Carl Edwards wins caution-plagued Bojangles' Southern 500
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Carl Edwards won his 25th NASCAR Sprint Cup series race at Darlington Raceway in a 367 laps long race on September 6th. Greg Biffle and Brad Keselowski were the fastest ones in practice and the latter took the pole position with a time of 27.492. This year, Bojangles’ Southern 500 was all about throwback paint schemes, but a new low drag aero package made its debut as well, proving itself successful. The race started around 7PM and Keselowski led the field, keeping his lead in the first lap and pulling away from second placed Kevin Harvick. On lap seven, Brett Moffitt hit the wall on Turn 2. Not managing to avoid him Cole Whitt hit his rear end, being hit himself by Chase Elliott and causing the first yellow flag. On lap 14, the race restarted, but on the restart, third placed Matt Kenseth went sideways and slapped the wall, forcing himself to an unscheduled pit stops three laps later. Keselowski pulled away from Kurt Busch in a calm period which lasted until lap 44 when Ryan Newman lost control of his car, causing the second caution.
On lap 51, the race restarted but ten laps later, debris caused another short caution. In the meantime, Kasey Kahne took the lead, but when he pitted, Carl Edwards assumed the position. On lap 66, Kahne returned to the front of the pack, but lost the lead three laps later to Denny Hamlin who was on all four tires. On lap 108, the caution flag flew again, this time for Michael Annett who spun on the backstretch.
On lap 115, the race went green and on lap 119, Keselowski made an outside pass on Hamlin to take the lead. Kyle Busch decided not to pit and went up into the leading position. In the following period, the race was yellow flagged several times, on lap 125, the same lap when the race restarted, lap 134 when Jimmie Johnson spun out on Turn 4. The race restarted on lap 139 and Harvick took the lead a lap later, but Keselowski reclaimed it a lap later. On lap 165 Trevor Bayne lost tires and spun into Danica Patrick. The race restarted on lap 170, but the race was soon yellow flagged, again for debris and on lap 189.
Lap 195 saw the race restarting, but just three laps later, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. slammed the wall in Turn 4, as well as T.J. Bell and Alex Bowman. On lap 203, the race restarted with Kurt Busch taking the lead from Keselowski. Eleventh caution occurred just a few laps later on lap 208 when Kyle made contact with Greg Biffle, spinning both of them. Kyle Larson opted not to pit an took the lead. On lap 212, Tony Stewart passed Larson for the lead which he held onto until lap 223 when Denny Hamlin reclaimed it.
On lap 229, 12th caution flew, when Elliott hit the outside wall due to a punctured tire. the lead swapped in the pits: Harvick had a better position and overtook Hamlin, and the race restarted on lap 238 and the green period lasted until lap 246 when Trevor Bayne hit the wall in Turn 4. Logano decided not to pit and was the new race leader. On lap 252, the race restarted and on lap 265 it was yellow flagged again when David Ragan hit the inside wall on the frontstretch. Kyle Busch went to the lead as he decided not to pit, but on lap 270, when the race resterted, Logano retook it as Busch made a bad start. On lap 279, David Ragan spun again, this time assisted by Paul Menard, causing the fifteenth yellow flag period. The race restarted soon, on lap 283.
On lap 300, there was the 16th caution period for debris in Turn 1, restarting on lap 306. But, in the very next lap, the caution flew again when Kurt Busch was sent spinning by Martin Truex Jr. Five laps later, the race restarted and soon after, Harvick started pressuring Brad Keselowski who was in the lead. With 45 laps to go, Harvick managed to overtake him, but a bad exit returned Keselowski to the lead. Carl Edwards took advantage of the situation, pulling close to Keselowski, taking the lead with 22 laps to go. However, Keselowski retaliated a lap later. Eighteenth caution flag, a Southern 500 record breaking and a crucial one for the race happened with 13 laps to go when Jeb Burton spun out after making contact with Jimmie Johnson. In the pits, Edwards overtook Keselowski and took the lead, keeping it after the restart and for the victory, four and a half hours after the race started. Keselowski finished the race second, in front of Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano, with Kevin Harvick completing the top five. Kyle and Kurt Busch were in sixth and seventh, followed by two Juniors, Dale Earnhardt and Martin Truex, with Kyle Larson on tenth. The win promoted Edwards to 12th overall, and Denny Hamlin to eighth, pushing Kurt Busch to ninth. You can see complete race results here.