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NASCAR Cup Series: Hamlin wins rain-shortened Darlington No. 2

NASCAR Cup Series: Hamlin wins rain-shortened Darlington No. 2

Darlington, SC, May 20/20 (GRW): Denny Hamlin never took the lead until lap 197 of the scheduled 228-lap race but this meant that he was in the lead when the final caution flew on lap 202 – and he was declared the race winner when rain, which began as soon as that final yellow was waved, continued and they called it a day with just 208s lap completed. Although the race was called the Toyota 500, this referred to 500 km not miles and, with the early end to the race, only 284 miles were actually completed.

The final laps were filled with controversy after Kyle Busch misjudged his attempt to squeeze in behind Chase Elliott who was in second place. Their cars overlapped by a foot or more and when Busch’s car made contact it sent Elliott into a big spin which wrecked his car and ended his race. To add insult to injury, this moved Busch up into second place behind Hamlin. After the race, Busch acknowledged that he had made an error but nothing was going to satisfy Elliott who hd been set for a solid second place at least and, now, Busch’s boo-boo was going to be rewarded with a second-place finish while Elliott would end up all the way down in 38th place.

The race never went back to green. It was red-flagged for rain on lap 208 with Hamlin leading Busch. Kevin Harvick was third, Brad Keselowski in fourth and Eric Jones fifth.

PHOTO NCS DAR2 Trophy 052020Denny Hamlin wears his 'happy face' mask as he celebrates his win at Darlington. He is holding up two fingers to indicate that this is his second win of the season (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

“I’ve got my happy face on, made sure I brought it with me today,” Hamlin, who was wearing a special mask with a big smile on it, said, “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, you can move around and you can do different things to make your car handle and we got it right today.”

This was Hamlin’s second win of the year, he had also won the season-opener, the Daytona 500.

As had been the case the day before when the Xfinity race was supposed to have been run but was postponed to Thursday, rain was a problem on Wednesday. They had moved the start time of the race forward by two hours but, with the intermittent showers, the race did not actually get underway until eight o’clock, the original starting time. Once underway, the rain held off until late in the race when it brought out the final caution and then the red flag.

In this special modified season NASCAR is ignoring their own rule book and making up new rules as they go. For this race, the first 20 starting places were based on the first 20 finishers in Sunday’s race, with the order inverted. This put 20th-place finisher Ryan Preece on the pole while the race winner Harvick had to start back in 20th place. Playing around with the established rules like this runs the risk of trivializing these races – if the standard rules do not apply, are these race for real or are they merely some kind of exhibition races? Of course, once the race started the cream rose to the top and the fastest cars came to the fore regardless of their artificial starting positions.

In the first half of the race, Clint Bowyer was the man. He won both of the first two Stages and he led a total of 71 laps, the most of any driver in the race. In the final Stage, he continued to run in the top ten until, on lap 196, he touched the wall and a tire went down sending him into a big spin which dropped him to the back of the lead-lap cars. With the race effectively ending only a few laps later, he never had a chance to regain any of his lost places.

Click HERE for the results of Wednesday’s Toyota 500 at Darlington.

The next race in this jury-rigged closed-event series will be the traditional Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte next Sunday, May 24.

 

 

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