Race Rewind | Duck Commander 500

Looking back at the Duck Commander 500

jutter@charlotteobserver.comApril 7, 2014 

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    Southern 500

    Where: Darlington (S.C.) Raceway

    When: 6:45 p.m. Sunday

    TV: Fox

    Radio: Motor Racing Network

    Last year’s winner: Matt Kenseth

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Observations

• Consistency is often called the hallmark of excellence. It is also the bedrock of fairness in the application of rules, particularly in sports events. On Monday, Kurt Busch slammed the wall just before Joey Logano took the white flag which signifies the start of the last lap. Busch quickly got off the track and headed to pit road before the caution was thrown. NASCAR, though, threw the caution flag for debris, which set up a two-lap overtime finish. On many occasions in the past, NASCAR has refused to throw a caution for last-lap wrecks saying if the cars involved are safely out of the way of racing, they’ll let the event proceed to a green-flag ending. On Monday they did just the opposite. Not many will care because the car that was “supposed” to win – Logano with a large lead – did anyway. But the constant changing of criteria in end-of-the-race finishes will eventually come back to burn NASCAR.

• Only seven races into the 2014 Sprint Cup season and Team Penske looks like it has both of its drivers locked into the championship Chase. The organization has made great strides in the past two-plus seasons with Brad Keselowski winning its first Cup title, Joey Logano winning a race and qualifying for the Chase in his first season with Penske in 2013 and now both drivers already have secured wins in 2014. They have quickly become head of the class in the Ford camp.

• I have never understood starting a race under caution. Either a race track is ready for competition or it is not. If it’s not, then using caution laps to help prepare it only takes away from the amount of actual racing fans pay to see.

Notebook

Gordon lacks a win but leads the points: Even though Jeff Gordon still lacks a win this season, under the new Chase rules NASCAR implemented this season, he would still qualify for the championship by leading the series points standings.

Gordon moved into the top spot following his runner-up finish Monday to Joey Logano and holds a four-point lead over Matt Kenseth, who also lacks a victory this season.

“I feel very fortunate to finish second. Joey was the class of the field there in the second half of the race. I knew it was going to be hard to hold those guys off,” Gordon said. “I’m sure Joey was going to go wherever I didn’t.”

Pit call helps Vickers: On the final pit stop of the race, Jeff Gordon and Brian Vickers were the only drivers to take just two new tires while the rest took four. They restarted first and second, respectively. Gordon finished second and Vickers fourth.

“That was a great call by Billy (Scott, crew chief). The pit guys did a great job all day and they did a good job on that last stop, obviously, when it mattered most,” Vickers said.

“We probably didn’t have a car to win, but we made the most of it. We’ll learn from this and we’ll move on to the next race.”

Larson back up front: Although he never led a lap Monday, rookie Kyle Larson put together another strong performance and finished fifth – his second top-five in the past three races.

Through seven races this season, Larson has two top-five and three top-10 finishes and is 15th in the series standings.

“Our Chevy was average on a short run, but on long runs I thought we probably had the best car,” Larson said. “Just kept sticking with it, got it better and better each run. We put ourselves in position there on that last restart to get a good finish.”

Hall of Famer recovering: NASCAR Hall of Famer Bud Moore suffered a mild heart attack over the weekend and is recovering in a hospital near his home in Spartanburg, S.C.

“He had a procedure done and is doing fine. He will be in the hospital a few days and is expected to be released later this week,” said Winston Kelley, executive director of the NASCAR Hall.

Moore, 88, a decorated veteran of World War II, was part of the Hall’s second class in 2011.

Five key moments

1 . Sunday’s race was delayed until Monday by rain and Monday’s race began under 10 laps of caution as NASCAR used the cars on the track to help dry some final wet spots.

2 . Brad Keselowski took command of the race on Lap 77 and led 85 of the next 148 laps.

3 . Joey Logano passed his Team Penske teammate, Keselowski, on a restart on Lap 226 of 334 to take the lead for the first time in the race.

4 . With Logano in the lead, Kurt Busch slammed the wall just before the white flag was displayed to signify the start of the final lap, sending the race into a two-lap overtime.

5 . Jeff Gordon took only two tires on pit road and restarted in the lead but Logano – who took four new tires – quickly ran him down for the lead and the win.

Unofficial results and points standings

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