Denny Hamlin won the abridged Toyota 500 Wednesday night at Darlington Raceway parking his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in victory lane. It was the 39th win of his NASCAR Cup Series career and his third at Darlington.
He took the lead late in the race and when the final caution came out, his team decided to stay out on the track and did not pit with most of the lead lap cars. After the race resumed Hamlin led the field to green and held on to the lead until Lap 208 when the event was red-flagged due to rain.
“I’ve got my happy face on, made sure I brought it with me today,” Hamlin joked after the race as he pointed to his face mask which was illustrated with a large smile. “The pit crew did a great job today, everybody really. I was pretty happy with how it all turned out.”
In a video press conference with the media, he described what he loves about the track known as “Too Tough To Tame.”
“I just love the racetrack, he said. “It’s one of my favorites, certainly in my top two or three. I think it’s a driver’s racetrack. I think the driver can make up a little bit of maybe what his car doesn’t have with moving around the racetrack, different lines, throttle and brake application. There’s a lot of things that can a driver can do to make his performance better at this type of racetrack. That’s why I like it so much. Really from my very first start here in the Xfinity Series back in 2004, I just took to it quickly. We’ve had a ton of success ever since. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Hamlin is now fourth in the Cup Series points standings, 50 points behind leader Kevin Harvick.
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The Toyota 500 was an emotional rollercoaster for several drivers.
Kyle Busch placed second but the finish was not without drama. On Lap 200 after the final caution of the night Busch was racing toward the front and spun out Chase Elliott who had restarted in fifth. When Elliott’s car came to a stop, he climbed out of his No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy and expressed his displeasure with Busch by giving him a one finger salute. Elliott had to settle for a 38th place finish.
Busch accepted the blame for the incident, saying, “There’s no question. I know I made a mistake and just misjudged the gap.”
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick grabbed third place followed by Brad Keselowski and Erik Jones to round out the top five. Joey Logano, Aric Almirola, Jimmie Johnson, Matt DiBenedetto and Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the top 10 finishers.
Christopher Bell was the top-finishing rookie with an 11th-place finish in the No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Toyota.
The NASCAR Cup Series heads to Charlotte Motor Speedway for their next race. The Coca-Cola 600 is scheduled for Sunday at 6 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.