Regan Smith became just the sixth driver in history to win his first Sprint Cup Series race at Darlington Saturday night holding off points leader Carl Edwards in a green-white-checker finish in the Showtime Southern 500. Smith took the lead for the first time during a restart with 11 laps to go and led the rest of the way. He and his crew decided to stay out on the track and not come in for tires. He was able to hold off Edwards on the last restart despite being on older tires and won the race by .196 seconds in front of an announce crowd of 61,000.
Smith’s previous best finish in three previous Sprint Cup races at Darlington was 17th last year. He started from the 23rd spot and gradually made his way up thru the field. He was sixth after lap 340 and became the 12th, and final, different leader when he went to the front on lap 360.
Smith’s first win comes in his 105th career start. Going into the Southern 500, he had led a total of just 20 laps in his career. His best finish this season before Saturday night was a 7th at Daytona. In 2008 he thought he had won the April race at Talledega only to find out afterwards he had been penalized for going below the yellow line while passing Tony Stewart.
Brad Keselowski finished third followed by pole sitter Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman.
There was a flareup after the race between Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch. Harvick took exception to contact from Busch late in the race and, after exiting his car on pit road after the race, he stopped by Busch’s car and took a swing at him. The two were called into the NASCAR hauler for a meeting with race officials.
Edwards now holds a 23 points lead over Jimmy Johnson after 10 events. Kyle Busch is third 39 points back. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is 4th, 47 points back. And Harvick is fifth 50 points behind Edwards. The drivers head to Dover next weekend.