Denny Hamlin won a rain-shortened Darlington race Wednesday night after Chase Elliott showed Kyle Busch his middle finger.
Elliott flipped off Busch after he went crashing into the inside wall from Busch’s bumper on lap 200 of the scheduled 228-lap race. Elliott had passed Busch for second behind Hamlin and as Busch tried to get back in line behind Elliott he instead sent Elliott careening toward the wall.
The rain came not long after Elliott’s crash and stopped the race 20 laps from the finish. Hamlin, who had been forced to stay out on the track ahead of the preceding caution because his team was out of tires, got the win while Busch finished second and Sunday race winner Kevin Harvick finished third.
Elliott had one of the fastest cars throughout Wednesday night’s event. He seemed destined for a top-five finish at the very least before the crash and had led three times for 28 laps.
Elliott’s crew chief Alan Gustafson had a conversation with Busch on pit road after the race was called.
“There’s no question. I know I made a mistake and just misjudged the gap,” Busch said. “When we were racing there with [Elliott] and I knew [Hamlin] had a run on him and I knew I needed to get in line as quick as I could. And in doing so I watched him and his momentum that was going by me and then I tried to look up in the mirror and see where Harvick was to get in and I just misjudged it.”
Gustafson said he believed Busch’s explanation, though that didn’t necessarily make it any easier to handle what had happened.
"You get tired of getting run over like that."— NASCAR (@NASCAR) May 21, 2020
Alan Gustafson wants to make sure his displeasure is known. pic.twitter.com/YCfNBo7FvU
“Ultimately he made a mistake and I get it. I don’t think he intentionally wrecked us but you get tired of coming out on the wrong end of those deals too often,” Gustafson said. “And I certainly feel like we were in position to win that race and Denny was in trouble on old tires and we were going to clear Kyle obviously.”
And no, Elliott will not be disciplined by NASCAR for what he did.
The win is Hamlin’s second of the season. He won the season-opening Daytona 500 ahead of Ryan Newman’s terrifying crash at the finish line. Newman finished 14th in his second race back from the crash.
Fox gets on the track during rain delay
NASCAR called the drivers down pit road after Elliott’s crash as the raindrops fell before the race was officially ended. As drivers waited on pit road, a fox made its way onto the empty track.
Yes, Wednesday night’s race was broadcast on Fox Sports 1.
Hey, little buddy. 🦊 Didn't we see you at Pocono a few years ago? pic.twitter.com/D4clZdJxwQ— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) May 21, 2020
Denny Hamlin’s terrifying mask
Some drivers got creative with NASCAR’s mask-wearing mandate. And none more so than Hamlin, who whipped out his “happy face” mask after he officially was declared the winner.
Who won Darlington and has two thumbs? THIS GUY. pic.twitter.com/EV8QOImQux— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) May 21, 2020
That will give you nightmares.
Clint Bowyer leads 71 laps, finishes 22nd
Clint Bowyer won each of the first two stages on Wednesday night and still finished outside the top 20.
Bowyer got into the wall while running in the top 10 during the third stage of the race. That wall contact cut his right rear tire and a few laps later on lap 194 Bowyer spun out to bring out a caution.
That caution ultimately gave Hamlin his win. Teams were allotted nine sets of tires for Wednesday night’s race and Hamlin was on his ninth set when Bowyer crashed. He stayed out on track as other teams came to pit road and inherited the lead.
Six laps later, Elliott crashed into the wall ahead of the rain.
First Wednesday race in 36 years
Was Wednesday night’s race a trial run for midweek NASCAR races in coming years? The rescheduled race because of the coronavirus pandemic was the first time NASCAR had run a Cup Series points race on a Wednesday night since 1984. And it could be a sign of things to come as NASCAR looks for ways to gain viewers and potentially compress a season that stretches from February to November.
Over 6 million people watched Sunday’s race at Darlington, the first for NASCAR since March 8 at Phoenix. While the viewing audience on Wednesday will undoubtedly be lower — the race was on FS1 while Sunday’s race was more widely available on Fox — but should still give the sanctioning body a decent idea of what the appetite for midweek racing is across the United States, especially during the summer months in a normal year when baseball would be the only sporting competition.
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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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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