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NASCAR Cup: Denny Hamlin up front when rain returns to Darlington

DARLINGTON, SOUTH CAROLINA – MAY 20: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Delivering Strength Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the rain-shortened NASCAR Cup Series Toyota 500 at Darlington Raceway on May 20, 2020 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

By AMANDA VINCENT

Denny Hamlin joined Joey Logano as a 2020 NASCAR Cup Series two-time winner Wednesday night in the rain-delayed and rain-shorted Toyota 500K at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. It was Hamlin’s 39th-career win and his third at Darlington.

“I’ve got my happy face on and made sure I brought it with me today,” Hamlin said. “Just can’t thank FedEx and Toyota and Coca-Cola, Jordan Brand – the whole JGR engine and fab shop. The pit crew did a great job today. Everybody, really. I was pretty happy with how it all turned out.”

A pit strategy of staying out during a 10th caution for a Clint Bowyer wreck on lap 195 put Hamlin in the lead. After Kyle Busch made contact with Chase Elliott, sending second-place driver Elliott into the wall on lap 201, Hamlin was riding around up front, under caution, when rain resulted in the race becoming official after the completion of 208 laps of the 228-lap scheduled distance.

“The weather really didn’t play a factor in our call, there,” Hamlin said. “It was, really, we were limited on tires. We had just come to take tires, which was our last set, but we had a set of one-lap scuffs. They weren’t glued up in time. We didn’t have time to glue them. The only choice for us was to stay out. We were really the best car on that long run, anyway. I think the right car won.”

Busch finished second, giving Joe Gibbs Racing a one-two finish. 

“I know I made a mistake and just misjudged the gap,” Busch said. “When we were racing there with the 11 (Hamlin) and the 9 (Elliott), had a run on him. I knew he was there, and I knew I needed to get in line as quick as I could and in doing, so I watched him and his momentum as he was going by me. I tried to look up in my mirror and see where (Kevin) Harvick was to get in, and I just misjudged and made a mistake and clipped the 9, there, and spun him into the wall. I hate it for him and his guys. I have too many friends over there on that team to do anything like that on purpose. I’ve raced Chase since he was a kid and never had any issues with him whatsoever. It was just a bad mistake on my part, and I’ll just have to deal with it later on.”

Kevin Harvick, who won at Darlington on Sunday, finished third.

Before wrecking, Clint Bowyer led a race-high 71 laps, including two stage wins at lap 60 and lap 125. Elliott was second in the laps-led category, running up front for 28 laps.

After Ryan Preece started on the pole, Ty Dillon and Joey Logano led laps early before Bowyer took his first lead by being the first driver out of the pits during a lap-25 caution. He continued to lead for the remainder of the opening stage.

Bowyer continued to lead early in the second stage before Martin Truex Jr. stayed out to inherit the lead during a caution for a Chris Buescher incident on lap 72. Bowyer’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammate kevin Harvick took the lead on lap 100 and ran up front until Bowyer was first off pit road to retake the lead during a lap-108 yellow flag when Cole Custer hit the wall.

Bowyer’s last lap led came during the caution right after the end of the second stage when Ryan Newman stayed out for track position. When the race returned to green, Erik Jones took the lead in a three-way battle with Newman and Bowyer.

Elliott took his first lead with a pass on Erik Jones on lap 161. The yellow flag didn’t wave again until lap 179 when Matt Kenseth spun after most of the race field had cycled through green-flag pit stops. Brad Keselowski, though, had yet to pit. After the caution, Elliott was back up front. Aside from Keselowski taking a brief lead on lap 191, Elliott continued to run up front until Hamlin’s late-race pit strategy for the lead.

Keselowski finished the race in the fourth position, and Jones rounded out the top-five to give JGR three cars in the top-five of the finishing order. All four Gibbs cars were in the top-10 at the early checkered flag with Truex in 10th.

Other top-10 finishers included Logano in sixth, Aric Almirola in seventh, Jimmie Johnson in eighth, and Matt DiBenedetto in 10th.

Below, is the complete finishing order of the Toyota 500K at Darlington Raceway:

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Posted by on May 21, 2020. Filed under Breaking News,Cup Series,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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