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Smith earns first career Cup victory
Regan Smith finally reached Victory Lane.
Smith, who started 23rd and hadn't won in 105 starts, came roaring back for his first career Sprint Cup victory in the Showtime Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. Carl Edwards finished second, with Brad Keselowski, Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman rounding out the top five.
''I'm not supposed to win this race," Smith said. "I've never even had a top five. I guess in this series, it just shows anyone can win."
Adding to the excitement of the race was NASCAR's newest rivalry. While all eyes were on Ryan Newman and Juan Pablo Montoya after a reported altercation in the NASCAR hauler Friday, the two drivers kept their distance and refrained from any extra-curricular activity.
Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch did not. While Smith was celebrating his first Cup victory, Harvick and Busch were doing a tango with their cars high on the track. Harvick was upset over an incident in which Busch wrecked him.
Harvick ended up getting out of his car and walking toward Busch's car while NASCAR officials were scrambling to simmer the tension, but Harvick managed to get a swing in at Busch, who was still sitting in his car. It appeared to be a miss.
With 80 laps to go, Kahne, who won the pole, was in the lead, followed by Harvick and Edwards. Dale Earnhardt Jr. made a costly mistake with 39 laps to go, and had to serve a drive-through penalty after a commitment-cone violation.
The sun hadn't even set in South Carolina before a yellow flag was dropped, and two cars were in the garage. Mike Skinner was the first casualty of the evening when he spun out. After a fairly brief caution, Newman grabbed the lead from Kahne on the restart and put some distance between himself and the rest of the pack.
Stewart's car looked incredibly fast in the beginning of the race — Stewart raced from ninth position to third before the second caution was called because of J.J. Yeley's blown engine. Stewart, however, had a different experience on pit road. Stewart had the first stall coming into pit road and was concerned about driving right by. On his first pit stop, he lost some valuable time, and was overheard on his radio saying, "You guys did a good job on pit road. I didn't do a good job getting down pit road....I left a lot on the table."
Matt Kenseth cut a tire after some reported contact and drove to pit road, but was handed a drive-through penalty by NASCAR because he entered pit road after the commitment cone. On Lap 74, the third caution was called when David Gilliland got a "Darlington Stripe" for his car hitting the wall after blowing his right front tire.
Kyle Busch also was frustrated with his pit-stall approach. "Somebody has got to count me in to the pit box," Busch was overheard saying on the radio.
Montoya bumped Jimmie Johnson on Lap 83, causing Johnson to spin, Johnson did a magnificent job of controlling his car and avoiding other drivers, but sounded exasperated in his radio chatter. "Can somebody please tell me what I did wrong there?" Johnson asked.
Montoya did apologize, but that bull's-eye on his Target Chevrolet was ostensibly getting larger and larger in other drivers' eyes.
Tempers continued to flare as Darlington tested the drivers' patience. Stewart, already battling his demons on pit road, vented his emotions over the radio. "[Expletive] these guys," Stewart said. I'm done with every [expletive] on the race track!''
On Lap 122, the fifth caution was called because of debris on the track. While the leaders went in for service, Paul Menard sprinkled some more excitement onto a pit road that had already been a source of aggravation for several drivers. In a highlight reel-worthy move, Menard slid into his stall like a baseball player on a suicide squeeze and ended up perpendicular to the stall's wall.
Martin Truex Jr. also had pit-road issues halfway through the race — he spun out after missing the commitment cone and ended up with a flat tire.
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