30.039s|
|13||Ryan Blaney||Team Penske||Ford||366||1 Lap|
|14||Joey Logano||Team Penske||Ford||366||1 Lap|
|15||Martin Truex Jr.||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||366||1 Lap|
|16||Jimmie Johnson||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||366||1 Lap|
|17||Aric Almirola||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||366||1 Lap|
|18||Alex Bowman||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||365||2 Laps|
|19||Chase Elliott||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||365||2 Laps|
|20||Ty Dillon||Germain Racing||Chevrolet||365||2 Laps|
|21||William Byron||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||365||2 Laps|
|22||Ryan Preece||JTG Daugherty Racing||Chevrolet||365||2 Laps|
|23||Ryan Newman||Roush Fenway Racing||Ford||365||2 Laps|
|24||Darrell Wallace Jr.||Richard Petty Motorsports||Chevrolet||365||2 Laps|
|25||Landon Cassill||StarCom Racing||Chevrolet||364||3 Laps|
|26||David Ragan||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||363||4 Laps|
|27||Matt Tifft||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||362||5 Laps|
|28||Ross Chastain||Premium Motorsports||Chevrolet||361||6 Laps|
|29||Denny Hamlin||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||356||11 Laps|
|30||Reed Sorenson||Spire Motorsports||Chevrolet||355||12 Laps|
|31||Joe Nemechek||Premium Motorsports||Chevrolet||354||13 Laps|
|32||J.J. Yeley||Rick Ware Racing||Chevrolet||352||15 Laps|
|33||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Roush Fenway Racing||Ford||351||16 Laps|
|34||Joey Gase||MBM Motorsports||Toyota||349||18 Laps|
|35||Garrett Smithley||Rick Ware Racing||Chevrolet||344||23 Laps|
|36||Corey LaJoie||Go FAS Racing||Ford||330||37 Laps|
|37||Daniel Hemric||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||274||Accident|
|38||Michael McDowell||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||274||Accident|
|39||B.J. McLeod||Petty Ware Racing||Chevrolet||194||Accident|
|5||Martin Truex Jr.||862|
|21||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||483|
|27||Darrell Wallace Jr.||317|