In a Nutshell: Denny Hamlin started and ended the night in the same place—first. Hamlin had a great car, but his real assets were his pit sequence and his patience, a virtue anywhere, but of key importance at Darlington. Hamlin survived several late-race caution periods, including a red flag when David Gilliland bounced first off the outside wall and then off of the car driven by Shane Huffman, but made the most of every restart, driving with his usual smoothness away from the field. Edwards would have to settle for duking it out with Mark Martin, who was making his first Busch Series start for Hendrick Motorsports, before settling for third behind Hamlin and Martin. Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top five.
Who should have won: Hamlin grabbed the pole and led 79 of 147 laps en route to a well-deserved addition to his trophy collection-which, after carrying the Virginia Tech flag on his victory lap, he promptly offered to the school's collection, his condolence for those who lost their lives last month.
Three Questions you should be asking yourself after the race:
1) Are Tony Stewart and Ryan going to take it behind the hauler one of these weeks? These two drivers have had an ongoing on-track real-estate feud in the Nextel Cup Series for a few years now, and it spilled over into the Busch ranks as the two bounced off each other five or si times on one lap before Newman's tire got cut, causing him to spin out. Newman didn't hit anything, and both drivers finished in the top eleven.
2) How did Jason Leffler sneak into the top ten and rain on the Buschwhackers' parade? Leffler used good pit strategy to put himself in the top spot in the middle of the race, and while he had to give up the point on track, with his hard-nosed driving style, he never let a top-five finish slip from his grasp.
3) Wasn't the introduction of the CoT supposed to curb Buschwhacking since the cars don't mesh and the NBS Race can't be used as a test session? Apparently it didn't work that way, as the fields at Darlington and Richmond were still more than half Cup drivers. Since the self-culling didn't work, is it time for NASCAR to impose a limit?
Worth Noting/Points Shuffle
Jason Leffler's fifth-place finish was the best of the Busch regulars. In fact, Leffler was the only Busch regular in the top eleven. Regan Smith (twelfth) and Jason Keller (fourteenth) joined Leffler in the top fifteen. David Ragan was the top finishing rookie this week, earning Raybestos® Rookie of the Race honors.
At the top of the points chart, little changed as Carl Edwards extended his lead to 433 over second-place Kevin Harvick. David Reutimann and Dave Blaney swapped third and fourth place, and Matt Kenseth rounds out the top five. The best of the Busch regulars is Bobby Hamilton Jr. in seventh.
Buschwhackers in this race: 24
Starting spots taken by Buschwhackers YTD: 250 of 512
Buschwhackers finishing in Top 10: 9
Buschwhackers finishing in Top 10 YTD: 98 of 120
Races won by Buschwhackers YTD: 12 of 12
Buschwhackers ranked in Top 10 in Busch Series points standings: 8
"We qualified well. It's nothing to write home about, but it's something we can build on. I think our team is on the upswing. We've had some tough weeks but I think we've got a much better package underneath us now. The team is really gelling and I'm just excited. Every week is a thrill, so I'll be happy to sleep 365 days to come back here to Darlington because it's pretty cool." Rookie Marcos Ambrose
"That's where we need to run and we're capable of doing it, we just haven't done it. It's good to get up there. It's a good morale booster for the team. The guys needed it. It's an unbelievable difference between the car running 10th and running second. Clean air is everything. That's all you hear about nowadays and it's true. Our car just ran really good once we got up there. I'm really proud. Just glad to finish this one." Jason Leffler
"Just as soon as you think you've got it figured out, you get in the wall a little bit. Man, I run the first 120 laps without a scratch on this sucker and just when I started racing, man, it bit me. You just have to have a lot of respect, you just got to know when to go and when not to. I know a little more but I still don't know it all." rookie David Ragan
Next Up: The Busch Series has next weekend off before heading to Lowe's Motor Speedway for a Saturday night special under the lights in the Carquest Auto Parts 300. The race airs on ESPN2 at 7:30.
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