A good week for Joe Gibbs racing finished great. Wednesday he won an appeal and had penalties reduced for having illegal parts in Matt Kenseth’s car at Kansas last month. Then Saturday night Kenseth won the Bojangles’ Southern 500 for his first career victory at Darlington, and his teammate Denny Hamlin finished second. And Kenseth had to pass the third member of the Gibbs driving team Kyle Busch on the final lead change of the night.
Busch had the dominant car for most of the night in what turned out to be the fastest Southern 500 in history with an average winning speed of 141.383 MPH. He led four times for a race high 265 laps. There were only nine lead changes among four drivers and that ties for the second fewest lead changes in Darlington history, three off the record of six.
There were two long caution free segments which led to the record race speed. The first yellow flag didn’t wave until lap 125. The next didn’t come out until lap 301. But there were three more cautions to follow.
The last came when Kasey Kahne hit the wall between turns one and two after passing Busch to take the lead. That led to the night’s final restart which Busch led until Kenseth powered by him on lap 355. Kenseth led the rest of the way and beat Hamlin to the checkered flag by 3.155 seconds.
The win is Kenseth’s circuit leading third of the season and its the 27th career Sprint Cup victory.
Jeff Gordon, making his 700th Sprint Cup start, finished third for his 300th top five finish in the series. Defending champion Jimmy Johnson finished fourth and Kevin Harvick was fifth. Only 17 drivers finished on the lead lap.
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