Hamlin sweeps Darlington weekend

Denny Hamlin celebrates
Rhonda McCole/AR1.com

Denny Hamlin took advantage of critical miscues by Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton to post his third NASCAR Sprint cup victory of the season and complete the weekend sweep in Saturday night’s Showtime Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway

Bum knee and all, Hamlin led the final 24 laps to beat out pole winner Jamie McMurray to become the first driver since Mark Martin in 1993 to complete the weekend sweep at Darlington.

Kurt Busch finished third, followed by Gordon and Juan Pablo Montoya.

Hamlin’s victory was his first career Darlington victory in the Sprint Cup Series, coming just one day after winning his third consecutive Nationwide Series victory at the track.

“It was a great day for us. To pull off the sweep on Mother’s Day weekend, it was just an unbelievable day for us," said Hamlin. “We had a top-two car all day. Us, Jeff (Gordon) and the other Jeff (Burton) were really strong and we put ourselves in position."

A late caution flag with 20 to go gave Hamlin the crucial track position he needed as he beat the field off pit road with a two-tire stop to take the lead for the final time

“The pit crew got me out first and that was the key. Mike (Ford, crew chief) just adjusted on the car perfectly and that last two-tire stop was the key for us.

“We set ourselves up for that on the second-to-last stop. We took four (tires) when everyone else took two. I felt like we ended on the best tires and it showed up at the end."

Nursing his left knee, still sore from reconstructive surgery on his ACL in March, Hamlin took off started eighth on the day and hung around the top ten all night, spending most of the last 150 laps trading the lead with Gordon and Burton, both looking to break their winless droughts.

Coming to pit road under the green flag for his final pit stop on lap 342, Gordon missed the entrance to pit road while avoiding the car of Tony Stewart and was forced to come around for another try.

While that was going on, Burton got past Hamlin for the lead moments before Joey Logano spun coming off his green flag pit stop, bringing out the 11th and final caution of the night.

Burton brought the field to pit road under caution, but ended up running over an air hose leaving the pits, earning him a stop-and-go penalty that put him deep in the field.

Hamlin beat everyone off pit road to assume the lead with Kyle Busch and McMurray in tow much as they did in the previous night’s Nationwide Series event.

Unlike Friday night’s performance, Kyle Busch dropped back quickly, done in by an ill-handling racecar that sent him free-falling out of the top five.

With Busch falling back, McMurray sped past and into second place, but was never able to mount a challenge on Hamlin, settling for his second runner-up finish in his last three races.

“At the end there I didn’t have anything for (Hamlin), couldn’t get out car tight enough," said McMurray. “Kind of creeped up on it all night long, could never get the car tight enough to where we could really hustle it. It was always sort of on edge."

Gordon rebounded nicely to salvage a fourth-place finish, taking full responsibility for his gaffe coming to pit road.

“That is what happens when you make a make a mistake," said Gordon. “You have to make it up to your guys who worked so hard all weekend long to give you a race car like that. I made a mistake there and lost the track position. They gave me an awesome car and drove up there to fourth, pretty happy with that."

The track known as “The Lady In Black" claimed her share of victims Saturday night, including Reed Sorenson, A.J. Allmendinger, David Gilliland and defending series champion Jimmie Johnson, who posted his third DNF of the season.

Kevin Harvick finished sixth to maintain his points lead by 110 over Johnson. Kyle Busch came home seventh and holds onto third in the standings. Burton, Ryan Newman and Brian Vickers rounded out the top ten finishers.


1 8 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Express 190/5 367 Running
2 1 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet McDonald's 175/5 367 Running
3 14 2 Kurt Busch Dodge Miller Lite 165/0 367 Running
4 2 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet National Guard Facebook / DuPont 170/10 367 Running
5 15 42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet Target 155/0 367 Running
6 35 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Shell / Pennzoil 155/5 367 Running
7 43 18 Kyle Busch Toyota Doublemint 151/5 367 Running
8 11 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Caterpillar 147/5 367 Running
9 6 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet Haas Automation 138/0 367 Running
10 3 83 Brian Vickers Toyota Red Bull 139/5 367 Running
11 4 00 David Reutimann Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine 135/5 367 Running
12 9 12 Brad Keselowski Dodge Penske Racing 127/0 367 Running
13 29 17 Matt Kenseth Ford Crown Royal Black 124/0 367 Running
14 21 6 David Ragan Ford UPS 121/0 367 Running
15 39 99 Carl Edwards Ford Aflac 118/0 367 Running
16 5 5 Mark Martin Chevrolet GoDaddy.com 115/0 367 Running
17 32 78 Regan Smith Chevrolet Furniture Row Companies 112/0 367 Running
18 19 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet Amp Energy / National Guard 109/0 367 Running
19 33 56 Martin Truex Jr. Toyota NAPA Auto Parts 106/0 366 Running
20 10 9 Kasey Kahne Ford Budweiser 103/0 366 Running
21 38 19 Elliott Sadler Ford Hunt Brothers Pizza 100/0 366 Running
22 17 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M 97/0 366 Running
23 24 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Old Spice / Office Depot 99/5 366 Running
24 31 26 David Stremme Ford Air National Guard 91/0 365 Running
25 7 47 Marcos Ambrose Toyota Kingsford / Scott Products 88/0 364 Running
26 40 34 Travis Kvapil Ford A&W All American Food 85/0 364 Running
27 13 20 Joey Logano Toyota The Home Depot 82/0 363 Running
28 16 82 Scott Speed Toyota Red Bull 84/5 363 Running
29 41 13 Max Papis Toyota GEICO 76/0 361 Running
30 20 98 Paul Menard Ford Turtle Wax / Menards 73/0 359 Running
31 25 77 Sam Hornish Jr. Dodge Mobil 1 70/0 358 Running
32 27 33 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet The Hartford 67/0 331 Running
33 42 37 Kevin Conway * Ford Extenze 64/0 309 Accident
34 23 71 Bobby Labonte Chevrolet TaxSlayer.com 61/0 297 Accident
35 34 38 David Gilliland Ford Taco Bell 58/0 283 Accident
36 22 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's 55/0 179 Accident
37 12 43 A.J. Allmendinger Ford Insignia / Best Buy 52/0 178 Accident
38 26 7 Robby Gordon Toyota BAMVIP.com / James Otto – Whitney Duncan 54/5 170 Engine
39 37 164 Todd Bodine Toyota Gunselman Motorsports 46/0 47 Brakes
40 18 55 Michael McDowell Toyota Prism Motorsports 43/0 44 Accident
41 30 46 J.J. Yeley Dodge Whitney Motorsports 40/0 42 Brakes
42 28 66 Dave Blaney Toyota Prism Motorsports 37/0 35 Transmission
43 36 132 Reed Sorenson Toyota Braun Racing 34/0 19 Accident

* Denotes Rookie

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