Posted: 10:59 a.m. Tuesday, May 14, 2013
By Jordan Bianchi
We all know Matt Kenseth was the big winner Saturday as he laid claim to his first Southern 500 title. But who were the other the winners and losers from the NASCAR Darlington weekend?
A former crew chief for Carl Edwards who had taken a behind the scenes position with Joe Gibbs Racing, Wally Brown was pressed into duty this past weekend with Jason Ratcliff serving a one-race suspension.
But in the role as Matt Kenseth's interim pit boss, Brown excelled. The No. 20 car was never lower than eighth, had an average running position of third and when everything was said and done there he was in Victory Lane celebrating his first win as a crew chief.
Not once but twice the No. 39 was the benefactor of receiving the ‘Lucky Dog' Saturday, and the end result saw Ryan Newman finish in 10th, the fifth time this year he's posted a top 10. And surprisingly, he now has as many top 10s as Clint Bowyer and Kasey Kahne, and quietly is putting together a solid season while Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Danica Patrick and Tony Stewart continue to struggle.
Joe Gibbs Racing
Darlington was a nearly flawless weekend for Joe Gibbs Racing. On Friday, its four cars finished the Nationwide Series event 1-2-3-5 with Kyle Busch winning for the fifth time in eight starts. It was much the same in the Cup race as Kyle Busch dominated before sliding back to sixth, Matt Kenseth won for the third time this season -- and the fifth Cup win overall for JGR -- while Denny Hamlin in his first full race since breaking his back finished second.
His first race without crew chief Paul Wolfe will be one Brad Keselowski will want to soon forget. His No. 2 car lacked speed all weekend and in the race itself a vibration in the wheel combined with getting caught up in a wreck led to the defending Cup champion finishing 32nd. More problematic is the disappearance of the early season consistency, with Darlington marking the third straight race where he placed 15th or worse.
But all that said, you still can't storm away post-race without saying anything and leave your crew chief to explain how you "have all the respect in the world" for Kahne and what the issue was with your tire. If Busch wants to escape his reputation as someone who can't handle adversity, this is not the way to go about doing it.
The track known for being "Too Tough to Tame" was pretty, well, tame this past weekend. The speedway which first hosted NASCAR back in 1950 featured a mere four different leaders who exchanged the lead just nine times. Were it not for the brief sizzling duel between Busch and Kahne along with Kenseth running down the limping Busch in the final laps, this year's edition of the Southern 500 would have gone down as a total clunker.