Here is a look at the Southern 500 winners and losers:
Kevin Harvick — The idea of him becoming the first Cup driver to win 10 races in a season since Jimmie Johnson in 2007 seems plausible after winning the Southern 500. That is Harvick’s eighth victory of the season. The win puts him into the second round. He now has 62 playoff points, which should get him into the third round.
Austin Dillon — Standing on pit road before the race, he and his team noticed that his right front tire was on the left side and the left front tire was on the right side. The team fixed the mistake but had to start at the rear for unapproved adjustments. Dillon responded by working his way to the front and finished second.
Erik Jones — He placed fourth Sunday. He has never finished outside the top 10 in a Cup race at Darlington in six starts. Think about that. At one of the sport’s toughest tracks, Jones has a win and always finished in the top 10.
Alex Bowman — He finished sixth after a jack problem on a pit start, but he finished the night with 43 points. That was more than any driver except winner Kevin Harvick. Bowman scored 12 stage points.
Ryan Blaney — Awful night dropped him to last in the playoff standings heading to Richmond, one of his worst tracks. The day started with a pre-race penalty that saw NASCAR suspend his crew chief for the race and dock him 10 points. It got worse. Blaney had a tire go down as the second stage began and had to pit as the field took the green. He lost a lap and never recovered, finishing 24th. He’s never scored a top 10 in eight Darlington starts.
Matt DiBenedetto — Never was a factor in finishing 21st. Feels confident about upcoming playoff races at Richmond and Bristol in the first round. Will need strong runs there to advance to the second round.
Denny Hamlin — He missed pit road on Lap 309 of 367. That put him back in the pack. A debris caution about 10 laps later trapped him outside the top 10 and he never recovered. On a night when he ran toward the front much of the race, he finished 13th.
Martin Truex Jr. — He entered the postseason with only 14 playoff points, so it is understandable that he was aggressive in attempting to pass Chase Elliott for the lead with 14 laps to go. But to expect the other driver to let him come up the track when Truex was not cleared so late in a playoff race seemed overly optimistic. The result is the aggressive move cost both Truex and Elliott. They each hit the wall and weren’t a factor. Truex finished 22nd. He is 16 points ahead of the cutline with two races left in the first round.