Denny Hamlin wins Bojangles Southern 500

NASCAR playoff breakdown: Who's in, who needs help

NASCAR playoff breakdown: Who's in, who needs help

DARLINGTON, S.C. - If Denny Hamlin's in the Xfinity lineup at Darlington Raceway, he'll be tough to beat. That goes with the two playoff points he earned for winning both stages.

Steam rose from his auto and sweat poured from Martin Truex Jr.'s face, while Denny Hamlin celebrated a Southern 500 victory Sunday night with a burnout.

On tires that were 10 laps fresher than Truex's, Hamlin exited pit road in 14th-place on Lap 315 after missing the entrance the first time and methodically began to chop into Truex's lead. He got up to Truex's bumper with three laps before moving low around lapped traffic to take the lead. Hamlin managed to chase down Truex, passing him with three laps remaining. This does not bode well for the driver than needs a win in the next two races to make the playoffs.

"I drove my butt off", Hamlin said, explaining his late charge to the front.

"I think that it's paying off, and hopefully it pays off 11, 12 races from now". It means everything to me. "The two tracks they talk about are Daytona and Darlington that have been around for so long they are the two benchmarks of NASCAR", stated Sprenger.

"This was a throwback to them". The racing has just moved way past back in that day. In the last seven runnings of the event, Hamlin has finished in the top six on six occasions. "It's one of the places they want to win there's a tradition in it. We come every week with an open mind knowing it's going to be a challenge".

But Hamlin came back.

The race continued with several cautions for minor issues and debris, with Hamlin eventually taking over to lead lap after lap.

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"Sometimes it's just not your night", Truex said. "We'll use this regular season championship, and the bad luck the 78 team had at the end of tonight's race, as a springboard to take us to that goal".

There are just two races left before the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, putting an increased amount of pressure on drivers who have yet to record a win this season.

It was the seventh time in 25 races this season that Truex Jr. has qualified in the No. 2 position.

Hamlin celebrated his win, while Truex had to settle for eighth. I'm thinking another win or at least a top five is in the cards this weekend for Truex. I'm not really sure to be honest.

"I go back to Michigan-1 and we had the auto to beat by quite - I mean, we were so fast", Truex said. "It's unfortunate we blew the tire, but I'm really proud of everybody on this team for an unbelievable season so far. I think we're maybe five years out from when it will be like it once was where you exclusively have to focus on racing the race track".

"It just blew up". Doug Yates and all the guys over at his (Roush-Yates Engines) shop do such a good job of bringing us reliable, good horsepower, and it was just my time. "Darlington Stripes" from where the drivers scrape the wall as they try to keep as much speed as possible through the turns will be featured on the left side of nearly every vehicle in the field. If you had a driver who retired a decade ago, and suddenly you see a vehicle that "looks" like theirs, you'd at least be curious to see how it's painted up, right? "It wasn't our night, but we've got a lot to be proud of".

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 22nd - the same as how he started - in his final time racing at Darlington. Eight cars finished on the lead lap, the fewest in the event since the 1998 race produced an equal number.

Assuming there is no first-time victor this season at Richmond on Saturday, the 16 drivers now holding playoff spots will clinch.

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