The first week of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs is in the books, and there was plenty of excitement from Darlington on Sunday night. Erik Jones secured a victory for Petty GMS, Kevin Harvick’s car caught fire, and Chase Elliott took a huge hit in the point standings after an early spinout.
Outsider’s Marty Smith had plenty of thoughts on those three major topics from the Cook Out Southern 500 over the weekend in this week’s edition of Sunday Money.
Erik Jones Drives the No. 43 to Victory Lane
Marty starts off this recent episode of Sunday Money discussing Erik Jones’ big victory at Darlington. It was the No. 43 team’s first victory at the track in over 50 years, making this a significant win for the 26-year-old driver.
“Erik Jones puts the No. 43 car back in victory lane at the Southern 500 for the first time since 1967, when The King, Richard Petty, did it himself. This was a huge win for Erick Jones,” Marty said. “It was redemption in a lot of ways. He’d been let go from Joe Gibbs Racing and joins the 43 team and puts them in victory lane for the first time since 2014.
“It’s great to see the unbridled joy Erick Jones had after he won that race.”
Jones didn’t just receive the checkered flag for his efforts at Darlington. He received one of those special hats from Richard Petty for driving the car to victory lane.
Kevin “(Not So) Happy” Harvick
Kevin Harvick had quite the explosion during the Cook Out Southern 500. We’re not just talking about his car going up in flames, either. The driver of the No. 4 car had plenty to say after his machine caught fire on Lap 274, knocking him out of the race.
“What a disaster, man. No reason,” Harvick said afterward. “We didn’t touch the wall, we didn’t touch a car and we’re in the pits with a burned-up car and can’t finish the race during the playoffs because of crappy-ass parts.”
Marty explained that Harvick and his team have grown frustrated with NASCAR because they’ve continually explained that these kinds of incidents will continue to occur unless a change is made.
“So, here’s one reason that Kevin was so mad — it’s because he and his crew chief, Rodney Childers, have continually asked NASCAR to make change,” Marty says.
“From what I understand from talking to crew chiefs, here is the elementary version of what happened to Kevin’s car — Darlington is a very abrasive racetrack, it chews tires up. So, all of this rubber is building up, making its way into the rocker box, which previously had no fire-retardant coatings on it. And it just gets hotter and hotter and hotter until it catches on fire.”
The good news? NASCAR is finally going to make a change.
“NASCAR has made the decision they are going to allow the teams to use some fire-retardant coatings on various portions of the racecar,” Marty said.
Marty closed out that portion of Sunday Money saying he’d like to see NASCAR take more advice from drivers and crew chiefs on these subjects. That doesn’t necessarily mean change has to occur but listening to concerns would be a nice step.
Chase Elliott Takes Hit in NASCAR Cup Series Standings
After winning four races and finishing with 10 top-fives, Chase Elliott entered the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs as the points standings leader. That’s no longer the case.
Elliott spun out on Lap 112 at Darlington on Sunday. That dropped him down to No. 9 in the points heading into the weekend. Marty says the No. 9 driver needs a big day at Kansas to get back into the fold.
“Look, Bristol is a wild card, you never know what’s gonna happen there. Chase has got to run really well at Kansas and make up a lot of ground,” Marty said. “Certainly, they have the capability to do that with the No. 9 team. He had a great effort in Kansas in 2021, he had a pair of top-five finishes there.
“But earlier this year, he did not have a very good run. … So, they’re gonna have to run really well at Kansas to make up this ground. Because it’s not just, they have to run really well, you gotta expect a lot of the guys in front of him in the points standings are gonna run really well, too. A really important race coming up for Chase Elliott.”