Denny Hamlin claims victory in Toyota Dealers 500K at Darlington
While running down Chase Elliott and taking the lead, Hamlin was still fighting off a determined Chase Elliott, which had patiently worked his way through the field and avoided any major cautions except with a kiss or two from brushing the wall of The Lady In Black.
Then teammate Kyle Busch who likewise, had worked his way through the field, fighting an ill-handling Toyota, cut in front of Sunday’s race winner Kevin Harvick, and tapped Elliott’s Chevy Camaro, sending the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts car into the inside retaining wall on the front stretch.
Elliott, not pleased with the incident, displayed his middle finger to Busch as he drove by in Turn 1 during the final caution period of the race. Elliott scored 38th in the final results.
After the caution, the skies opened up at Darlington and during the brief red-flag period, NASCAR officials made the race official with 22 laps to go after bringing the field to a stop on pit road.
Busch finished second in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, followed by Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Erik Jones to round out the top-five finishers.
“I’ve got my happy face on, made sure I brought it with me today,” Hamlin said from inside his car on pit road, referring to a face mask depicting a huge smile. “The pit crew did a great job today, everybody really. I was pretty happy with how it all turned out.
“It’s a driver’s race track,” said the three-time Darlington winner.” You can move around and you can do different things to make your car handle and we got it right today.”
The Darlington race, the second of NASCAR’s return to racing following 10 weeks of inactivity, was the first NASCAR race conducted in midweek since 1984. Starting the race with an inverted field from the finishing order of Sunday’s race, the Toyota 500K race took on an entirely different look under the lights at Darlington in completely different conditions.
As Hamlin took the victory questions on live television, Busch was approached by Elliott’s crew chief Alan Gustafson to further discuss the incident with Elliott. Gustafson was Busch’s former crew chief when the two-time Cup champion drove for Hendrick Motorsports from 2005-07.
“There’s no question. I know I made a mistake and just misjudged the gap,” Busch said of the incident with Elliott. “We were racing there with the 11 (Hamlin) and the 9 (Elliott) had a run on him and I knew he was there and I knew I needed to get in line as quickly as I could and in doing so, I watched him and his momentum going by me and I tried to look up in the mirror and see where Harvick was (behind) and get in and I just misjudged it,” said Busch. “I made a mistake and clipped the nine there and spun him in the wall. I hate it for him and his guys.”
Joe Gibbs Racing had their best runs in the final stages of the race. With 70 to go, all four cars were inside the top 10 with 2019 Darlington winner Erik Jones leading the way.
Clint Bowyer swept both stages in Wednesday night’s rain-delayed race but following a spin with 34 laps remaining, he finished 22nd after a right-rear tire went down on the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford.
Scheduled to begin at 6:20 PM, the race was delayed an hour and thirty minutes before the green flag was displayed.
The NASCAR Cup Series resumes action this weekend with the traditional Memorial Day weekend running of the Coca-Cola 600 from Charlotte Motor Speedway.
NASCAR Cup Series Race – Toyota 500k
Darlington Raceway, Darlington, South Carolina
Wednesday, May 20, 2020
1. (16) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 208.
2. (26) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 208.
3. (20) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 208.
4. (8) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 208.
5. (13) Erik Jones, Toyota, 208.
6. (3) Joey Logano, Ford, 208.
7. (9) Aric Almirola, Ford, 208.
8. (37) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 208.
9. (7) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 208.
10. (15) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 208.
11. (24) Christopher Bell #, Toyota, 208.
12. (34) William Byron, Chevrolet, 208.
13. (14) Tyler Reddick #, Chevrolet, 208.
14. (6) Ryan Newman, Ford, 208.
15. (18) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 208.
16. (21) Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 208.
17. (23) Michael McDowell, Ford, 208.
18. (19) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 208.
19. (2) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 208.
20. (10) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 208.
21. (5) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 208.
22. (4) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 208.
23. (32) Chris Buescher, Ford, 208.
24. (31) Corey LaJoie, Ford, 207.
25. (39) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 207.
26. (35) Quin Houff #, Chevrolet, 207.
27. (25) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 207.
28. (29) JJ Yeley(i), Chevrolet, 207.
29. (30) Joey Gase(i), Ford, 207.
30. (11) Matt Kenseth, Chevrolet, 206.
31. (22) Cole Custer #, Ford, 206.
32. (28) Gray Gaulding, Ford, 206.
33. (33) Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, 204.
34. (36) Garrett Smithley #, Chevrolet, 204.
35. (12) John Hunter Nemechek #, Ford, 202.
36. (38) BJ McLeod(i), Chevrolet, 202.
37. (27) Brennan Poole #, Chevrolet, Transmission, 201.
38. (17) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, Accident, 200.
39. (1) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, Engine, 69.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 104.984 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 42 Mins, 23 Secs.
Caution Flags: 11 for 54 laps. Lead Changes: 17 among 13 drivers.
By Rod Mullins | Augusta Free Press
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