DARLINGTON, SC — There was fire and rain. And the venerable Darlington Raceway, which hosted its first Cup race in 1950, showed it’s still as tough as ever.
The result is a jumbled playoff standings – with one former champion in first and another in last – with two races remaining in the first round.
Sunday’s Southern 500 win by non-playoff Erik Jones means no one advanced to the second round after 4 hours and 9 minutes of racing Sunday night.
MORE: Darlington Cup driver points
Former champion Joey Logano leads the playoff standings after finishing fourth. He has 2,065 points going into this weekend’s Cup race at Kansas Speedway.
Former champion Kevin Harvick is last among the 16 playoff drivers after his car burst into flames. This could be slightly compared to the heat that came from him when he railed against NASCAR and the next generation car.
“I’m sure it’s just crappy parts on the race car, as we’ve seen so many times,” Harvick said of the cause of the fire. “They haven’t made anything. It’s kind of like the security stuff. We just let it go on and on
He wasn’t the only playoff driver to have a bad night. Former champion Chase Elliott crashed and his team was unable to repair it before the 10-minute damaged vehicle policy clock expired.
Elliott entered the playoffs as the No. 1 seed after winning the regular season. His last-place finish on Sunday places him ninth in the playoffs. They are 24 points off the lead and 25 points off last place Kansas.
Asked what he would need to do in the rest of the first round to advance, Elliott said: “Run better than we did today.”
Kyle Busch, who has not announced where he will race next year, appeared headed for the win until his engine failed shortly after teammate Martin Truex Jr., who is not in the playoffs, also suffered a mechanical problem .
A Toyota spokesman said after the race that the reason Truex’s engine overheated was because he lost his water pump belt. A preliminary assessment was that the valve train failed in Kyle Busch’s engine.
Busch led a race high 155 laps before his engine quit after 345 of the 367 laps.
“You can’t pass, so right there, driving, being No. 1 off pit road with 20 points to go is a certified five points (for the win) and an automatic ticket to the next round,” he said .
Instead, Busch remains 11th in the playoff standings. He is six points ahead of Daniel Suarez, who holds the final transfer spot.
Suarez had to start from the back and take a penalty pass at the start because his car failed inspection three times before qualifying on Saturday. An early caution for rain brought him back on the first lap.
He raced forward until a pit road penalty doomed his top-10 hopes and left him in 18th place.
Others took advantage of their situation. William Byron, who had one top-10 finish in the last 18 races, finished eighth. That moves him to second in the playoff standings, six points behind Logano.
“We stayed confident,” Byron told NBC Sports. “We knew what not to do in the summer. We know what didn’t work, so we came in here knowing what not to do and we implemented the things that worked and we weren’t surprised we had the speed we did. … Tough summer, but we really came together this week.”
Denny Hamlin, who finished second to Jones, moved into the third playoff ranking. He is two points behind Byron and eight points behind Logano.
Christopher Bell took fifth place. That put him in fourth place in the playoff standings. He is two points behind Hamlin.
“Overall, good day and a good way to start this stretch of the playoffs and hopefully we can keep the momentum going,” Bell said.
Read more about NASCAR
What the Drivers Said at Darlington Raceway Darlington Raceway Cup Results: Erik Jones Wins Southern 500 Erik Jones Wins Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway
Playoff ratings mixed after chaotic Southern 500 appeared first on NBCSports.com