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Race 25 of the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series: Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway

The race may have held back for about an hour due to lightning.

Fortunately, NASCAR officials saw no effect of storms or rain at all that would interrupt racing activity any further.

Initially, from 6 PM ET, it began under sunset at 7.08 PM ET.

Stage 1

Denny Hamlin leads Kyle Larson from Pole as the start of the Southern 500 waves under green at Darlington Raceway.

16 laps later, Larson got around Hamlin for the race lead at the front stretch.

Hamlin began to go somewhat too free where he struggled through Turn 2.

Hence, he’s losing two seconds behind Larson with Martin Truex Jr. on the radar in 3rd.

And it’s beginning to get worse with a loose race car for Hamlin as he now lost two spots to Truex & now Erik Jones in 4th.

With the first green flag pit stop cycles done, Erik Jones got around Truex for 2nd on Lap 64.

Though, E. Jones is around 5.50 seconds behind race leader Kyle Larson.

Larson tried to lap down Austin Dillon.

But Dillon resisted and gave him the upper punch with the left front fender damage.

Despite winning Stage 1, there has to be something for Larson to ask what happened at the front stretch.

Stage 2

With Erik Jones sent to the rear over a mess of tires on his stall, Kyle Larson leads Joey Logano at the restart.

Although, Truex got back by the 2nd place where he got around Joey Logano on Lap 107.

The first caution came out on Lap 127 when Joey Gase lost control from the tag of Kyle Busch off Turn 4.

Gase picked up massive damage with the front hood after heavily hitting the wall at the front straight.

So his day finished early at this exact scene before the race restarted on Lap 135.

With 41 laps left, Kyle Larson got around Truex for the race lead thanks to Truex’s struggle via lapped traffic.

And with one stage done with the win, he gets two as we’re on the halfway point at Darlington.

Stage 3

There are 157 laps left to the finish line as Kyle Larson pulls off Chase Elliott at the restart.

Joey Logano isn’t far away in 3rd ahead of his team-mate Brad Keselowski, and Kurt Busch rounds out the Top 5.

Daniel Suarez may have hit the wall on the high right side at one point.

But no yellow flag called out on Lap 223 as Suarez immediately made his way to pit road for a right front flat tire.

Suarez got back out in 32nd, eight laps down.

With close to 100 Laps to go, the pit stop cycles took place under green & 13 cars on the lead lap.

As the strategy game with pit stops plays out, Erik Jones got around Brad Keselowski for 2nd.

But he trails over four seconds behind Kyle Larson.

The first few strings of cautions come out.

It’s a while that we ran under green before Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer collided at Turn 4, Lap 311.

Bowyer wasn’t aware that Newman slowed down to make his final stop.

With too severe damage to the No.14 car, Bowyer ended his race early.

The restart took place on Lap 322 before a piece of metal or fiberglass interrupted the race at Turn 2 seven laps later.

Kyle Larson took held off the race lead through the next few restarts ahead of Brad Keselowski.

Late Restart towards the finish line.

But six laps later & 22 to go, Jeffrey Earnhardt spun off & hit the wall at Turn 2 with right rear quarter panel damage.

It’ll be interesting to see if Keselowski can pull away from Larson at the next restart after winning the race off pit road.

Yes, Keselowski did pull off Larson with clean air to over a second.

It must be so frustrating that Larson has gone very loose and tight on the short run since swamped by both Penske cars.

Thanks to the late caution from J. Earnhardt & swooped pit road; things begin to celebrate to kick off Labor Day Monday.

The last time Penske won at this race for the only time was Bobby Allison in 1975.

43 years later, this long drought will end at 11 PM ET as Brad Keselowski wins the 69th Southern 500 at Darlington.

Keselowski now gets 25 career wins and first win of 2018 since Talladega back in October.

29 Starts later going into 2018 & he wins at this track for the first time both yesterday in the NASCAR XFINITY Series & now in Cup.

It’s a long night of racing over four hours of action on the race track.

Moving on from Darlington, it’s the Brickyard 400 coming up next Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Make sure you tune in at 2.30 PM ET LIVE on NBC SN.

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