Denny Hamlin Flourishes in Southern 500; Sets Tone for The Chase

Denny Hamlin had himself one heck of a weekend at Darlington. After securing a last-lap victory over Joey Logano in the Xfinity Series on a classic Dale Earnhardt crossover move, the “Flying 11” was riding high at Darlington. Hamlin took the checkered on Sunday night after passing Martin Truex Jr. with 3 laps to go and securing his second victory of the season.

Hamlin was on his way to victory with brilliant strategy found himself with a sizable lead over the competition. All the driver of the Joe Gibbs No. 11 Toyota Camry had to do was hit his marks, have a clean stop and coast to the finish line. Then, on lap 313 of 367 Hamlin missed the entrance to pit road and found himself 20 seconds back of the leader Martin Truex Jr. after he completed his stop.

Crew Chief Mike Wheeler instilled confidence in his driver, calmly telling him to just run a 31.40 second lap each time and he’ll win by two seconds on the fresher tires. Hamlin methodically made his way through the field and lap traffic when he caught Truex who was on worn-out rubber, passed the leader who grazed the wall and went on to secure victory in the Bojangles’ Southern 500 for the second time, finishing off a sweep of the throwback Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series weekend at Darlington Raceway.

Hamlin and his team were fired up after fighting the adversity as they did late in the race and were able to mount the most improbable of comeback wins. The victory is the 31st of Hamlin’s career and really sets the tone for the team as they head into The Chase with confidence and momentum on their side. Over the last 11 races, Hamlin has won twice at Darlington and at New Hampshire in July and has also picked up eight top-five finishes during the run even better than regular season points champion Martin Truex Jr.

Hamlin drove his ass off on Sunday night, and just listen to how overjoyed he was in his post-race interview. Now, Hamlin heads to his home track on Saturday night of Richmond under the lights in Virginia. The No. 11 has won three times at his home track and will enter as the favorite to take the checkered flag in the final race of the regular season which would further bolster his confidence and positioning as the playoffs get underway.

The Flying 11 was flying on Labor Day Throwback Weekend at Darlington and championship contender in Denny Hamlin was able to hunt down favorite in Martin Truex Jr. and hold off teammate Kyle Busch for the win.

Follow Frank Pimentel on Twitter: @FrankBostonTank


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