DARLINGTON, S.C. — Denny Hamlin became the first driver in 17 years to sweep Darlington Raceway, winning the Sprint Cup race Saturday night after late mistakes took Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton out of contention.
Winner of the Nationwide series race Friday night, Hamlin became the first driver since Mark Martin in 1993 to sweep the Darlington weekend.
It was Hamlin's first Sprint Cup victory at NASCAR's oldest superspeedway, and the Joe Gibbs Racing driver has never finished lower than 13th in his five career starts at the difficult track.
Hamlin led 104 of the 367 laps but knew he was going to have to contend with Gordon and Burton over the closing laps. That changed during the final pit stops.
Gordon planned to pit early under green but had to abort the effort at the last second to avoid a collision with the cars closing quickly behind him. When he finally entered pit road a lap later, a spin by David Reutimann brought out the last caution of the race and Gordon had to hustle back onto the track to avoid losing a lap.
All the leaders headed to pit road under yellow, and Burton, who had traded the lead with Hamlin right before the caution, came out in third. But NASCAR flagged him for running over his air hose; Burton had to return to the pits for a penalty and lost a ton of track position.
Hamlin restarted the race in first with 20 laps to go, while Gordon was 12th and Burton 13th.
Hamlin got a terrific restart in his Toyota over Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch, then sailed to his third win of this season to tie four-time defending NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson for most wins this season in the Cup series.
Jamie McMurray started from the pole and finished second in a Chevrolet, while Kurt Busch was third in a Dodge. Gordon came back from a late-race error to finish fourth, while Juan Pablo Montoya, McMurray's teammate, rounded out the top five.
Burton came back to finish eighth.
Johnson got knocked out when he was slammed by A.J. Allmendinger between Turns 3 and 4.
"I'm still clueless as to where he came from," said Johnson, who was okay but finished 36th. "I didn't see (Allmendinger) until the last second before he hit me."