Hamlin Wins Fourth Darlington Checkers

Hamlin celebrates his win with a burnout

(DARLINGTON, SC – SEP 5, 2021 – RIS) Denny Hamlin drove to his fourth victory at Darlington and first of the 2021 season, winning the 2021 Cook Out Southern 500. Hamlin stayed in front of a charging Kyle Larson to take his 45th career NASCAR Cup Series win in a race that saw several Playoffs qualified driver knocked out of the race early.

The track "Too Tough to Tame" lived up to its nickname in the 2021 edition of the Cook Out Southern 500, slapping the cars of playoffs-qualified Alex Bowman and Michael McDowell early in the running.

Bowman slapped the wall in the fourth turn on lap 15, wrinkling the fenders but able to continue and maintain enough speed to satisfy the minimum speed rule. Bowman'scar tapped fellow Hendrick racer William Byron's car, causing slight damage to the right rear but The next victim of the Darlington walls, McDowell, was not as fortunate, as his No 34 Love's Travel Stops Ford “I’m not really sure [what happened]" he said. "The 43 kind of got everybody jammed up.  I think he started on the front there without tires, which is a tough spot to be in and I just went three-wide underneath him and just got into the patch with my left sides just a little bit low.  I got loose enough into the wall and that was about it.”

The two Rick Ware cars, driven by Cody Ware and James Davison got together for another caution, then the track stayed green to the end of the first stage. 

Less than ten laps into the second stage, Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon made contact in the second turn, sending Busch hard into the wall and out of the race, the third Playoffs car involved and the second parked in the garage. "It wasn't the 3's fault," said Busch, followed by a colorful description of his car's performance.

Kyle Larson

William Byron, another Hendrick Playoffs contender, had his left front tire blow going into Turn One, slamming the No. 24 car into the outside wall in a shower of sparks.

Lap 224 – DiBenedetto brushed the wall while chasing Martin Truex 

Kyle Larson won the second stage, ahead of Christopher Bell, Ross Chastain, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick.

Kyle Larson held the lead over Christopher Bell on the stage restart, with Bell fading to fifth in just a few laps. Larson's best lap as of lap 250 is just 0.030 second quicker than Ryan Blaney's best, with Blaney's set on the second lap of the race and Larson's set on lap 239.

Lapped traffic impeded Larson's drive, until green flag pit stops dropped Larson down the field, reentering the track behind Ross Chastain with Chastain's crew setting their best pit stop of the season.

A flat right front and spin by Ryan Blaney in the fourth turn on lap 230 brought out a tenth caution with Hamlin leading Truex and Chastain. Blaney was complaining about a lack of brakes. Truex led the pack off pit road, followed by Hamlin. Kevin Harvick and Ryan Blaney both had extended pit stops for fender work, while Martin Truex was penalized for speeding off of pit road.

Hamlin and Chastain headed the restart with Larson leaping into second place but a three-wide with Chase Elliott outside, Christopher Bell and Bubba Wallace had Bell rub into Elliott with Elliott sliding along the wall and out of the race with too much damage to repair. 

Denny Hamlin led on the restart, with Larson and Chastain in pursuit. 

Hamlin went on to win the race over a hard charging Larson by just 0.212 second, for his fourth Darlington victory and first win of the 2021 season. "It's by far my favorite race track," said Hamlin about the old South Carolina track. "He drove it in past the limit of the car and the tires," Hamlin described Larson's final charge. "He was going to have to go through me."

Larson, after the race, explained that he "got to his bumper too quick – I didn't want to wreck him. He did a great job."

Third place Ross Chastain, the top non-playoffs driver, quipped that he needed to "be a better driver," after the race. "I just need to clean up a few things."

After falling out earlier in the race, Michael McDowell, Kyle Busch, William Byron and Chase Elliott are potentially the first to drop out of the playoffs-qualified group.

Unofficial Results: 72nd Annual Cook Out Southern 500, Darlington Raceway, 1.366 - Mile Paved, September 5, 2021

