• Sat. Apr 1st, 2023

Erik Jones wins second career Southern 500 amid JGR issues

ByBrenden Martin

Sep 5, 2022
Erik Jones wins 2022 Southern 500

Jared C. Tilton | Getty Images

PettyGMS No. 43 driver Erik Jones stole the show at Darlington Raceway, winning his second career Southern 500 and his third career race in the NASCAR Cup Series.

It is Jones’ first win since leaving Joe Gibbs Racing after the 2020 season and joining Richard Petty Motorsports (now partnered with GMS Racing) in 2021.

“I get a hat,” Jones told NBC Sports’ Marty Snider. ”He (Richard Petty) told me I get a hat if I win.” Richard hasn’t been to victory lane at Darlington probably since he last won here. I didn’t think today was going to be the day. It was going to be a tough one. I love this track. I love this race.”

The win was the first for the No. 43 car at Darlington since Sept. 4, 1967, exactly 55 years ago to the day.

Jones’s win was also the 200th all-time win for the No. 43 car, matching the number of career wins his team owner earned in his career, the most by any driver in history.

The series of events that led to Jones finding himself in the lead was almost hard to believe.

Joe Gibbs Racing dominated much of the race. Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 driver Martin Truex Jr. looked to have his first win of the season but had a power steering failure with 34 laps to go.

“Just mad, upset, angry,” Truex Jr. said to NBC Sports’ Kim Coons. “We deserve better…It’s one of those years we can’t get anything to go our way.”

That issue was followed up by an engine failure for Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Kyle Busch 10 laps later under caution. Busch led a season-high 155 laps but failed to lead or finish the one that mattered the most.

“The sun will come up tomorrow,” Busch said to Coons.

Jones took over the lead and held off Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 driver Denny Hamlin to give Richard Petty his first win as an owner since June 2014 when Aric Almirola won at Daytona International Speedway.

One of the crown jewels of the NASCAR circuit, the Southern 500’s late start compared to most Cup Series races was emphasized with an early caution for rain five laps in.

The caution was a huge break for Trackhouse Racing No. 99 driver Daniel Suárez who had a pass-through penalty for failing pre-race inspection three times. He was the only car a lap down at the time of the rain.

Suárez wheeled his way up to fourth before committing a pit road speeding penalty in the final stage. He finished 18th as the last car on the lead lap and ended the race as the final car above the playoff cutline by two points.

A competition caution that was scheduled for Lap 25 was pushed back to Lap 35 to let teams feel how much tires wore out under green.

Team Penske No. 22 driver Joey Logano led the first 66 laps from pole, the same position he won the spring race at Darlington by moving Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 driver William Byron out of the way with two laps to go.

Ironically, it was Byron who passed Logano for the first lead change.

The issues for playoff drivers in the postseason opener were not few and far between last season and that remained the case this season.

Hendrick Motorsports No. 5 driver Kyle Larson had an engine issue on Lap 74, very similar to his engine failure at Daytona last week. The defending champion fell three laps down, but used wave-arounds and a free pass at the start of Stage 3 to finish 12th on the lead lap.

While JGR had its issues late, Hendrick cars had problems early. Hendrick Motorsports No. 9 driver Chase Elliott lost control with seven laps to go in Stage 1 and collected Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 driver Chase Briscoe in the wreck.

The No. 9 team needed to repair Elliott’s car before the damaged vehicle clock expired, which was extended from six minutes to 10 for the playoffs. Even with the extension, Elliott was unable to get back on the track in time, ending his race in 36th place.

The regular season champion virtually lost his playoff points lead thanks to the last-place result. Elliott leaves Darlington 14 points above the cutline.

Briscoe was able to continue, but struggled throughout the entire race and finished 27th and 10 points below the cutline.

Byron won Stage 1 under caution, his fourth stage win of the season. An eighth-place finish gave Byron a 32-point advantage on the cutline.

Kyle Busch was the dominating driver in Stage 2 in large part to his all-star pit crew helping him be the first one off pit road multiple times.

Pit stops after cautions for Front Row Motorsports No. 38 driver Todd Gilliland and Larson led to Busch leading each ensuing pit stop.

Truex Jr. passed Busch for the lead with 22 laps to go in Stage 2, but another caution for Rick Ware Racing No. 51 driver Cody Ware with 12 laps left in the stage brought every car down pit road for tires. Busch’s crew beat out Truex Jr.’s and put the No. 18 car out front to win Stage 2, Busch’s fourth stage win of the season.

Playoff woes continued down the grid in the final stage. Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 driver Kevin Harvick’s car burst into flames while he was in fifth with 93 laps to go. He ended his day in 33rd and last in the playoff standings at 13 points below the cutline.

Harvick’s wreck occurred midway through green flag pit stops, splitting the field up in terms of pit strategy.

As expected, Busch was the first one off pit road yet again.

The trio of veteran JGR drivers led the field for the restart on lap 284, leading to Truex Jr. breaking away for the lead 10 laps later.

Truex Jr. missed the playoff by three points to Team Penske No. 12 driver Ryan Blaney, so a win would not have shifted the playoff picture, but it would have been the first win of the season for the 2017 Cup Series champion.

Hamlin’s team decided to stay out longer than the field for the final cycle of pit stops, much to Hamlin’s dismay. Truex Jr. cycled back to the lead with fresh enough tires to make it to the end and relegated Hamlin outside the top five.

Hamlin finished 2nd behind Jones, putting him 30 points above the cutline.

With the race in his grasp, Truex Jr. reported a loss in power steering and overheating, allowing Busch to pass him.

Truex Jr. took his car to the garage and ended the race 31st.

Ware brought out another caution for a hard hit that brought the field into pit lane with 25 laps to go. Busch came out of pit lane first and Jones exited second.

Busch’s engine failed on the next pace lap around, putting Jones in position to win and sending the No. 18 car home in 30th and eight points above the cutline.

The gap for Busch is larger than it was coming into Darlington thanks to his stage win, where he was three points above the cutline.

Richard Childress Racing No. 8 driver Tyler Reddick finished third, complementing his second-place finish at Darlington in May. He ends the first race of the playoffs 23 points above the cutline.

The winner of the spring race, Team Penske No. 22 driver Joey Logano, finished fourth to put him at the top of the playoff standings at 38 points above the cutline.

Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 driver Christopher Bell salvaged some of the race for his team with a fifth-place finish. He sits 28 points above the cutline.

Team Penske No. 2 driver Austin Cindric is the first driver below the cutline, sitting two points behind Suárez after finishing 16th.

Richard Childress Racing No. 3 driver Austin Dillon is three points below the cutline after finishing right behind Cindric in 17th.

“We didn’t have it tonight,” Dillon said to NBC Sports’ Parker Kligerman.

The Round of 16 in the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs continue at Kansas Speedway for the Hollywood Casino 400 on Sunday, Sept. 11 at 3:00 p.m. ET. The race can be watched on USA Network and the NBC Sports App. The race can also be listened to on Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

NOTE: Post-race inspection in the Cup Series garage is complete. There were no issues, confirming Erik Jones as the winner. The Nos. 7 & 41 will be taken back to R&D for further inspection.

Race Results:

2022 Southern 500 Race Results

Driver Point Standings:

2022 Southern 500 Points Standings

Owner Point Standings:

2022 Southern 500 Owners Points