NASCAR's Darlington Drama Just a Preview of the Rest of the Season

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IMay 8, 2011

DARLINGTON, SC - MAY 07: Brian Vickers, driver of the #63 Red Bull Toyota, drives by with damage to his race car during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series SHOWTIME Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on May 7, 2011 in Darlington, South Carolina.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jerry Markland/Getty Images

Popular reality shows have nothing on the NASCAR Sprint Cup performance at Darlington Raceway. Weirdness, hot tempers, furious action and a swell ending were all factors at the "Lady In Black."

It wasn't a full moon or even the typically hot and steamy weather often seen this time of year at Darlington County, S.C.

Drivers knew it would be a tough race on the one-groove track that had cars going three-wide, which obviously did not work.

One would have thought it was the $1,000,000 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race where you expect wild moves and spinning cars in a non-points race.

The heated battle in Richmond with Ryan Newman and Juan Pablo Montoya became yesterday's news as Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch played the role of the fighting siblings in the family.

After beating and banging on one another, at the end of the race Harvick and Busch came to a stop on pit road. Harvick exited his car with the obvious intent of taking a swing at Busch, which he did.

Busch rammed the driverless Budweiser car and sent it careening into the pit road wall. Harvick stomped down pit road with both drivers told to head to the NASCAR hauler. More to follow on any action to be taken by NASCAR.

In what looked like a scene from some funniest videos show, Brian Vickers had the side of his car peeled back like a can of sardines when his car was hooked by David Ragan.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. summed up the odd sight by quizzically saying over his radio, "What was that?"

The blue protective foam barrier inside the door of Vicker's car exploded on to the track. Junior followed up on the radio saying, "That's a lot of damn foam."

Juan Pablo Montoya kept his distance from Newman, but this week stepped up his game to send five-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson spinning. Montoya apologized, but the No. 48 team didn't much buy it.

Johnson then sent himself spinning on lap 221, bringing out the caution flag. On a later pit stop, he had to return to the pits for a loose lug nut. Though it was an odd night for Johnson, he finished 15th and remained second in the point standings behind Carl Edwards.

Falling pit crew members happened with two different teams on the same yellow flag pit stop.

Paul Menard's crew member was peeling some tape off the front of the car when Menard left the pits and sent him rolling.

Jeff Gordon was in his pit stall and thought it was time to go. His gas man was still holding the fuel can which was attached to the No. 24 car. As Gordon pulled away, the crew member took a hard fall while trying to hold on to the fuel can.

Fortunately there were no serious injuries in either incident, but it was just more of the weird happenings that took place during the race.

Cars had trouble getting to pit road with the darn commitment cone apparently in the way. Several cars spun as they tried to get slowed for pit service.

Martin Truex Jr. found out just how silly it felt to spin on entry to pit road. Earnhardt Jr. had to make a pit stop during closing laps and moved that cone out of the way. He had been running sixth, but was assessed a pass-through penalty.

Near the end of the race some chose to come to the pits under caution while others stayed out. The ones that found themselves at the front made the right choice.

With a green-white-checker finish, Regan Smith in the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet got a hard push from Brad Keselowski in the Penske Blue Deuce. It propelled him far enough ahead to keep a closing Edwards behind him.

In an emotional and popular win, Smith got his first win in 105 starts. Many drivers came to congratulate him.

Smith said his mother attended a lot of races, but she missed his win. He wished her a "Happy Mother's Day" and said she was in tornado ravaged Tuscaloosa, Ala. rescuing animals.

Now race No. 10 is in the books and the NASCAR drivers head to the concrete "Monster Mile" at Dover International Raceway.

Sure, Darlington Raceway is a rough track to race on with it's legendary history. The wild happenings were hardly an anomaly, but a preview of the rest of the season.

The gloves are off with the drivers, competition is at a very high level and costly mistakes are being made by strong teams.

During an interview shown on Speed TV, Earnhardt Jr. said, "We need to stop making so many mistakes."

That may be the mantra for all the contenders, with only 16 races remaining until the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup title.