The Daytona 500 winner was ahead, but without new tires and trying to hold on when he received unintended help from Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch. The defending World Cup champion had Chase Elliott beat eight laps earlier, to bring caution.
A furious Elliott waited for Busch in the apron of the track and shook his middle finger as he passed. As NASCAR it cleared the track, it started to rain and the cars were called to the pit lane under the red flag.
It was an active night at “The Track Too Tough To Tame”, with the riders racing against the field and the weather. While drivers sat in their cars waiting NASCAR to pull the plug, a handful of Elliott's crew members were sitting on the well wall, looking at Busch.
One of Busch's crew sat among them on the wall and NASCAR finally he ordered everyone to return to the wall. Eight minutes later, the race was called and Busch was greeted by Alan Gustafson, Elliott's team leader and Busch's former team leader, when he drove to Hendrick Motorsports, for a conversation between two masked competitors.
Busch immediately faced the error.
"There is no doubt that I made a mistake and just miscalculated the difference," said Busch. "They are upset, they are angry. I am not just going to fix it and tomorrow we are going to have ice cream. They will insist on that and I am sure there are repercussions that I will have in the future."
Meanwhile, a fox was running down the deserted track and Hamlin, wearing a mask that showed his real smile, was having a silent celebration in the rain.
He walked to the victory lane under a big black umbrella. It was a 1-2 finish for Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota. Hamlin won three times in Darlington and has two wins this season.
“I have my happy face. Make sure you bring it with me ” Hamlin he said from his mask. He said he also had masks made with a "sad face", but he only brought the smiling masks for a banner that he counts among his favorites.
Hamlin He thought he was in good shape when he made his last stop, but a caution from Clint Bowyer, who won the first two stages of the race, confused the strategy with 34 laps remaining.
Hamlin he had no choice but to stay on the track, and team manager Chris Gabehart told him over the radio: "You won't like it, but we will have to eat our vegetables here."
"It's a driver's race track," he said. “You can do different things to make (the car) cope. We got it right.
The race marked the first time in NASCAR story that the Cup Series had two races that were worth points on the same track in a week.
The beginning of NASCARThe second run back during the coronavirus pandemic went up an hour because of bad weather, but was delayed almost 90 minutes because it rained most of the day.
When the action finally started, the 310-kilometer affair was lively from start to finish, because the drivers were unsure whether they were racing to the midpoint – the mark that a race becomes official – or the distance.
NASCAR returned to action on Sunday in Darlington, after 10 weeks off, using a strict health protocol and limiting those present only to the most essential for running a race.
Health checks were required to enter the track and each of the 40 cars received only 16 team members.
Fox Sports broadcast the race again mainly from a studio in Charlotte, North Carolina, with only one reporter in Darlington. For the pre-race show, drivers used a variety of technologies to make brief appearances while sitting alone in their motorhomes.
The riders had to travel to the track alone, undergo a health screening and then isolate before the race. They are required to wear face masks.
NASCAR has an ambitious 20-race comeback plan, spanning its three national series between Sunday's return and June 21. Viewers are not expected to be allowed to attend any of the events during this period.
The rain interrupted the schedule on Tuesday night, when the Xfinity series was washed away. The race is scheduled for Thursday afternoon.
Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.