DARLINGTON, SC – In need of a storybook event? Look no further than the 2016 Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

The entire NASCAR world took a step back into the past for Sunday night’s Sprint Cup Series race. A large majority of the cars were adorned in throwback paint schemes, honoring those who had previously driven for certain car numbers or sponsors. Fans and media alike showed up sporting their best throwback outfits and memorabilia. There was a large contingent of NASCAR Hall of Famers who were honored throughout the day. NBC even brought back three legendary broadcasters – Ken Squier, Ned Jarrett, and Dale Jarrett – to call a portion of Sunday’s event.

There was anticipation and excitement all around the track on Sunday, giving hope that the day would be capped off with a great race – and that’s exactly what happened.

 

The start of the Southern 500. Photo by Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images.
The start of the Southern 500. Photo by Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images.

Kevin Harvick led the field to the green flag for the 500-mile race, and for a large majority of the event, never looked back. The No.4 machine was running strong on track, but his pit crew kept faltering on pit road. Throughout the latter part of the race, Harvick kept finding himself losing track position on pit road, giving the race lead to other competitors.

One of those competitors was Martin Truex Jr., who ran inside the Top-10 for a majority of the event. On one of the final restarts, the No.78 machine was able to jump out to the race lead. Harvick did all he could throughout the final couple laps, but in the end didn’t have enough to regain the lead. Truex Jr. drove a flawless last few laps and crossed the finish line first, capturing his first career Southern 500.

Martin Truex Jr. celebrating the victory. Photo by NASCAR via Getty Images.
Martin Truex Jr. celebrating the victory. Photo by NASCAR via Getty Images.

“Just can’t say enough about this team and Barney Visser (team owner), and everybody at Toyota and TRD – the engines have been unbelievable this year. Bass Pro Shops, Furniture Row, Denver Mattress and everyone that’s made this possible. Cole Pearn (crew chief), I mean these guys are just amazing,” said Truex on NBC after the race.

The victory is Truex Jr’s second of the 2016 season – the other coming in the Coca Cola 600. Two of this year’s crown-jewel trophies now belong to the Mayetta, NJ native and his Furniture Row Racing team.

“I knew when the bad-luck would stop coming we would start racking them off,” said Truex Jr. “Tonight we weren’t the best car for once, and we actually won. That was really cool. Just couldn’t be more excited to win at Darlington – Southern 500, we won it.”

Martin Truex Jr. celebrating in Victory Lane. Photo by Josh Hedges/Getty Images.
Martin Truex Jr. celebrating in Victory Lane. Photo by Josh Hedges/Getty Images.

Second-place finisher Harvick was none-to-thrilled with the way his race ended up playing out. The No.4 team provided the Bakersfield, CA native with a strong car, but they weren’t able to back it up on pit road. Harvick’s pit crew battled slow stops all night, losing over 15 positions throughout the night.

Harvick wasn’t very pleased.

“I am over being a cheerleader,” he said after the race. “You know at this point those guys get paid a lot of money to perform on pit road. Cheerleading hasn’t really been working. You’ve got to get after it on pit road and do your job.”

Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman, Brad Keselowski, and Chase Elliott rounded out the rest of the Top-10 finishers.

Martin Truex Jr. capped off what was an undeniably great weekend for the sport. The throwback tradition at Darlington has pushed the Southern 500 event even higher on the list of crown-jewel NASCAR events, and it is one that most likely everyone is already looking forward getting back to in 2017.

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Southern California native who has made the trek across country to North Carolina to chase down my dreams and aspirations in the motorsports industry.

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