May 21 (UPI) — Denny Hamlin took the checkered flag and Kyle Busch spun out fellow driver Chase Elliott late in the rain-shortened Cup Series Toyota 500 Wednesday at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, S.C.
Hamlin became season’s second multi-time winner after he edged the field. He also won the Feb. 16 Daytona 500 before the NASCAR season was suspended the following month due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Wednesday’s race was the second since NASCAR returned from hiatus after Sunday’s The Real Heroes 400, also at Darlington. NASCAR has hosted the races without fans in attendance.
“The competition is real,” Hamlin told reporters. “You see we’re able to put on a great show. I think it’s a good time for us right now. We’re on a big stage.
“I think everyone is stepping up to the plate and really doing a good job to make sure we’re giving a good product, a real product, not just putting things together just to get on TV.”
The driver of the No. 11 Toyota started 16th and led 12 of 208 laps. He took a late lead during a race caution. Hamlin kept his car on the track as others replaced tires. He held off the field for the restart with 29 laps to go.
Elliott and Busch battled for position behind Hamlin until Busch gave Elliott’s No. 9 Chevrolet a heavy tap, sending the car into the wall in Turn 1. Elliott did not finish the race. He showed his frustration after the run-in with an angry gesture directed at Busch. Elliott led a race-high 28 laps after he started 17th.
Busch said he would “reach out” to Elliott after the crash.
“Obviously I just made a mistake, misjudged the gap, sent him into the wall,” Busch said. “That was entirely unintentional. Yeah, I mean, I’ll definitely reach out to him and tell him I’m sorry, tell him I hate it that it happened. All I can do. That doesn’t change the outcome of the night.
“I hate it for him and his guys.”
Elliott’s crew chief, Alan Gustafson, told NASCAR after the race that Busch’s explanation didn’t “calm the waters” for his squad. Gustafson also said he believed Elliott could have won the race had he not been wrecked.
“He made a mistake and I get it,” Gustafson said. “I don’t think [Busch] intentionally wrecked us but you just get tired of coming out on the wrong end of those [wrecks].”
Busch climbed into second position before race officials ended the event, with 22 laps left, due to rain. Cup Series standings leader Kevin Harvick finished third. Brad Keselowski and Erik Jones rounded out the top-5. Jones 26 laps.
Joey Logano — No. 2 in the Cup Series — finished sixth.
The next Cup Series race is the Coca-Cola 600 at 6 p.m. EDT Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C. Xfinity Series Drivers will return to Darlington for one final race with the Toyota 200 at noon EDT Thursday. It will air on FS1.