Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. Wednesday night Denny Hamlin was lucky. Hamlin won NASCAR’s first Wednesday night race since July 1984, winning at Darlington Raceway only days after NASCAR made the return to racing at the historic track.
It was the third Darlington win for Hamlin who also won the season opening Daytona 500.
“I’ve got my happy face on and made sure I brought it with me today,” Hamlin said after climbing from his car wearing bizarre looking face mask. “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.”
Kyle Busch was second and equally as lucky. Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Erik Jones completed the top five.
The start of the second of NASCAR’s makeup races was delayed for nearly two hours by rain. And it was rain that shortened the 500-kilometer (311.4 mile) race.
“The distance was perfect,” Hamlin said. “It’s not too little and it’s not too much. I think the distance was perfect. I think it gives you enough racing to where things work out and you can still make your way from the back to the front and be able to win the race. It’s not too short. I’m in favor of these types of races.”
Hamlin inherited the lead during a caution that set up a restart with 30 laps to go. With tires at the abrasive track at a premium, Hamlin’s crew, short of fresh sets, left him out while those who had been leading including last Sunday’s winner Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott, who was leading at the caution.
“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.”
Just after the restart, Elliott and Kyle Busch were racing for position and made contact sending Elliott’s Chevy headfirst into the wall and ending his hopes for the win. After climbing from his car, Elliott made his displeasure known by showing a middle finger to Busch as he went by.
“I made a mistake and just misjudged the gap,” Busch said taking responsibility for the crash. “I made a mistake and clipped the 9 (Elliott)… I have too many friends on that team to do it on purpose. I’ve raced him since he was a kid.”
He later said he would try and talk to Elliott.
“I mean, I’m certainly going to reach out,” he said. “Him and I have always had a cordial relationship over the years. Certainly we’re not near as close, we’re not friends like you’d say him and Blaney are or anything like that.
“I’ve known him since he was 12 or 13 years old, been racing with him ever since then, late models, super late models, trucks, Xfinity cars, all that sort of stuff.”
Busch with heavy damage was in second when the caution came out. Only a few laps later the rain returned, the field was soon brought down pit road and stopped. After just a few minutes, NASCAR called the race handing the win to Hamlin.
Clint Bowyer seemed to be the car to beat winning both stages and leading the most laps, 71. He was the reason for the next to last caution when he lost a tire and spun on lap 196 and finished 22nd.
Joey Logano was sixth, Aric Almirola seventh, Jimmie Johnson eighth with Matt DiBenedetto and Martin Truex Jr., who led 16 laps rounding out the top 10.
The starting lineup featured an inverted field for the top 20 positions – based on the finish of Sunday’s Darlington race. Harvick, who collected his 50th career NASCAR Cup Series win on Sunday, had to start 20th alongside his runner-up Alex Bowman. Bowman finished 18th Wednesday.
NASCAR now heads to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the traditional Coca-Cola 600 Sunday night. Unlike year’s past however like the races at Darlington the race will be run without fans in attendance, and limited crews and media.
NASCAR Cup Series Race – Toyota 500
Darlington, South Carolina
Wednesday, May 20, 2020
- (16) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 208.
- (26) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 208.
- (20) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 208.
- (8) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 208.
- (13) Erik Jones, Toyota, 208.
- (3) Joey Logano, Ford, 208.
- (9) Aric Almirola, Ford, 208.
- (37) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 208.
- (7) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 208.
- (15) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 208.
- (24) Christopher Bell #, Toyota, 208.
- (34) William Byron, Chevrolet, 208.
- (14) Tyler Reddick #, Chevrolet, 208.
- (6) Ryan Newman, Ford, 208.
- (18) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 208.
- (21) Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 208.
- (23) Michael McDowell, Ford, 208.
- (19) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 208.
- (2) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 208.
- (10) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 208.
- (5) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 208.
- (4) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 208.
- (32) Chris Buescher, Ford, 208.
- (31) Corey LaJoie, Ford, 207.
- (39) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 207.
- (35) Quin Houff #, Chevrolet, 207.
- (25) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 207.
- (29) JJ Yeley(i), Chevrolet, 207.
- (30) Joey Gase(i), Ford, 207.
- (11) Matt Kenseth, Chevrolet, 206.
- (22) Cole Custer #, Ford, 206.
- (28) Gray Gaulding, Ford, 206.
- (33) Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, 204.
- (36) Garrett Smithley #, Chevrolet, 204.
- (12) John Hunter Nemechek #, Ford, 202.
- (38) BJ McLeod(i), Chevrolet, 202.
- (27) Brennan Poole #, Chevrolet, Transmission, 201.
- (17) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, Accident, 200.
- (1) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, Engine, 69.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 104.984 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 42 Mins, 23 Secs. Margin of Victory: Under Caution Seconds.
Caution Flags: 11 for 54 laps.
Lead Changes: 17 among 13 drivers.
Lap Leaders: R. Preece 0;T. Dillon 1-8;J. Logano 9-27;B. Wallace 28-30;C. Bowyer 31-83;M. Truex Jr. 84-99;K. Harvick 100-109;*. Suarez 110;C. Bowyer 111-128;R. Newman 129-133;E. Jones 134-160;C. Elliott 161-175;B. Keselowski 176-181;B. Poole # 182;C. Elliott 183-190;B. Keselowski 191;C. Elliott 192-196;D. Hamlin 197-208.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Clint Bowyer 2 times for 71 laps; Chase Elliott 3 times for 28 laps; Erik Jones 1 time for 27 laps; Joey Logano 1 time for 19 laps; Martin Truex Jr. 1 time for 16 laps; Denny Hamlin 1 time for 12 laps; Kevin Harvick 1 time for 10 laps; Ty Dillon 1 time for 8 laps; Brad Keselowski 2 times for 7 laps; Ryan Newman 1 time for 5 laps; Bubba Wallace 1 time for 3 laps; Brennan Poole # 1 time for 1 lap; * Daniel Suarez 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 14,19,12,88,22,10,9,11,42,37
Stage #2 Top Ten: 14,9,19,20,4,24,11,88,22,21