ASCAR’s brutal season turns into the playoffs

DARLINGTON, SC (AP) – Fasten your five-point seat belt. It looks like the NASCAR playoffs will be as wild and unpredictable as their regular season.

It came in sharp focus at Darlington Raceway as Eric Jones became the first non-racing rider ever to take the post-season opener at the Southern 500 on Sunday night — one week after the qualifying break.

Jones’ chief of staff, Dave Ellens, was grateful that his team had finally broken through one of the toughest tracks in NASCAR. “But I think the first thing Eric said to me was, ‘Don’t wish we could win Daytona’ in the regular season final,” Ellens said.

In the end, Jones outperformed his three teammates Joe Gibbs Racing – Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin. Truex lost a late lead due to power-steering issues, and Busch’s engine exploded with Jones in second. Hamlin hit Jones’ rear shock absorber on the last lap but couldn’t get past it.

“It was crazy,” Jones said.