Hamlin’s win in the Toyota 500 at Darlington, makes him the only Joe Gibbs Racing driver with a victory.
The NASCAR Cup Series returned to Darlington Raceway Wednesday for some midweek racing. After a fun and exciting return this past Sunday, Cup drivers look to return to the full swing of racing. NASCAR took the top-20 finishers on Sunday’s race and inverted them to form the lineup for the night race under the light.
Ryan Preece was the pole-sitter leading the field to the green flag. Yet, it was Joey Logano taking control of the race early. A competition caution came out midway through the stage with Logano still leading. Clint Bowyer won the race off pit road, but Bubba Wallace stayed out under caution to take the lead. Bowyer’s new tires proved to be the difference as he moved in front of Wallace to win the first stage of the race.
Clint Bowyer won the race off pit road to begin the second stage. He continued to lead deep into the stage when a caution came out for a spin by Chris Buescher. Bowyer returned for pit road servicing with several drivers staying out for track position. Bowyer came off pit road in sixth-place with fresh tires, quickly moving back into the lead. Then, another caution came out when Cole Custer hit the wall, leading to another restart. With 13 laps left in the stage, Clint Bowyer moved out front to drive away from the field, earning his second stage win of the night.
Ryan Newman and Chris Buescher stayed out between stages to take the lead. With rain on the way, the two drivers were hoping to catch some luck. Despite that, Erik Jones quickly passed both drivers on the front stretch to take over the lead. Then, Jones scrapes the wall coming up on lap traffic, allowing Chase Elliott to drive around him for the lead. Matt Kenseth had a tire go flat causing him to spin and bring out a late caution. Chase Elliott continued leading the race with 42 laps left to run.
On the next caution for Clint Bowyer hitting the wall, Denny Hamlin took the opening to stay out for the lead. On the restart, Hamlin fought to stay in front, while Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott were racing each other for the second spot. Then, Busch unintentionally clipped Elliott’s rear quarter panel, causing him to spin into the inside wall. The caution, along with the heavy rain ending the race, is just what Hamlin needed. NASCAR called the race, announcing Denny Hamlin as the Toyota 500 winner.
Hamlin’s win at Darlington is his second victory of the year. Along with three finishes within the top-five, Hamlin is off to a great start this season. He’s also fourth in the point standings, representing the highest spot for Toyota drivers. And for Joe Gibbs Racing, Hamlin is the only driver with a victory. Despite the slow start at JGR overall, expect all four drivers to find victory lane sooner rather than later.