Hamlin Captures NASCAR Victory in Rain-Shortened Race at DarlingtonMay 21, 2020
Denny Hamlin won Wednesday night’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway in the #11 FedEx “Delivering Strength” Toyota, after a late-race call to stay out on older tires with less than 30 laps to go was followed by a wreck and rainfall, cancelling the end of the race.
Hamlin and crew chief Chris Gabehart elected to come to pit road to put on new tires – the team’s last set – during a caution on Lap 183, just a handful of laps after pitting under green flag conditions. Hamlin lined up fourth for the ensuing restart, and quickly moved into third.
Another caution came seven laps later, and Hamlin was forced to stay out without fresh tires in the pits. The move proved prophetic because Hamlin inherited the lead when the lead lap cars pitted, held the point after the restart. Then, following a wreck and caution on Lap 202, the skies opened up and NASCAR called the race official.
“We had a fast FedEx Camry tonight, and it just took some time to get the track position to show it,” said Hamlin, who captured his third-career win at Darlington. “We had one long green flag run where I was able to work through the field and get track position, and with so many strategies in the pits at the end, we got a bit lucky.”
Hamlin started 16th based on an inversion of the top-20 finishers from Sunday’s race at the same track, but was bogged down in traffic in the early going. He climbed to eighth at the end of Stage 1, and finished seventh in Stage 2.
The race length – only 300 miles – increased the drivers’ sense of urgency to move to the front, but with a host of cautions and a car built for long-run speed, Hamlin could never show his true strength. That changed in the final segment, as Hamlin picked off cars in a march to the front. He got up to second before a green flag stop on Lap 178.
The win is the second of the season for Hamlin and the 39th of his NASCAR career. He moved up two spots to fourth in the 2020 NASCAR standings following the victory, now 57 points behind leader Kevin Harvick after six of 26 regular season races.
The Series returns to action for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday, May 24.