Photo by: Matt Sullivan
Denny Hamlin battled through some adversity Sunday night, but that didn’t hinder the Joe Gibbs Racing driver from contending for the win or pulling into Victory Lane.
The “Flying 11” did exactly that after Hamlin made a mistake with 44 laps remaining in the Bojangles’ Southern 500. Hamlin missed the entrance to pit road and was forced to come back around for his final pit stop of the night, exiting in the 14th position.
Hamlin drove through traffic while cutting into Martin Truex Jr’s lead, and regained on Lap 365 when Truex cut a tire.
“That’s as hard as I can drive,” Hamlin said, “What can I say–it’s the flying 11. It means everything to me. I mean, as far as I’m concerned, this is a throwback to my history – this is for Ray Hendrick, Bugs Hairfield, Wayne Patterson, Eddie Johnson, the short track guys that I grew up watching.”
Hamlin swept the weekend at Darlington Raceway just as he did seven years ago, when he last won the prestigious event.
“This one’s sweeter,” he acknowledged, “going through the adversity we did.”
Truex, who finished eighth despite his late trouble, clinched the regular season Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship after leading 34 laps and winning both Stage 1 and Stage 2 of the event.
“It was definitely a bittersweet night for us, to come up just two laps short there, blow a tire at the end after having no issues with tires all night and having such a good race car,” Truex said. “I don’t know if that last run was the longest one we made all night. I’m not really sure to be honest. I was kind of out there caught up driving my guts out at the end trying to hang on.”
Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Austin Dillon, and Erik Jones rounded out the top-5, while Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Truex, Kevin Harvick, and Jamie McMurray finished inside the top-10.
Only one race remains for someone to make their way into the playoffs with a win. Chase Elliott, Kensth, and McMurray remain on the bubble, and Clint Bowyer is on the outside looking in.
A win is now Bowyer’s only chance. He finished last after suffering an engine failure on Lap 18.
The MENCS head to Richmond Raceway on Saturday, September 9th for the last race before the start of the 2017 playoff season. Hamlin is the defending race winner. Can he win for the second week in a row?
Find out Saturday, September 9th at 7:30 p.m ET on NBC Sports Network.