Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson had by far the two best cars in Sunday’s Southern 500. The two drivers combined to lead 302 of the 367 laps at Darlington Raceway with both drivers completely classing the field throughout the race.
That being said, it was only fitting that the top-2 points earners this season, who just so happen to be great friends, were battling for the win in one of NASCAR Cup Series crown jewel races.
Hamlin beat out Larson on a restart with 36 laps to go and jumped out to a 1-second lead. Larson maintained a close distance behind Hamlin but couldn’t seemingly put together fast enough laps to cut into his defecit.
With one lap to go, Hamlin held a comfortable lead over Larson. It appeared that Hamlin would easily secure his first victory of the season to punch his ticket into the Round of 12 in the Cup Series Playoffs.
Instead, Kyle Larson decided to make it interesting. Hamlin ran an agressive line into turn 3 on the final lap when Kyle Larson came flying from behind him and into the wall. Larson tried to pin his way past Hamlin up in the top groove, but Hamlin blocked him to hold on and win the race.
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“I got to his bumper too quick. I was hoping he was going to run the diamond to be safe and I could [hopefully] squirt to his outside,” Larson told NBC’s Marty Snider. “I didn’t want to wreck him, I just wanted to try and get to his outside there. He did a great job of not making any mistakes there on that last run”.
Larson tried to pull a “video game move” notably made by Carl Edwards back in 2008. Edwards tried to slingshot below Jimmie Johnson in a race at Kansas Motor Speedway while racing for a win, but ended up unsuccessful much like Larson at Darlington.
Larson’s move almost ended similarly to another incident involving Carl Edwards. Back in a 2011 Xfinity Series race at Iowa, Edwards ran in second place to teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. With one lap to go, Stenhouse Jr. blew up and started dropping fluid while exiting the final corner. Edwards hit the fluid and wobbled out of control, plowing into Stenhouse Jr. from behind and serving as a winning push for the then-young star.
The NASCAR Cup Series returns to action next Saturday at Richmond Raceway.