DARLINGTON, S.C. — Pending postrace inspection, Denny Hamlin won the NASCAR Cup Series Toyota 500K (310.6 miles) on Wednesday night at Darlington Raceway as the race was called with 20 laps left because of rain.
If postrace inspection of Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota holds up, he will have won his third Cup event at the track Too Tough to Tame. The reigning Daytona 500 champion had also previously won the Southern 500 in 2010 and 2017.
Hamlin can thank his Joe Gibbs Racing team’s decision to keep his car on the track as the other lead-lap cars at the time pitted for four tires.
After Hamlin was told JGR teammate Martin Truex Jr. had success on Darlington with old tires, it appeared to be the thing to do at the time.
It, in fact, turned out to be the right thing to do.
Kyle Busch was second, followed by Sunday’s Real Heroes 400 winner Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and 2019 Southern 500 champion Erik Jones.
The first two stages, however, belonged to Clint Bowyer, who had two top-10 finishes in his previous 15 Darlington starts.
Bowyer, who started fourth, won the first stage off pit road at Lap 27 and then took the lead for good four laps later and cruised to win the stage.
In the second stage, Bowyer worked his way back into contention. With new tires at Lap 100, he moved into second place before winning another race off pit road nine laps later to set the tone for that stage’s win.
Bowyer became the first Cup driver this season to win the first two stages of a race.
But Bowyer’s hopes for the win ended late in the race when he spun out.
Right before the rain washed things out, Busch spun out Chase Elliott, who had contended for much of the race. Afterward, Elliott projected his middle finger at Busch.
And if that weren’t enough, a red fox — the mascot for Darlington County School District’s Hartsville High School — wandered onto the track.
It was that kind of night at Darlington.