NASCAR Southern 500: Denny Hamlin wins at Darlington despite error – NASCAR

Denny Hamlin recovered from a costly mistake in the final stage of the Southern 500 to sweep NASCAR’s throwback weekend at Darlington.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver’s chances of victory looked to be over when he locked up coming into the pit entry with 53 laps to go, missed the pits and was forced to do another lap around.

Hamlin, along with team-mate Kyle Busch, had already resisted pitting longer than most, and the mistake put him more than 20 seconds behind leader Martin Truex Jr.

But Hamlin, who last won the Southern 500 in 2010, hunted down last year’s winner, eventually reclaiming the lead with three laps to go after a flat right-front tyre put Truex into the wall.

Prior to that, it looked as though Truex may have been able to hold on, as Hamlin lost ground when he made light contact with backmarker Landon Cassill six laps from the end and fell a second and a half off Truex’s tail. But the puncture made that gap irrelevant.

Truex had swept the opening two stages of the race, beating early pacesetter Kyle Larson on the line to win the first stage, while his second stage win was a more dominant affair.

Although he lost the lead during pitstops both at the beginning and midway through the stage, he was able to move to the fore both times.

The Furniture Row Racing driver’s 16th and 17th stage wins of the year means that he has clinched the ‘regular season championship’ with one race to go.

Despite Truex’s sweep of stage wins, he lacked pace in the final stage, and complained of an ill-handling car. His tally of 76 laps led was bettered only by Hamlin, who led 124 laps en route to his 31st Cup career win.

Kyle Busch’s late-pitting strategy ended up mirroring Hamlin perfectly, and he finished the race in second place, one spot ahead of his brother Kurt Busch.

Austin Dillon was fourth, with Erik Jones the highest placed rookie in fifth, while Matt Kenseth, who will be replaced by Jones at Joe Gibbs Racing next year, was sixth.

Following his late puncture, Truex wound up eighth, behind Ryan Newman.

Polesitter Kevin Harvick, who got held up early on by a pitstop issue, and Jamie McMurray completed the top 10.

With one round of the regular season left, Clint Bowyer, Jones,and Joey Logano remain within touching distance of a playoff berth. A win at next week’s race at Richmond would guarantee their place in the 16-way championship fight.

While Chase Elliott, Kenseth, and McMurray are all in the top 16 in the points, occupying positions 14-16, the three have yet to win a race this season, meaning their championship shootout positions are yet to be secured.

Race result

Pos Driver Team Car Laps
1 Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 367
2 Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 367
3 Kurt Busch Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 367
4 Austin Dillon Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 367
5 Erik Jones Furniture Row Racing Toyota 367
6 Matt Kenseth Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 367
7 Ryan Newman Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 367
8 Martin Truex Jr. Furniture Row Racing Toyota 367
9 Kevin Harvick Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 366
10 Jamie McMurray Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet 366
11 Chase Elliott Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 366
12 Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 366
13 Ty Dillon Germain Racing Chevrolet 366
14 Kyle Larson Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet 366
15 Brad Keselowski Team Penske Ford 366
16 Paul Menard Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 366
17 Chris Buescher JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet 366
18 Joey Logano Team Penske Ford 366
19 Michael McDowell Leavine Family Racing Chevrolet 365
20 Aric Almirola Richard Petty Motorsports Ford 365
21 Landon Cassill Front Row Motorsports Ford 365
22 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 365
23 Cole Whitt TriStar Motorsports Chevrolet 364
24 Kasey Kahne Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 364
25 David Ragan Front Row Motorsports Ford 363
26 Danica Patrick Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 363
27 Matt DiBenedetto Go FAS Racing Ford 362
28 Corey LaJoie BK Racing Toyota 360
29 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Roush Fenway Racing Ford 358
30 Jeffrey Earnhardt Circle Sport / TMG Chevrolet 356
31 Ryan Blaney Wood Brothers Racing Ford 356
32 Derrike Cope Premium Motorsports Toyota 351
33 Carl Long MBM Motorsports Chevrolet 350
34 A.J. Allmendinger JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet 340
35 Trevor Bayne Roush Fenway Racing Ford 336
36 Gray Gaulding BK Racing Toyota 202
37 Cody Ware Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet 144
38 Daniel Suarez Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 125
39 Reed Sorenson Premium Motorsports Toyota 104
40 Clint Bowyer Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 18

Drivers’ standings

Pos Driver Points
1 Martin Truex Jr. 1000
2 Kyle Busch 893
3 Kyle Larson 884
4 Kevin Harvick 867
5 Denny Hamlin 810
6 Brad Keselowski 761
7 Chase Elliott 737
8 Matt Kenseth 735
9 Jamie McMurray 734
10 Jimmie Johnson 653
11 Clint Bowyer 643
12 Ryan Blaney 629
13 Kurt Busch 624
14 Erik Jones 611
15 Joey Logano 605
16 Ryan Newman 604
17 Daniel Suarez 538
18 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 536
19 Austin Dillon 473
20 Trevor Bayne 472
21 Kasey Kahne 464
22 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 431
23 Paul Menard 429
24 Ty Dillon 419
25 Chris Buescher 407
26 Michael McDowell 396
27 A.J. Allmendinger 384
28 Danica Patrick 363
29 David Ragan 315
30 Aric Almirola 285
31 Matt DiBenedetto 274
32 Landon Cassill 257
33 Cole Whitt 255
34 Corey LaJoie 171
35 Gray Gaulding 112
36 Jeffrey Earnhardt 100
37 Reed Sorenson 97
38 Derrike Cope 35
39 Michael Waltrip 29
40 Boris Said 15
41 Billy Johnson 15
42 Gary Klutt 6
43 Cody Ware 5
44 Alon Day 5
44 Stephen Leicht 5
46 Kevin O’Connell 4
47 Tommy Regan 3
48 D.J. Kennington 2

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