DARLINGTON, S.C. -- This past Sunday, the four Hendrick Motorsports drivers tackled the track with the reputation that it's too tough to tame: Darlington Raceway.
With three top-14 finishes, there were plenty of lessons to take away from the most recent encounter with the "Lady in Black."
PIT STOPS ON POINT
While battling a vibration in his No. 5 LiftMaster Chevrolet SS that appeared early in the race, Kasey Kahne ran just inside the top 15 and top 20 for the better part of Sunday's 367-lap race.
"We had a vibration that really hurt us a lot throughout the race and we had it again the final run," Kahne said. "When we had that I was nowhere near as good as I was when I didn’t have it."
However, Kahne found his groove in the latter part of the Southern 500, crossing the top-10 barrier with less than 80 laps remaining. He credits his late gain of position to his pit crew.
“We had great pit stops," Kahne said. "The guys did a really nice job the entire race, but really at the end it gave us some positions, which was great to get a top-10."
Kahne led his teammates to the checkered flag, taking home a seventh-place finish. The finish marked his seventh top-10 of the 2016 season.
TWO LAPS DOWN
Jimmie Johnson led his teammates to the green flag in ninth and was running solidly inside the top 10 in the beginning stages of the race.
However, following a pit road violation during a Lap 96 caution, Johnson was forced to make another trip down pit road, putting him two laps behind the leaders.
Johnson and his No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet team worked hard to regain a lead-lap position. However, just over 100 laps later, Johnson spun and sustained damage to his throwback Chevy.
After taking his race car back to the garage so his team could make repairs, Johnson returned to the track with just over 100 laps remaining and brought home a 33rd-place finish.
SECOND TIME AROUND
In 2015, Chase Elliott made his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start at Darlington Raceway in the No. 25 Chevrolet.
The young driver rebounded from an early incident to move up through the field, but a blown right-front tire with just over 100 laps remaining sent the Chevy into the wall and ultimately to the garage. Elliott was scored with a 41st-place finish.
This time around, Elliott not only had a better starting position but also maintained a better running position throughout the race than last year.
Taking the green flag just outside the top 10, Elliott fell back early in the race but good luck on pit road early in the race landed the rookie inside the top five for the Lap 104 restart.
The 20-year-old maintained a top-five position until the end of the race, when he lost several positions to cross the finish line in 10th.