Denny Hamlin shows playoff readiness with frantic win

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Through retro paint schemes, appearances by NASCAR legends on and off the track, and more, the Bojangles Southern 500 is turning Darlington Raceway into a giant motorsports time capsule.

Instead, Hamlin, who has the best average finish and driver rating over the past 10 races at Darlington Raceway, cut a 20-second deficit after the pit stop into a lead when he passed Martin Truex Jr. with three laps to go. Other short odds to win are Kyle Larson (9/2) and Denny Hamlin (7/1).

"I was driving my guts out at the end trying to hang on", Truex said.

No explanations necessary, expect maybe, how the heck did Hamlin do it? "You can tell when he goes to certain racetracks, too, that he's got some favorites that he's terrible good at and this is one of them". Chase's dad Bill Elliott knows how to win at Darlington and did it five times.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s scheme that throws back to his old AC Delco look from his Xfinity Series championship years is one of my favorites.

Truex Jr. will line up his No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats 40 Anniversary Toyota on the outside of Row 1 after a pole-round lap of 27.771 seconds at 177.077 miles per hour on the 1.333-mile egg-shaped oval. Truex's Toyota would blow a tire with 3 laps to go, and Hamlin would blaze past to take the lead and the win.

Hamlin swept throwback weekend at Darlington after winning the Xfinity race Saturday. Running great defines Jones as he nabbed the pole at Bristol and finished second to Bristol Master Kyle Busch. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver has talent, and he certainly has confidence.

"We can still do this", crew chief Mike Wheeler told Hamlin after the miscue.

Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats' 40th Anniversary Toyota) appeared headed toward Gatorade Victory Lane to defend his Bojangles' Southern 500 championship, as he led laps 326-364, but right-front tire problems caused him to slam into the wall twice, giving Hamlin the lead with three laps to go.

"That was a throwback to Dale Earnhardt", Hamlin said after the race.

My NASCAR attention span lasted for a few hours every February for the Daytona 500 and I would repeat the process every Labor Day weekend when the Southern 500 was run at Darlington Raceway.

Oh, like the time he messes up getting on pit road, as he did Sunday night when he almost handed the race to Truex on a silver platter? "Tonight wasn't our night". As long as there are no new winners or Joey Logano at Richmond, the final three drivers entering the playoffs will be Chase Elliott, Matt Kenseth, and Jamie McMurray.

Harvick had long said his team's switch to Ford racers this year would take some adjustment. Darlington, a track where he has a 9.5 average finish over the past two races, is a flawless place to show off. Kahne also led 23 laps here in 2015 before wrecking out, showing he has speed here with Hendrick Motorsports even during a down cycle for his career.

EYE ON THE TRUCKS: Brad Keselowski finished 15th, but was asked about his truck series driver, Austin Cindric, who won the NASCAR Camping World Truck race in Bowmanville, Ontario.

And there are still plenty of drivers with a solid chance to pull a Jeremy Mayfield and steal a playoff spot with a win. "If you don't win here with Denny, you probably didn't have a good enough auto".

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