Denny Hamlin won the NASCAR Cup Series Southern 500 in a thrilling finish at Darlington Raceway to capture the first victory of the series Playoffs.
It was Hamlin’s first win of the year and his 45th career Cup Series victory. He led 146 laps in his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and held off a hard-charging Kyle Larson who put the pedal to the floor and didn’t back off.
“Yeah, it was a matter of time,” Hamlin said about finally being able to finish strong and get to victory lane. “We can’t just keep leading inside 10 laps to go every week and not get a win.
“He drove it in past the limit of the car and tires. I knew he was coming. I was a little conservative on that last lap because I had that four-car-length lead.”
Larson kept his foot on the gas, scrapping the wall and the side of his No. 5 Hendricks Motorsports Chevrolet. But he could not make the pass and had to settle for second place after leading a race-high 156 laps. It was his 19th top-10 finish this season.
Larson explained his final attempt to pass Hamlin.
“We got to the white (flag), and I was like, ‘Well, I haven’t been able to gain on him now, I’m going to try something.’
“Honestly, got to his bumper too quick. I was hoping he was going to run that diamond to kind of be safe and I could skirt to his outside but gave everything I had. I didn’t want to wreck him. I just wanted to try to get to his outside there, but he did a great job not really making any mistakes during the last run, and I was having to push really hard in second to try and just stay with him.”
Ross Chastain finished third, earning his first top-10 finish in five races at Darlington Raceway with Martin Truex Jr. in fourth and Kevin Harvick rounding out the top five
Harvick was pleased with the top-five and said, “I think it’s a good start. I think just a little bit of balance here and there to get ourselves to compete for the win, but I think as you look at the overall speed, it was fairly good.”
Chase Briscoe, in 19th, was the highest-finishing rookie.
There were no issues during the post-race inspection.
The next Cup Series race will be at Richmond Raceway on Saturday, Sept. 11 at 7:30 p.m. ET. and will be broadcast live on NBCSN.
Kyle Busch – After contact with the No. 3 of Austin Dillon, Bush hit the wall and was unable to finish the race, relegating him to a 35th place finish. He placed the blame on his team, saying, “It wasn’t the 3’s (Dillon’s) fault. Just take our lumps, you know. We were running like (crap), and that’s what you get when you run like (crap). Shouldn’t be there.”
Alex Bowman – Bowman scraped the wall on Lap 14 and the team decided to wait and make repairs during the competition caution. But they waited too long and he hit the wall in Turn 4 and also made contact with his teammate William Byron. Bowman was able to recover but finished 26th.
William Byron – Byron also recovered and ran in the top ten but on Lap 200 he cut a left front tire and crashed into the Turn 1 wall and was unable to finish the race, placing 34th.
Chase Elliott – Elliott finished in 31st place after he hit the outside wall on Lap 327 while racing Bubba Wallace and Christopher Bell.
Michael McDowell – McDowell hit the wall in Turn 2 on Lap 31 and then spun into the SAFER barrier, ending his day early.