DARLINGTON, S.C. — Denny Hamlin overcame a botched pit road entry, resulting in him missing the pits entirely, and took advantage of Martin Truex Jr. collecting the wall with three laps to go to win the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
As the field started hitting pit road on Lap 298 for the final round of green flag stops, Hamlin waited until 55 before making his final stop. He came in too hot and turned his car out onto the track to avoid hitting the sand barrels that line the leading edge of the pit walls.
However, the high number of cars lapped kept him in contention. As a result, he used his fresher tires to run down the cars in the running order, culminating with his late battle with Truex.
Entering Turn 3 with three to go, Truex suffered a right-front tire blowout and slammed the wall. This allowed Hamlin to moezie on by and score his 31st career victory in his 423rd Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start.
“Drove our ass off. That’s as hard as I could drive. We got ‘The Flying 11.’ It’s flying.
“This track is just amazing. I love this race track.
“This was weird. To go through the adversity we did right there, missing pit lane. I knew I had to drive my tail off to get it back.
“It’s good to see the entire state of South Carolina in the stands. Thank you so much,” Hamlin said.
Kyle Busch finished second and Kurt Busch rounded out the podium.
Austin Dillon and Erik Jones rounded out the top-five.
Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Truex, Kevin Harvick and Jamie McMurray rounded out the top-10.
Kevin Harvick led the field to the green flag at 6:20 p.m. After caution flew for the first time on Lap 15 for a two-car wreck in Turn 1, Kyle Busch exited pit road with the race lead. Kyle Larson took the lead going into Turn 1 on the ensuing restart. Truex ran down and passed Larson exiting Turn 4 on the final lap of the stage to win the first stage.
Exiting pit road with the race lead, Larson led the field to the green on Lap 107. Truex took it back on Lap 148, only to lose it to Denny Hamlin on pit road under caution, a result of a two-car wreck in Turn 2 on Lap 155. But Truex forced a three-wide battle down the backstretch to take the lead exiting Turn 4, and with caution flying for Gray Gaulding spinning out in Turn 2 on Lap 197, the second stage ended with Truex winning the stage.
Hamlin exited pits with the lead and led the field back to green on Lap 204. A cycle of green flag stops sent Truex to the front, only for a caution for debris in Turn 2 to give the lead back to Hamlin, and setting up the run to the finish.
Caution flew first on Lap 15 when Trevor Bayne slammed the Turn 1 wall, followed moments later by AJ Allmendinger spinning and collecting the left-rear of Bayne. Caution flew for the second time on Lap 40 when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. slammed the frontstretch wall. The third caution flew for the end of the first stage on Lap 100. The fourth flew on Lap 125 when Daniel Suarez pounded the wall in Turn 1. Caution flew for the fifth time on Lap 155 for a two-car wreck in Turn 2. Gray Gaulding brought out the sixth caution on Lap 197. David Ragan brought out caution for the seventh time on Lap 206 with his spin in Turn 2. Debris in Turn 2 brought out the eighth and final time on Lap 260.
NUTS & BOLTS
The race lasted three hours, 46 minutes and 34 seconds, at an average speed of 132.761 mph. There were 20 lead changes among eight different drivers and eight cautions for 38 laps.
Truex leaves with a 107-point lead over Kyle Busch, having mathematically clinched the 15-point regular season points bonus.C1725_UNOFFRES