Denny Hamlin scored an exciting victory in Sunday night’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway after leader Martin Truex Jr. suffered a flat tire in the closing laps.
The victory, the second of the year and 31st of his career for Hamlin, capped a long, intense night of racing at NASCAR’s oldest superspeedway.
Here are 10 surprising facts about the 25th race in the 26-race Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regular season.
- Seven-time’s struggles
Jimmie Johnson, the seven-time Cup champion, finished 12th at Darlington. He has now gone 12 consecutive races without finishing better than 10th. His last finish inside the top 10 came June 4, when he won at Dover.
- Battle of the brands
Toyotas swept four of the top six finishing spots, with Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Hamlin (1st), Kyle Busch (2nd) and Matt Kenseth (6th) turning in strong showings. Rookie Erik Jones (5th) had an excellent run in his Furniture Row Racing Camry. Kurt Busch (3rd) was the lone Ford in the top six finishers, with Austin Dillon (4th) the only Chevrolet.
- Dillons do it
It was a good night for the Dillon brothers. Austin Dillon finished fourth to earn his first top-five finish since winning the Coca-Cola 600 in May, while brother Ty was 13th in the No. 13 GEICO Chevy. That matched Ty’s best finish of the season
- Twice as nice
Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch finished third behind race-winner Hamlin and Kurt’s younger brother, Kyle. Coming off a fifth-place run at Bristol, this is the first time Kurt has finished in the top five in consecutive races all season.
Three drivers who are winless in 2017 — Chase Elliott, Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray — remain playoff eligible heading into the final regular-season race next weekend. The only way one of them can be knocked out is if there is a first-time winner at Richmond International Raceway next Saturday night. No other driver can race his way in on points.
Martin Truex Jr. won the first two stages of the Darlington race and has clinched the regular season championship and the 15 playoff points that go with it. He will enter NASCAR’s championship battle with at least 52 points.
- Martin’s mayhem
There were two throwback paint schemes in the race that paid homage to NASCAR Hall of Fame member and two-time Bojangles’ Southern 500 winner Mark Martin. Trevor Bayne finished 35th in one of the Martin schemes and Clint Bowyer 40th in the other.
- Leading the way
In a 367-lap race, Hamlin and Kyle Larson each led the exact same number of laps – 124. You don’t see that very often.
- Broom time
Hamlin swept both the Monster Energy Cup and the NASCAR XFINITY Series races at Darlington for the second time, having done it first in 2010. The only other drivers to sweep at The Track Too Tough To Tame are Dale Earnhardt in 1987 and Mark Martin in 1993.
- Broom time, Part Deux
Joe Gibbs Racing didn’t win any of the first 18 races of the Cup season. They have now won four of the last seven. And for the second consecutive Cup race, JGR swept the weekend, as Hamlin won both races at Darlington and before that, Kyle Busch won all three at Bristol. This team is peaking at the right time.