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Toyota 500 Triumph For Denny Hamlin At Darlington

NASCAR Cup Series driver Denny Hamlin won the rain-shuttered Toyota 500 at Darlington Raceway Wednesday night (May 20).

Hamlin was leading when a caution came out for an incident between Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott. Soon after, the sky started pouring, which brought out the red flag with 20 laps to go. The race was called after about 10 minutes, and Hamlin was declared the winner.

“I got my happy face on,” Hamlin said, referring to his face mask.

“It’s a driver’s racetrack, you can move around, you can do different things to make your car handle. We got it right today.”

Busch finished second while Kevin Harvick was third. Brad Keselowski and Erik Jones rounded out the top-five finishers.

Joey Logano ended in sixth and Harvick’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Aric Almirola was seventh. Jimmie Johnson rebounded to eighth after exiting early out of Sunday’s race while Matt DiBenedetto and Martin Truex Jr. completed the top 10.

After a lengthy rain delay, the green flag finally flew at 8 p.m. ET, a start that saw Ty Dillon get around polesitter Ryan Preece. Soon after, the caution would come for John Hunter Nemechek, who earned his first Cup Series top 10 on Sunday. Nemechek spun and his rear hit the wall hard.

After the restart, the No. 38 Front Row Motorsports driver would again bring out the caution when his tire went down, causing him to spin again.

Dillon would take the lead on lap 15, but it wouldn’t last long. He quickly dropped back through the field, while Logano took the point.

The competition caution waved on lap 26, and cars made their way down for pit stops. The Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 pit crew was quick, allowing Clint Bowyer to win the race off pit road. He quickly got around Bubba Wallace, who had stayed out that period, to take over the lead.

Bowyer had a very fast Ford Mustang for much of the night, leading 71 laps en route to his two stage wins.

During stage two, a few more caution flags waved for incidents. On lap 72, Chris Buescher spun after Michael McDowell made contact with his left rear.

Then, about 10 laps later, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. spun around, bringing out the yellow. That was where strategies were mixed up a bit, as Truex and several others stayed out when Bowyer and the field came down pit road. He did get the lead back before SHR teammate Cole Custer slammed the wall on lap 109.

Ryan Newman and Buescher stayed out at the end of stage two, but Buescher quickly dropped back in the pack. When Bowyer attempted to pass Newman for the lead, Erik Jones took them three-wide for position. Elliott soon closed in as well, eventually passing Jones with 68 laps to go.

Then, with less than 50 laps in the race, Matt Kenseth cut a tire and spun across the track, bringing out the yellow flag. Elliott would take the lead on the restart ahead of Keselowski, with Hamlin lurking close behind. More cautions would come, though, one of them unfortunately for Bowyer. He earned a Darlington stripe coming off turn two and later cut his right rear tire, ending his chance for victory.

The field pitted under yellow-flag conditions, and Hamlin took the lead with Elliott close behind in second on the restart. Aggressive racing for the lead ensued. In the jockeying for position, Busch was on the inside on the frontstretch and thought he was clear, but ended up tagging Elliott’s left rear. The No. 9 Chevrolet’s nose crunched the inside wall and slid back up the track. Elliott was visibly unhappy with the incident and showed his displeasure with a hand gesture.

CHEEK: ELLIOTT, BUSCH TANGLE

The rains then came down and the race was halted for about 10 minutes before Hamlin was declared the winner.

Toyota 500 Results

The next NASCAR Cup Series race on the docket is the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday, May 24 at 6 p.m. ET.

MORE DARLINGTON COVERAGE

KEITH: FULL POST-RACE ANALYSIS

HENDERSON: BIG 6 QUESTIONS ANSWERED AFTER TOYOTA 500

ALBINO: NASCAR ANALYTICS AFTER DARLINGTON

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