Denny Hamlin doesn’t have a contingency plan for Darlington Raceway. He has every intention of running the entire race.
Hamlin turned 23 laps last week at Talladega before turning the car over to relief driver Brian Vickers. It was Hamlin’s first race since suffering a compression fracture in a vertebra in his lower back. The March 24 injury cost him four races.
Hamlin has no plans to have a driver on standby for tonight’s Southern 500.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt we’ll go the whole way,” said Hamlin, who tested himself by running 90 consecutive minutes during a long first practice Friday. “Nothing was uncomfortable, nothing hurt, nothing was sore. So I’m pretty confident I can make it the three, three and a half (hours) that it’s going to take to run the race.”
Hamlin is determined to qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship and currently sits 31st in the standings. But he’s only 76 points out of 20th place, where he’d need to be to be eligible for one of two wild-card berths.
Kurt Busch ended up on top at Darlington Raceway a week after finishing upside-down at Talladega.
Five days ago, Busch went airborne near the end of the Aaron’s 499 and crash landed on Ryan Newman.
On Friday, Busch sped around Darlington with a fast lap of 181.918 mph for his third career pole at the track. It surpassed the two-year-old mark of 181.254 mph held by Kasey Kahne.
“Last week, we ended on our lid and this week, we’re here with a track record,” Busch said.
Defending Southern 500 champion Jimmie Johnson will start alongside Busch, followed by Busch’s younger brother Kyle, Kahne and Martin Truex Jr.
Kenseth receives good news
A three-member appeals panel overturned almost all the penalties NASCAR levied against Joe Gibbs Racing after an illegal part was found in Kenseth’s race-winning engine at Kansas.
Kenseth got back 38 of the 50 points he was docked and goes into today’s race ranked fourth in the standings. Also, crew chief Jason Ratcliff had his suspension reduced from six races to one, which he’ll serve today.
Busch wins Nationwide race
Kyle Busch took the lead from Joey Logano 18 laps from the end to win his fifth Nationwide race this season and second in three years at Darlington Raceway.
The victory also capped a dominant showing by the Busch boys at the track “Too Tough To Tame.” Older brother Kurt set a qualifying record to win the pole for tonight’s Southern 500. Kyle was third in Sprint Cup qualifying before dominating the Nationwide race.
The younger Busch started from the pole and was the strongest car throughout. He led for 107 of the 147 laps and finished in front of Elliott Sadler.