DARLINGTON, SC (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Joe Gibbs Racing’s Erik Jones held off Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson to win Sunday’s 70th annual Bojangles Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
Jones led the last 40-laps en route to his second-career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The margin of victory was 4.058-seconds. The victory locks Jones into the NASCAR Playoffs with one race left in the regular season. The victory also gets the monkey off Jones’ back as he was the only Gibbs driver not to win this season.
“It was fun,” said Jones. “I felt really calm, honestly, the majority of the race, and especially the last 80 laps. I felt like I was really in control and really knew what I was doing, and there was a couple points down the backstretch it was like, Well, why can’t we win it? There’s no reason we can’t, so just close it out and do it.”
Larson’s second place finish was his fifth Top 10 finish in six races at Darlington. It was also Larson’s 12th Top 10 finish of 2019 and it locked him into the 2019 NASCAR Playoffs.
“Just was really hard to pass,” said Larson. “I think this package has been good for a lot of places, but here being a high-grip track, already narrow, it was just tough to pass.”
Larson did lead twice for 44-laps and was leading when the race restarted with 86-laps to go but Jones got by him.
“Just didn’t have the greatest restart there to allow Erik to get by me,” lamented Larson.
Larson was able to close gap however and followed Jones onto pit road, along with Kyle Busch, for the last green-flag stop of the race. Jones and Busch beat the No. 42 Clover Chevrolet off of pit road.
“That last green-flag stop was not as fast as the 18 (Busch) and the 20 (Jones), so disappointed about that,” said Larson. “We had some good stops and bad ones, but all in all a good day.”
Busch hung on for a third-place finish after smacking the wall coming out of turn four in the waning laps, which allowed Larson to get by him.
Three other drivers joined Larson by clinching their spots in the playoffs via points: Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney, Hendrick Motorsports William Byron and Stewart Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola.
The final two NASCAR Playoff spots are between four drivers heading into the regular-season finale at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Stewart Haas Racing’s Clint Bowyer currently sits in 15th place, 8-points ahead of his teammate Daniel Suarez and Roush Fenway Racing’s Ryan Newman, who are tied for the 16th and final spot. Seven-time Champion Jimmie Johnson is on the outside looking in, 18-points behind Newman and Suarez.