Regan Smith takes surprise win

Smith was a surprise first-time winner

Smith was a surprise first-time winner

Regan Smith has taken a surprise victory in the Southern 500 at Darlington, beating Carl Edwards to the chequered flag after a late race tyre gamble.

Smith did not follow the ront-runners to the pits when the caution waved with 10 to go, and held onto the lead on the final two restarts to take his first Sprint Cup race victory.

Brad Keselowski also benefited from staying out and took third, ahead of Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, Jamie McMurray and Martin Truex Jnr.

Edwards and Kahne had appeared destined to fight out the win, with the #99 Ford closing in on Kahne as the two race leaders entered the pits together with 36 laps to go.

Edwards subsequently took the lead from the Red Bull Toyota eight laps later, and was cruising to victory before the final flurry of cautions.

It was a disastrous end to the race for Richard Childress Racing, with Jeff Burton causing the yellow with 10 to go due to an overheating Chevrolet, before team-mates Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick both suffered heavy damage to bring out another caution with four to go.

Harvick was an unlucky victim of the melee, with the #29 making side-to-side contact with Kyle Busch while trying to avoid the spinning Bowyer, before Busch retaliated by spinning Harvick into the outside wall.

Busch had earlier fought back through the field after an unscheduled green-flag pitstop for a loose wheel dropped the Joe Gibbs Toyota a lap down on Lap 240. The #18 Toyota ended the race 11th.

Australian Marcos Ambrose was 13th after running strongly throughout the night. The Richard Petty Motorsport Ford was involved in its fair share of contact during the 500 mile event – surviving near identical hits from Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano exiting Turn 4 that saw the #17 cut a tyre and the #20 spin into the inside wall.

In a mirror of last weekend’s performance, Jimmie Johnson salvaged a respectable finish from a tough night. Johnson finished 15th despite  spinning twice in the first 200 laps. The first incident was caused by a tap from Juan Pablo Montoya in Turn 1, while the second was a rare solo spin for Johnson in Turn 4.

The most bizarre incident of the race involved Brian Vickers and David Ragan, which saw a spinning UPS Ford peel the left-hand-side of the Red Bull Toyota apart – spreading pieces of foam down the back-stretch.

Ragan recovered to finish 21st while Vickers limped home 34th after extensive repairs.

The incidents didn’t stop when the chequered flag fell, with Kyle Busch and Harvick summoned to the NASCAR hauler following a pit-road altercation.

An incensed Harvick chased down Busch’s car on the slowdown lap, before stopping in-front of the Toyota. Harvick subsequently exited his vehicle and went to attack Busch, who knocked Harvick’s car out of the way as his rival began to throw punches.

NASCAR has yet to determine whether any penalties will be handed down.

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