May 21, 2020 / 4:48 AM / 17 days ago

Hamlin earns second win of NASCAR season in rain-hit race

(Reuters) - Denny Hamlin won the rain-shortened Toyota 500 at Darlington Raceway on Wednesday for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver’s second victory of the season in the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series.

May 20, 2020, Darlington, SC, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Denny Hamlin (11) during the Toyota 500. Mandatory Credit: Brynn Anderson/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Network

The 39-year-old was leading the field in the first Cup race on a Wednesday since 1984 when the rain came down with just under 25 laps to go in the 228-lap event.

Drivers were told to enter the pit lane with 20 laps to go before NASCAR announced the decision to end the race.

“I was pretty happy with how it all turned out,” Hamlin, who also won the season-opening Daytona 500 in February, said.

“I’ve got my happy face on, made sure I brought it with me today,” he added, referring to his face mask which depicted a big smile.

Hamlin’s 39th career win and third at the venue came with an element of fortune as he was running on worn tyres before the rain disruption as the team had run out of fresh ones.

“It’s a driver’s race track. You can move around. You can do different things to make your car handle,” Hamlin said. “We got it right today.”

Hamlin’s team mate Kyle Busch, who spun Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott shortly before the storm, finished second followed by Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Erik Jones.

The start of NASCAR’s second race without fans present following the COVID-19 disruption was delayed by 90 minutes due to rain. The action got underway after 10 track-drying Air Titan Toyotas were deployed.

North America’s most popular motor sport returned to live racing from a two-month novel coronavirus-forced hiatus at the same venue on Sunday amid strict health, with Kevin Harvick claiming the 50th win of his career.

Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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