Rain-Shortened Darlington Race Ends in Drama

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, NASCAR has chosen to double-up on races to ensure that all 36 races of the 2020 season are completed. To do this, they have implemented weekday racing, an event that has not been seen in NASCAR since 1984 when Richard Petty won his 200th race at Daytona Speedway.

Practice and qualifying were x-ed off the weekend schedule to limit the time that teams and drivers spent at the track and to restrict interaction with each other. So, the starting order of the top 20 drivers was determined by taking the top 20 from Sunday’s race and inverting the field.

LAP 1: Last week’s 20th place finisher, Ryan Preece, started in pole position while last week’s winner, Kevin Harvick, started 20th. When the green flag dropped, Preece was immediately overtaken by Ty Dillon in the #13 who pulled ahead.

CAUTION – LAP 3: The first yellow flag of the race came out for John Hunter Nemechek in the #38. Nemechek was hit by the #42 of Matt Kenseth and was sent into the wall in Turn 3.

LAP 8: When the race restarted, Joey Logano used the outside lane to make the pass on Ty Dillon and pulled away with a strong lead.

CAUTION – LAP 12: Not even 10 laps after the first one, the second caution came out once again for John Hunter Nemechek when he spun by himself on the backstretch. This time, Nemechek did not hit the wall, but still went a lap down as the rest of the field went by.

CAUTION – LAP 25: The yellow was waved for a competition caution to check tire wear because rain in the afternoon had washed most traction and rubber off the racing surface. Logano won the race off pit road and led the field to green for the restart.

LAP 31: Clint Bowyer in the #14 Ford dove to the bottom of the track on the front stretch and passed Joey Logano for the lead. Bowyer then pulled away from the other front runners to a comfortable lead and began lapping slower cars.

STAGE 1 END – LAP 60: Clint Bowyer won the stage 3.5 seconds ahead of Martin Truex Jr in the #19. Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, and Joey Logano rounded out the top 5. Bowyer maintained the lead through pitstops and held the top spot on the restart.

LAP 71: The #37 of Ryan Preece had a right-rear tire starting to rub, causing a large cloud of smoke on the backstretch. Preece slowed and moved to the bottom of the track where he limped to pit road without the need for a caution flag.

CAUTION – LAP 72: Michael McDowell made contact to the rear of the #17 driven by Chris Buescher. The contact sent the #17 sideways and into the wall in Turn 2 which triggered the 3rd incident-related caution of the night.

CAUTION – LAP 81: The yellow came out for the #47 of Ricky Stenhouse Jr who slowed on the track in Turn 2. During pit stops under caution, Truex Jr picked up the lead from Bowyer and pulled ahead on the restart.

LAP 94: Ryan Blaney in the #12 scraped the wall hard in Turn 2, knocking in the right rear quarter panel. Blaney had to surrender 10th place to pit for repair.

LAP 100: Last week’s winner, Kevin Harvick, passed Truex for the lead heading into Turn 1.

CAUTION – LAP 107: Rookie Cole Custer in the #41 had a tire go down and got into the wall in Turn 2 triggering yet another caution.

LAP 113: Bowyer led from the restart and pulled ahead to a small 0.4-second lead. Behind him, a battle broke out for second place between Chase Elliott and Martin Truex Jr.

STAGE 2 END – LAP 125: Clint Bowyer hung on to win the stage, sweeping both segments of the race. Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr, Erik Jones, and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top 5. Bowyer held onto the lead during pitstops and the restart.

LAP 134: Erik Jones in the #20 made a bold move and dove to the bottom of the track on the front stretch, passing both Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman at once for the lead. Chase Elliott took advantage and hustled past Bowyer and Newman as well for 2nd place.

LAP 157: Jones continued to lead while Chase Elliott slowly cut into his lead. Elliott went from 0.85 seconds behind to just 0.27 in just a few laps.

LAP 161: Elliott closed in on Erik Jones and made the pass for the top spot. Jones fought back briefly on the inside but was no match for Elliott’s #9.

CAUTION – LAP 178: The #42 of Matt Kenseth spun in Turn 2, bringing out the caution in the middle of green-flag pitstops. Elliott regained the lead when everyone cycled through and led through the restart against Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin.

LAP 188: As the laps winded down the intensity ramped up between the top 3 cars of Elliott, Keselowski, and Hamlin, with each trading the top spot several times in between close calls and crossover moves.

CAUTION – LAP 194: The #19 of Clint Bowyer got into the wall in Turn 1, cutting the right rear tire. Bowyer got in the wall again and spun in Turn 3, which finally brought out the yellow.

CAUTION – LAP 200: Heading into Turn 1 after the restart, the #18 of Kyle Busch made a sharp right turn and made heavy contact with the left-rear quarter panel of the #9 of Chase Elliott. The #9 was spun straight into the inside SAFER barrier and ricocheted back up the track and into traffic.

Video of the incident:

RED FLAGGED / CHECKERED FLAG – LAP 208: While under caution for the previous accident, the sky opened up. As the rain poured down on the track, and fans on Twitter exploded with rage over the incident with Elliott and Busch, NASCAR declared Denny Hamlin the race winner. This was Hamlin’s second win of 2020, though it was largely overshadowed by the drama.

RESULTS:

  1. Denny Hamlin
  2. Kyle Busch
  3. Kevin Harvick
  4. Brad Keselowski
  5. Erik Jones
  6. Joey Logano
  7. Aric Almirola
  8. Jimmie Johnson
  9. Matt DiBenedetto
  10. Martin Truex Jr
  11. Christopher Bell
  12. William Byron
  13. Tyler Reddick
  14. Ryan Newman
  15. Kurt Busch
  16. Bubba Wallace
  17. Michael McDowell
  18. Alex Bowman
  19. Ty Dillon
  20. Austin Dillon
  21. Ryan Blaney
  22. Clint Bowyer
  23. Chris Buescher
  24. Corey LaJoie
  25. Ricky Stenhouse Jr
  26. Quin Houff
  27. Daniel Suarez
  28. JJ Yeley
  29. Joey Gase
  30. Matt Kenseth
  31. Cole Custer
  32. Gray Gaulding
  33. Timmy Hill
  34. Garrett Smithley
  35. John Hunter Nemechek
  36. BJ McLeod
  37. Brennan Poole
  38. Chase Elliott
  39. Ryan Preece

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