Hamlin in Busch Series Repeat at Darlington
DARLINGTON, S.C. -- In a six-lap green-flag run to the finish, polesitter Denny Hamlin pulled away from Carl Edwards and Mark Martin to win Friday night's Diamond Hill Plywood 200 NASCAR Busch Series race at Darlington Raceway.
The victory was Hamlin's third in the series and his first since he won from the pole at Darlington last year.
Martin, driving the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, got by Edwards in the closing laps to take second place. Edwards, the series' runaway leader by 433 points over Kevin Harvick, came home third, followed Richard Childress Racing teammates Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer.
Jason Leffler, Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, Casey Mears and Kevin Harvick completed the top 10.
With the win at the track known as the "Lady in Black," Hamlin continues to excel at difficult, quirky tracks. He has two Busch Series wins at egg-shaped Darlington and two Nextel Cup victories at Pocono – a triangular track.
"I think a lot of it is that I'm more on a level playing field with other guys I'm racing against," Hamlin said. "It's not easy to figure out these racetracks. If you get a standard oval, guys that have been running there for 10 years, they figure out how to get around there, and they learn all the tricks.
"I feel like I'm more on a level playing field with these guys when we come to these different racetracks. No one's really figured out how to get around these racetracks -- there is no perfect way. And I think that kind of plays into my hands."
The final six laps followed a stoppage of three minutes, 33 seconds for Bobby Labonte's hard nose-first crash into the inside frontstretch wall. Hamlin led Edwards and Martin to the restart on Lap 142 and pulled away as the two cars behind him battled for the second spot.
"That was one of the best racecars I've driven in a while," said Martin, who had difficulty adjusting to the car in practice and had to make his way forward from the 26th starting position. "To drive that No. 5 Rick Hendrick car and to see the heart and soul that went into that effort -- I'm disappointed that I didn't close the deal for them. They gave me the stuff to do it with, but I didn't quite get it done tonight."
A sorely needed caution on Lap 112 -- caused by a wreck involving Matt Kenseth and Brad Kesolowski -- allowed the leaders to pit under caution for fresh tires.
Approximately half the lead-lap cars had run 67 circuits without new rubber, and the seventh caution of the race bunched the field with Hamlin in the lead and Edwards in second place for a Lap 118 restart.
After a subsequent caution for a collision between the cars of David Reutimann and Paul Menard on Lap 121, the field restarted on Lap 126, and on lap later, Martin passed Burton for third. Two more cautions, including the record-tying 10th brought out by Labonte's crash, set up the final green-flag run.