Sunday, April 22, 2018
Sports

Denny Hamlin takes the lead late, wins Southern 500

DARLINGTON, S.C. — Denny Hamlin overcame a bad miss of the pit road entrance to chase down Martin Truex with three laps left to win the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on Sunday night.

Hamlin checked up after sliding by the entrance with 54 laps left and fell behind Truex by 20 seconds. But Hamlin slowly reeled in Truex and passed him when his rival brushed the wall and got a flat tire.

Hamlin swept throwback weekend at Darlington after winning the Xfinity race Saturday. Truex won the first two stages, clinching NASCAR's regular-season championship and gaining the No. 1 seed heading into the playoffs in two weeks.

Kyle Busch was second, followed by brother Kurt Busch, Austin Dillon and Erik Jones.

Hamlin led 124 laps and looked as if he was easily on the way to a second Southern 500 after winning in 2008. Then inexplicably, Hamlin missed the entrance and seemingly threw the race to the ever-steady Truex.

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

So Hamlin started the comeback. He got up to Truex's bumper with three laps to go before moving low around lapped traffic to take the lead. Truex rubbed the wall, blew his right front tire and stumbled home in eighth.

"Sometimes it's just not your night," Truex said. "Tonight wasn't our night."

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 22nd — the same as how he started — in his final time racing at Darlington. On Friday, the track rechristened one of its suite buildings in Turn 3 as "Earnhardt Towers" in honor of Dale Jr. and his late father, Dale Earnhardt, who won nine times at Darlington.

Matt Kenseth was sixth, Ryan Newman seventh, then Truex, polesitter Kevin Harvick and Jamie McMurray rounding out the top 10.

Clint Bowyer had hoped the spirit of Mark Martin would help him — Bowyer's car carried a paint scheme in tribute to Martin — but instead he was out of the race 18 laps in with a broken valve. Bowyer, who came in 17th in points, is on the outside looking in on NASCAR's 16-team playoff picture and needs a win at Richmond on Saturday to keep going.

INDYCAR: Pole-sitter Alexander Rossi won the Grand Prix at the Glen, holding off Scott Dixon over the closing laps at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. The race for the title tightened significantly with one race left, the GoPro Grand Prix Sonoma 500 on Sept. 17, when points are double. Points leader Josef Newgarden crashed when his tires locked as he exited the pits and he was slammed from behind by Sebastien Bourdais. Newgarden finished 18th, two laps down, his 31-point lead over Dixon reduced to three. "I've never raced Josef, really, in a championship like this," said Dixon, who took the title from Juan Pablo Montoya two years ago by winning the finale to earn the double points. "You can have a pretty hefty swing."

TRUCKS: Austin Cindic spun out leader Kaz Grala on the final lap and went on to his first career victory in the Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario. Noah Gragson was second, and Grala recovered to finish third. Cindic said of his move on Grala: "I feel like this is what NASCAR racing is about. You have to win to make a playoff position.'' Grala's opinion: "Just a dirty move.''

FORMULA ONE: Lewis Hamilton won the Italian Grand Prix in Monza, virtually unchallenged from the pole as he took a 238-235 lead over Sebastian Vettel in the drivers' standings. Seven races remain. Mercedes teammate Valterri Bottas finished second. Hamilton was met with whistles and boos atop the podium; the throng of red-clad fans hoped for a Ferrari victory. "You know what?" Hamilton said. "I love it here in Italy and I love the passion of the fans, particularly the Ferrari fans — they are fantastic. This energy is like nowhere else we get to see, apart from maybe Silverstone. So I respect it and I appreciate it."

NHRA: Jack Beckman won the Funny Car Traxxas Nitro Shootout in the U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway. Beckman had a 3.952-second pass at 324.67 mph in a Dodge Charger R/T to beat Robert Hight in the final and earn $100,000 in the bonus event in Clermont, Ind. In the regular event, Clay Millican (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) secured the No. 1 qualifying positions.

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