Denny Hamlin used clever strategy to win his second NASCAR Cup Series race of the season at Darlington in a race cut short by rain on Wednesday evening.
In the second race for NASCAR’s return after the hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic – the first NASCAR race on Wednesday since Richard Petty’s 200th victory at Daytona on July 4, 1984 – Joe Gibbs Racing driver Hamlin did not take position with the rest of the first gaggle on lap 195 of the 228 planned following a warning inspired by Matt Kenseth.
Instead, Hamlin chose not to use the cleaned Goodyear tires that his JGR crew had installed on his Toyota Camry 14 laps earlier and formed a breakout group with teammate Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott of Hendrick Motorsports when the race resumed at round 199.
Entering the right pit on lap 201, with Hamlin in front, Busch tried to slip under the rear wing of Elliott’s Chevrolet Camaro, but the defending champion misjudged the movement and pulled Elliott into the wall stands.
As the warning flags flew while Elliott’s car was cleared, and saluting him with a finger, rain began to fall on the circuit, prompting NASCAR officials to interrupt the race on lap 208.
This gave Hamlin his first win since the opening Daytona 500 of the season and the third victory in his career victory at Darlington, having previously won the 1.3-mile oval in 2010 and 2017.
Kevin Harvick, who was victorious in Darlington’s first race on Sunday, struggled at the start of the mired race in midfield while the top 20 were reversed from Sunday’s race.
Long run allowed Stewart-Haas Racing Harvick Ford Mustang to finally reach the head of the peloton, although he fell back into the third stage of the green flag race, complaining about the lack of grip of his used tires.
He opposed Kenseth’s caution on lap 181 and brought home a third place for SHR, ahead of compatriot Mustang Brad Keselowski (Team Penske), who finished sixth on the last restart.
Erik Jones, who was sent to the back of the field after scrutineering, led an excellent race in fifth place for JGR, despite a wall strike that left him caring for the Camry until the end.
Joey Logano and Aric Almirola had smart races for Penske and SHR, respectively, finishing sixth and seventh, ahead of seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, eighth for Hendrick Motorsports and best finisher Camaro.
Clint Bowyer won stages one and two, although a 195 lap rotation ruined his chances of winning and contributed to a weak 22nd place, while pole sitter Ryan Preece retired with an engine failure early.
Result – 208 laps
|1||Denny Hamlin||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||2h42m23.s|
|2||Kyle Busch||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||s|
|3||Kevin Harvick||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||s|
|4||Brad Keselowski||Team Penske||Ford||s|
|5||Erik Jones||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||s|
|6||Joey Logano||Team Penske||Ford||s|
|7||Aric Almirola||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||s|
|8||Jimmie Johnson||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||s|
|9||Matt DiBenedetto||Wood brothers racing||Ford||s|
|ten||Martin Truex Jr.||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||s|
|11||Christopher Bell||Leavine Family Racing||Toyota||s|
|12||William Byron||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||s|
|13||Tyler Reddick||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||s|
|14||Ryan Newman||Roush Fenway Racing||Ford||s|
|15||Kurt Busch||Chip Ganassi Racing||Chevrolet||s|
|16||Darrell Wallace Jr.||Richard Petty Motorsports||Chevrolet||s|
|17||Michael McDowell||Frontline sports||Ford||s|
|18||Alex Bowman||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||s|
|19||Ty Dillon||Germain Racing||Chevrolet||s|
|20||Austin Dillon||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||s|
|21||Ryan Blaney||Team Penske||Ford||s|
|22||Clint Bowyer||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||s|
|23||Chris Buescher||Roush Fenway Racing||Ford||s|
|24||Corey LaJoie||Go FAS Racing||Ford||1 turn|
|25||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||JTG Daugherty Racing||Chevrolet||1 turn|
|26||Quin Houff||StarCom Racing||Chevrolet||1 turn|
|27||Daniel Suarez||Gaunt Brothers Racing||Toyota||1 turn|
|28||J.J. Yeley||Spire Motorsports||Chevrolet||1 turn|
|29||Joey Gase||Petty Ware Racing||Chevrolet||1 turn|
|30||Matt Kenseth||Chip Ganassi Racing||Chevrolet||2 turns|
|31||Cole custer||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||2 turns|
|32||Gaulding gray||Rick Ware Racing||Chevrolet||2 turns|
|33||Timmy Hill||MBM Motorsports||Toyota||4 turns|
|34||Garrett Smithley||Rick Ware Racing||Ford||4 turns|
|35||John Hunter Nemechek||Frontline sports||Ford||6 turns|
|36||B.J. McLeod||BJ McLeod Motorsports||Chevrolet||6 turns|
|37||Brennan Poole||Premium mechanical sports||Chevrolet||Transmission|
|38||Chase Elliott||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||Accident|
|39||Ryan Preece||JTG Daugherty Racing||Chevrolet||Engine|