Smith was an also-ran among the 18 lead-lap cars when the caution came late in the race. He took the lead when the cars in front of him pitted for tires and then held off
"Legends win this race," Smith said. "I'm not supposed to win this race. I've never even had a top-five."
Darlington, an uniquely-shaped 1.366-mile track that was NASCAR's original superspeedway in 1950, has more history than even Daytona and Smith has become a part of it in a dramatic race that had plenty of action in it.
"I guess it shows in this series anybody can win on any given Sunday," Smith said. "These guys have stuck with me for three years. We've had some major ups and downs and this has to be classified as a major up for sure. The car was good all night, but we never had track position. The opportunity to stay out showed up and Pete (crew chief Rondeau) made a great pit call."
Smith was first to cross the finish line at Talladega's fall race in 2008, but NASCAR ruled he'd illegally driven below the yellow line coming to the checkered flag and sent
Smith has six top-five starting positions in 10 races this season, but his best finish was seventh at Daytona and four have been 34th or worse. He started 23rd, his poorest of the season, at Darlington, proving that the work a team puts into developing a fast, consistent race car in practice is far more valuable than a good starting position.
Busch's Toyota pushed Harvick's Chevrolet out of the way -- it ended up hitting the inside pit wall -- and drove to his hauler. Harvick marched directly to the NASCAR hauler, where Busch headed after changing into street clothes.
Busch, Harvick and
Harvick emerged in front of Busch, who tapped the No. 29 and sent it spinning into the outside wall.
"It was tight racing after the restart," Busch said. "Harvick was up top and he got a little loose. He lifted early to let me go. He got into me and made my car loose all the way through the turn. Clint ended up bouncing off Harvick. It's uncalled for, just unacceptable racing. I gave him room off Turn Two and I didn't get the room (in Turn Four)."
Bowyer didn't criticize Busch or Harvick, his Richard Childress Racing teammate.
"It's the nature of the beast," Bowyer said. "There's no room to race at the end. I knew when the caution came out all hell was going to break loose."
RCR has had engine problems this season, notably at Daytona where Burton and Harvick both went out with them.
Harvick and Bowyer were also in contention for top-10s before Burton's engine failure brought out the next-to-last caution and led to the Busch/Harvick/Bowyer contact on the ensuing restart. Harvick finished 17th, Bowyer 31st and Burton 33rd. Teammate
Edwards has five top-5s including two wins and seven top-10s in 10 races. He increased his lead in the points over
"I'm sure that will feel good tomorrow, but, right now, I wanted to win that race," Edwards said.
With the Chase format, it's important to be in the top-10 and win as many as possible. Leading the points is relatively insignificant. What is significant for Edwards are the top-5s and top-10s. He's having his best regular season, running at the front in almost every race.
Kahne's Toyota bounced off the wall while leading early in the race. He led the most laps at Darlington with 124 including 51 straight from laps 282 to 332, but it took some hard work on pit stops to keep the No. 4 up front.
"We had to keep fixing the car, fixing the car," Kahne said. "For hitting the wall as hard as I did, fourth is good."