Denny Hamlin no longer has a goose egg in the victory column in the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season, as he held off Kyle Larson in a great duel in the Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
“Southern 500, that was a big one,” Hamlin said. “I love this race track. It’s for sure my favorite race track.”
Hamlin had been holding Larson at bay for 15 or so laps, but in the final set of turns, Larson attempted a video game style move, which nearly secured him the win. However, Hamlin had just enough momentum to stay ahead of Larson, who damaged his car by slamming into the turn 4 wall.
“Yeah, he drove it in past the limit of the car and tire,” Hamlin explained of Larson’s last lap move. “But I knew he was coming. I was a little bit conservative that last lap, because I knew I had about a four car-length lead. I didn’t think he was going to go that deep, but it was still a great race.”
Here is video of the final lap move Larson made:
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) September 6, 2021
For Hamlin, this first win of the year comes at the opportune time, as he now advances to the Round of 12 in the Playoffs. Hamlin led a total of 146 of the 367 laps in the race, only Larson had more laps led with 156.
Larson said the last lap move was a hail Mary. He had hoped that Hamlin would drive the final turn a little differently, which would have gave him a chance to pull off the win.
“I honestly got to his bumper too quick,” Larson admitted. “I was hoping he was going to run that diamond to kind of be safe and I could swerve to his outside. But gave it everything I had. I didn’t want to wreck him, but I wanted to get to his outside.”
While we’re all talking about Hamlin and Larson, Ross Chastain impressed many with a third place finish.
Martin Truex Jr. rallied from a loose wheel, which put him a lap down early in the race, and a late-race pit road penalty to finish fourth.
Kevin Harvick also rallied from a loose wheel to finish in fifth.
Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Chris Buescher and Austin Dillon rounded out the top-10 finishers in the Cook Out Southern 500.
This race was wild and unpredictable, and the majority of the Playoff contenders found trouble in this event.
Alex Bowman had a flat tire early, which resulted in damage after he was slammed into by Byron. Bowman would finish 26th, four laps off the pace.
Ryan Blaney suffered from what he described as a exploded brake line on lap 317, which sent him for a spin. Blaney finished the race 22nd, a lap down.
Christopher Bell hit a chunk of debris on the track early in the race, which caused damage to the right front of his car, but he stayed in the hunt for the race win. However, late in the race, Bell made contact with Chase Elliott, which damaged his car and hampered his finish. Bell came home 20th, a lap down.
Toby is the Founder, Editor and go-to man for TobyChristie.com. He is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed NASCAR as a fan since 1993.