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Darlington mid-race Snapshot: Southern 500

April 12, 2014, Pat DeCola, NASCAR.com

Darlington mid-race Snapshot: Southern 500
Catch up on everything that has happened halfway through the Sprint Cup Series race

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Top Storylines:

-- Jimmie Johnson started the race in 26th and wasn't able to improve his position much through the first 75 laps or so. He and crew chief Chad Knaus were going back and forth on the radio trying to figure out how to fix the No. 48 Chevrolet, but seemed bewildered as to what to do. That doesn't happen often, but as the sun went down the No. 48 started to stabilize and gain positions fast. He's now closing in on the top five.

-- On the Lap 59 caution, Aric Almirola, Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin all took two tires to see how their cars might respond to such a change later in the race. Kenseth shot to the lead, Hamlin hung around in the top five and Almirola dropped like a rock.

-- As expected, Darlington is eating up the rookies. All but Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon are down at least one lap. Ryan Truex is out of the race completely.

Race Outlook: The fact that Johnson has been able to creep back into this race with a struggling race car -- and his exquisite track history -- suggest we could be looking at the No. 48 as our eighth winner of the year. That said, his teammate Jeff Gordon -- a Darlington wiz in his own right --  has also looked like he could be behind the wheel of a race-winning car. Out of all the cars on the track through the midway point, however, Kevin Harvick looks the strongest.

Time Elapsed: 1 hour, 50 minutes.

Lap leaders:
Joey Logano, Laps 1-37
Jeff Gordon, Laps 38-42
David Ragan, Lap 43
Jeff Gordon, Laps 44-45
Kevin Harvick, Laps 46-60
Denny Hamlin, Laps 61-63
Matt Kenseth, Laps 64-75
Kevin Harvick, Laps 76-179
Brad Keselowski, Laps 180-183

Lead changes as of Lap 184: 9
Record at Darlington Raceway: 41, achieved in in fall 1982

Cautions:
Laps 40-47 (Ryan Truex cut a front right tire and got into the wall in Turn 1.)
Laps 58-63 (Travis Kvapil got into the Turn 3 wall.)
Lap 92-99 (Michael Annett slammed hard into the wall for a Darlington stripe.)
Lap 124-130 (Cole Whitt smacked the wall in Turn 1.)

Best lap: Joey Logano | 27.708 seconds | 177.479 mph

Average speed: 136.715 mph