Darlington Weekend Sweep
For a time it looked like Denny Hamlin’s chances of winning Sunday night’s Southern 500 evaporated when he missed pit road for his final stop for gas and tires. But his big mistake set himself up for a huge comeback.
When Hamlin finally got back on the track he was in 14th place and 20 seconds behind leader Martin Truex, Jr. with 54 laps to go. But with those newer tires Hamlin kept moving up and moving ever closer until Truex was finally in sight.
Truex’s big lead was gone and he was nursing worn tires when he lost control, grazed the wall and cut a tire with just over two laps left. That’s all Hamlin needed to take the lead and his second Southern 500 victory to go along with his Xfinity win the day before.
Hamlin led 122 laps enroute to his second win of the season and along with teammate Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing has taken four of the last seven races. Kyle Busch finished second, Kurt Busch came in third with Austin Dillon and Erik Jones completing the Top 5.
After winning the first two stages of the race, Truex faded to eighth but entering next week’s regular season finale at Richmond he already has clinched the regular season championship. He has 17 stage wins this season and 52 playoff points – a big lead as the season heads to the final 10-race playoffs.
Kevin Harvick started from the pole and led 22 laps, but came in a distant ninth.
Clint Bowyer’s night came to an early end when his engine blew up on lap 18. He’ll need to win next week at Richmond for any chance at the playoffs.
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