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NASCAR Cup: Denny Hamlin wins Southern 500

Denny Hamlin applies a second winner decal to his car after winning the Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on Sept. 3, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

Denny Hamlin applies a second winner decal to his car after winning the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on Sept. 3, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

By AMANDA VINCENT

Denny Hamlin claimed his second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win of the season and the second Cup Series win of his career at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway on Sunday with his win of The Bojangles’ Southern 500. It also topped off a weekend sweep for Hamlin, as he won the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Darlington on Saturday.

In NASCAR’s third throwback-themed Southern 500 weekend, Hamlin referred to his Southern 500 win as a throwback, throwing it back to short-track drivers he watched and learned from, growing up.

“It means everything to me,” Hamlin said. “I mean, as far as I’m concerned, this is a throwback to my history. This is for Roy Hendrick, Bugs Hairfield, Wayne Patterson, Eddie Johnson — the short-track guys that I grew up watching. This was a throwback to them.  Back in 1985 and 1989, I was at Southside Speedway in the stands watching them race and learning everything I could from hem,and this is a throwback to them and their history.”

Kyle Busch finished second to give Joe Gibbs Racing a one-two finish the teammates utilized a pit strategy of waiting about 20 more laps to pit after their fellow-competitors began the last cycle of pit stops around lap 300. By staying out, the two gave up significant track position, at first, but on newer tires, they ran back up through the field quickly.

Hamlin’s final stop wasn’t perfect, as he had to make two attempts to get onto pit road. He overshot the pit entrance the first time he attempted to make his final stop.

“Well, I got beat on the last green-flag sequence. Truex came from a straightaway back and beat us out of the pits,” Hamlin said. “I little bit of that was pit road, and I think a little bit of that was my entry,and I tried to get all I could and just flat-out overshot it, and so I knew by — I looked at my dash, and I gave up about 10 to 12 seconds, and I was like, ‘I don’t know if I can;” you know? Were we going to win this race by 10 or 12 seconds? I doubt it, and so, we just had to put on a heck of a drive. My crew chief Wheels (Mike Wheeler)was motivating me every lap to push, push, push, and that’s all I had.”

Hamlin got up to second in the final 20 laps but still had a sizable deficit on then-leader Truex. He closed to within a car-length in the closing laps, and when Truex got into the wall with two laps remaining, Hamlin took the lead. After the late-race miscue, Truex wound up finishing eighth.

Kurt Busch was third, Austin Dillon fourth, and Erik Jones rounded out the top-five.

While Truex didn’t win the race, he increased his chances of winning the war, i.e. the 2017 Cup Series championship. Truex won both of the 100-lap stages that made up the first 200 laps of the 367-lap race. In addition to running up his playoff-points tally to 37 with his 16th and 17th stage wins of the season, he clinched the regular-season bonus of 15 playoff points. He headed into the race needed to score 20 regular-season points to clinch that bonus one race early, and he did so by earning 10 points in each of the first two stages.

“It’s an honor to win the regular-season championship and a milestone for Martin and Furniture Row Racing,” Furniture Row Racing President Joe Garone said. “At the end of the day, though, our sites are set on the longterm goal which is winning the championship at Homestead. We’ll use this regular season championship and the bad luck the 78 team had at the end of tonight’s race as a springboard to take us to that goal.”

While Truex was up front an opportune times for stage wins, Hamlin and Kyle Larson tied for most laps led, each running up front for 124 laps. Larson ran up front early, leading 78 laps in the opening 100-lap stage and leading early in stage two, while Hamlin racked up laps led in the second half of the race.

After running at or near the front int he first 260 laps, though, Larson fell out of contention with an extra pit stop for a tire rub during a caution that came out with 107 laps to go.

Other top-10 finishers included Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ryan Newman seventh, pole sitter Kevin Harvick in ninth, and Jamie McMurray was 10th.

Follow Auto Racing Daily on Twitter @AutoRacingDaily or like Auto Racing Daily on Facebook (facebook.com/autorcngdaily). Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook (facebook.com/nascarexaminer)

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Posted by on September 4, 2017. Filed under Breaking News,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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