Denny Hamlin, running on worn tires late in Wednesday evening’s Toyota 500 NASCAR Cup Series race, got an assist from the weather gods — an assist that handed him the victory at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.
Hamlin, whose Joe Gibbs Racing team ran out of new tires and was running on “scuffs” while those pursuing him were on “stickers,” had the lead when rain hit the track with just under 25 laps to go.
NASCAR called the cars onto pit lane with 20 laps to go in the scheduled 228-lap event at the egg-shaped track. After several minutes, NASCAR announced the decision to end it.
The victory was the second of the season for Hamlin, who also won the season-opening Daytona 500 in February. It was his 39th career win and third at Darlington in 16 attempts.
Finishing second was Kyle Busch, Hamlin’s teammate. Busch probably also was glad the rains came because just prior to the storm, he was involved in an incident with Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott. The incident sent Elliott into the wall but also crushed Busch’s front right fender.
Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing — who won Sunday at Darlington — finished third.
Brad Keselowski of Team Penske was fourth while JGR’s Erik Jones was fifth.
The 500-kilometer event marked the first Cup race on a Wednesday since July 4, 1984, when Richard Petty won at Daytona International Speedway.
The Wednesday race was the second event since the coronavirus pandemic caused a suspension of action in March — four races into the season. NASCAR made its return Sunday at Darlington.
A third Darlington race — its regularly scheduled event — will be held on Labor Day weekend.
Racing next moves to Charlotte Motor Speedway, which will host Cup Series events Sunday and May 27 in addition to an Xfinity Series event Monday and a Truck Series event Tuesday. On May 31, the Cup Series will race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Clint Bowyer, who had led just 17 laps in 16 starts at Darlington heading into Wednesday, took the lead during the lap-25 competition pit stop and led the rest of the way in the 60-lap opening stage to get his first stage win of the season.
Bowyer went on to win Stage 2, as well. His chance to win ended late in the race when a flat tire spun him out.
Rain forecast for the area prompted NASCAR officials to move the starting time Wednesday from 7:30 p.m. ET back to 6 p.m. However, rain that fell in the afternoon forced a two-hour delay of the start.
–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)