I’m pretty sure everybody – whether they were watching the race at Florence Speedway, or watching from the comfort of their own homes – was ready for that race to see the checkered flag.
To start things off, the beginning of the event, which was originally scheduled for 7:30 PM ET, was pushed back nearly two hours, after the track-scheduled support races surpassed the timeslot assigned to them.
However, once the South Carolina 400 got underway, things began to ride in a more smooth manner, with the field only being slowed on a couple of occasions throughout the race’s first 75-lap stage.
One of the stories in the early portion of the event, was the differing strategies surrounding the 200-lap contest, as multiple drivers elected to ride around and save tires for the long run, while others chose to attack and move forward.
Less than 50 laps into Saturday’s event, things started to fly off the handle a bit, when contact between Katie Hettinger and Dexter Canipe Jr. triggered a 10-car accident in the first corner, one that Dale Earnhardt Jr. narrowly avoided.
For the two-time winner of the Daytona 500, that was probably the least significant obstacle he faced over the course of the event, which lasted into the early hours of Sunday morning.
Earnhardt, driving a JR Motorsports Late Model Stock Car dressed up in the colors of Bass Pro Shops, was “involved” in three separate incidents over the race’s remaining 150 laps, but surprisingly received next-to-no damage to his No. 3 Chevrolet.
At the end of the race’s second 75-lap stage, a crash that was triggered between Kaden Honeycutt and Mason Diaz caused both cars to spin up the track, right into the path of Earnhardt Jr. While he didn’t hit those two cars – but it was close – he did make contact with Brenden Queen in running up to the crash.
The race’s final stage wasn’t really kind to the NASCAR Xfinity Series owner, either, receiving a pair of the tail-end of the longest-line penalties, after spinning out both Matthew Cox and Landon Pembelton.
Earnhardt would rebound from his two penalties to score a ninth-place finish at the end of the event. However, despite being the race’s headliner, the headlines probably won’t be about the NBC Sports analyst.
Maybe they’ll be about 23rd-place finisher Mason Diaz, who quite literally got out of his car under the red flag and quit, mid-race, leaving his Chad Bryant Racing entry on the frontstretch for the track workers to tow away,
The possibility also exists that the headlines could be talking about Sam Yarborough, who despite being at the front of the field for the majority of the event, got sent to the tail-end after spinning out Mason Diaz while battling for the lead.
When all of the smoke, dust, and dirt settled in South Carolina – and trust me, there was a lot of it – it ended up being Brenden Queen who defended against Carson Kvapil for the victory in the South Carolina 400.
Having one of the best showings of her racing career, Toyota Racing Development driver Isabella Rubusto scored a third-place result in the No. 55 Yahoo! Toyota, while Cody Kelley and Matthew Craig completed the top five.
Bryant Barnhill – a former part-timer in the NASCAR Truck Series – finished sixth, while Doug Barnes, Ross “BooBoo” Dalton, Dale Earnhardt Jr, and Casey Kelley completed the race’s top-10 finishers.
Regardless of the reason it will be remembered for – whether that be chaos, poor officiating, or simply the night Dale Jr. returned to Florence Speedway – Saturday’s South Carolina 400 will certainly be one for the history books.
…and who knows, maybe this could be the start of a Late Model Stock Car career for Dale Earnhardt Jr, he does seem to be a pretty decent driver. You know, maybe as just a hobby, though?