Today’s NASCAR Southern 500 at Darlington was won by Erik Jones. However, Denny Hamlin was right there looking to get the second-round berth with a win. It didn’t happen, the PettyGMS driver and former teammate of Hamlin’s had too much air and too much track in front of him.
The fact that Hamlin was able to get his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry into P2 is amazing when you look at what happened to his team. There were issues all over the track, and none of them were from contact between drivers, really. Both Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch blew their engines in one way or another, just laps apart.
Denny Hamlin Breaks Down Final Restart
After the race, Denny Hamlin was asked if he thought he could have raced differently at the end.
“Not without contact [with Jones],” he said. “Last night in the Xfinity there was like two and a half seconds of fall-off in the last 15-lap run. I think it was about a second for us in a 15-lap run. So, the speeds are so fast and so much on throttle time that it’s an air game. Erik just did a really great job.”
Then he turned to the topic of his teammates.
“I mean, we can’t come in and change the engine. Nothing we’re gonna do about it we’re not going to give up track position to fix something even if it’s obvious anyways, so that late in the race just looked at it, said it was a tough one for those guys obviously. It’s a bummer, but there’s nothing that I’m going to change in the car so I just concentrated on doing the best I can driving.”
I think it makes sense for Hamlin to avoid contact. He doesn’t want to risk it and lose his strong P2 finish for a risky move. Not just that, but he knows how hard these cars hit now. I don’t think he’s trying to do anything that will cause another big wreck.
Erik Jones Wins at Darlington
This was a great battle at the end between Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones. The No. 43 is legendary. PettyGMS have struggled in the past and their merger has paid off. Richard Petty is back in victory lane thanks to the former JGR driver that many had written off at this point. If you haven’t paid attention this season, this is a huge surprise.
However, Jones has been running near the front all season. He’s fast on a number of tracks. And, Jones now has two wins at the Southern 500. Something that a lot of drivers can’t claim.