Fin, Str, Driver, Car, Laps, St1, St2, Tms, Laps, Playoff Pts, Pts, Status
1) 2, Denny Hamlin (P), No. 11 Offerpad Toyota, 367, 1, 4, 4, 146, 6, 57, Running
2) 6, Kyle Larson (P), No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet, 367, 2, 1, 5, 156, 1, 54, Running
3) 23, Ross Chastain, No. 42 McDonald's Chevrolet, 367, 9, 3, 1, 1, , 44, Running
4) 10, Martin Truex Jr. (P), No. 19 Bass Pro Toyota, 367, 6, , 1, 1, , 38, Running
5) 9, Kevin Harvick (P), No. 4 Busch Light Fan Design Ford, 367, 5, 5, 1, 20, , 44, Running
6) 3, Kurt Busch (P), No. 1 Monster Energy Chevrolet, 367, 3, 6, 1, 13, , 44, Running
7) 16, Brad Keselowski (P), No. 2 Discount Tire Ford, 367, , , , , , 30, Running
8) 11, Joey Logano (P), No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, 367, 10, 7, , , , 34, Running
9) 34, Chris Buescher, No. 17 Roush Performance Ford, 367, , , , , , 28, Running
10) 21, Austin Dillon, No. 3 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Off Road Chevrolet, 367, , , , , , 27, Running
11) 31, Cole Custer, No. 41 HaasTooling.com Demo Day Ford, 367, , , , , , 26, Running
12) 18, * Ryan Preece, No. 37 Kroger/Hershey's S'mores Chevrolet, 367, , , , , , 25, Running
13) 26, Daniel Suarez, No. 99 Good Sam Chevrolet, 367, , , , , , 24, Running
14) 19, Ryan Newman, No. 6 Oscar Mayer Bologna Ford, 367, , , , , , 23, Running
15) 25, Corey LaJoie, No. 7 Schluter Systems Chevrolet, 367, , 10, , , , 23, Running
16) 8, Aric Almirola (P), No. 10 Smithfield Ford, 366, 8, , , , , 24, Running
17) 29, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 47 Kroger/Little Hug Chevrolet, 366, , , , , , 20, Running
18) 7, Tyler Reddick (P), No. 8 Childress Vineyards Chevrolet, 366, 7, , , , , 23, Running
19) 24, Chase Briscoe #, No. 14 HighPoint.com/Founders Ford, 366, , , , , , 18, Running
20) 13, Christopher Bell (P), No. 20 Sport Clips Haircuts Toyota, 366, , 2, 2, 10, , 26, Running
21) 17, Bubba Wallace, No. 23 Door Dash Toyota, 366, , , , , , 16, Running
22) 1, Ryan Blaney (P), No. 12 Menards/Richmond Ford, 366, 4, 9, 2, 17, , 24, Running
23) 30, Matt DiBenedetto, No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford, 365, , , , , , 14, Running
24) 32, Anthony Alfredo #, No. 38 Chicago Pneumatic Compressors Ford, 364, , , , , , 13, Running
25) 20, Justin Haley(i), No. 77 Bon Secours/Swamp Rabbits Chevrolet, 364, , , , , , 0, Running
26) 5, Alex Bowman (P), No. 48 Ally Chevrolet, 363, , , , , , 11, Running
27) 27, BJ McLeod(i), No. 78 CorvetteParts.net Ford, 359, , , , , , 0, Running
28) 28, Josh Bilicki, No. 52 Jacob Companies Ford, 359, , , , , , 9, Running
29) 35, Joey Gase(i), No. 15 RWR Chevrolet, 357, , , 1, 1, , 0, Running
30) 37, Quin Houff, No. 00 UNITS Chevrolet, 355, , , , , , 7, Running
31) 4, Chase Elliott (P), No. 9 NAPA/Children's Chevrolet, 327, , 8, , , , 9, Accident
32) 22, Erik Jones, No. 43 Petty's Garage Chevrolet, 264, , , 1, 2, , 5, Engine
33) 33, Cody Ware(i), No. 51 Nurtec ODT Chevrolet, 209, , , , , , 0, Accident
34) 14, William Byron (P), No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet, 199, , , , , , 3, Accident
35) 12, Kyle Busch (P), No. 18 M&M's Toyota, 125, , , , , , 2, Accident
36) 36, James Davison, No. 53 Chevrolet, 50, , , , , , 1, Accident
37) 15, Michael McDowell (P), No. 34 Love's Travel Stops Ford, 30, , , , , , 1, Accident
(i) Ineligible for driver points in this series, (#) Rookie, (P) Playoffs

Time of Race: 4 Hrs, 8 Mins, 1 Secs.
Race Length: 367 Laps, 501.322 Miles
Average Speed: 121.279 MPH
Margin of Victory: .212 Seconds

Stage 1 Top 10: 11, 5, 1, 12, 4, 19, 8, 10, 42, 22
Stage 2 Top 10: 5, 20, 42, 11, 4, 1, 22, 9, 12, 7

Comments: Denny Hamlin won the 72nd running of the Cook Out Southern "500" at Darlington Raceway, his 45th victory in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Prior to the start, the following cars dropped to the rear of the field under penalty for the reasons indicated: No. 3 (multiple inspection failures).

Caution Flags: 11 for 52 laps;
Laps: 17-19 (#48 Incident Turn 4 [15]);
27-29 (Competition Caution [00]);
32-35 (#34 Incident backstretch [00]);
48-53 (#51, 53 Incident Turn 2 [None]);
117-122 (Stage 1 Conclusion [99]);
126-129 (#18, #3 Incident Turn 2 [14]);
164-168 (Debris frontstretch [22]);
201-205 (#24 Incident Turn 1 [99]);
232-237 (Stage 2 Conclusion [19]);
320-325 (#12 Spin Turn 4 [4]);
328-331 (#9, 20 Incident Turn 1 [7]).

Lead Changes: 18 among 10 drivers;
R. Blaney (P) 1-14;
K. Busch (P) 15-27;
E. Jones 28-29;
K. Harvick (P) 30-49;
J. Gase(i) 50;
D. Hamlin (P) 51-80;
R. Blaney (P) 81-83;
D. Hamlin (P) 84-121;
K. Larson (P) 122-158;
C. Bell (P) 159-165;
K. Larson (P) 166-196;
C. Bell (P) 197-199;
K. Larson (P) 200-232;
R. Chastain 233;
K. Larson (P) 234-269;
D. Hamlin (P) 270-278;
M. Truex Jr. (P) 279;
K. Larson (P) 280-298;
D. Hamlin (P) 299-367.

Busch Pole Award: Ryan Blaney, No. 12 
Sunoco Rookie of the Race: Chase Briscoe, No. 14 

Leaders (10)
#, Car, Driver, Times, Laps
1) 5, Kyle Larson (P), 5, 156
2) 11, Denny Hamlin (P), 4, 146
3) 4, Kevin Harvick (P), 1, 20
4) 12, Ryan Blaney (P), 2, 17
5) 1, Kurt Busch (P), 1, 13
6) 20, Christopher Bell (P), 2, 10
7) 43, Erik Jones, 1, 2
8) 42, Ross Chastain, 1, 1
9) 15, Joey Gase(i), 1, 1
10) 19, Martin Truex Jr. (P), 1, 1

John Davison

Long-time RIS staffer, beginning in the mid-80s. Charlotte, NC area local contact.

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Volume 2021, Issue 9, Posted 11:33 PM, 09.05.2021