Denny Hamlin nails down Plywood 200


DARLINGTON, S.C. (AP) – Denny Hamlin didn’t horse around at Darlington Raceway on Friday night, winning the Diamond Hill Plywood 200 for his second Busch Series victory of the season.

Hamlin needed 19 stitches to close a gash on his left hand after goofing with teammates only a few days before last week’s races at Richmond International Raceway.

But at Darlington, the 25-year-old Hamlin showed little effects from the injury. He took the pole in qualifying Friday afternoon, then held off four Roush Racing drivers – Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Mark Martin and Greg Biffle – on a final restart two laps from the end. Hamlin won by 0.353 seconds.

“I didn’t get nervous or anything because I knew they were going to come flying by me like they did all day,” Hamlin said. “I just didn’t know our car was going to be so strong at the end.”

Hamlin’s victory made Nextel Cup racers 12-of-12 on the Busch circuit this season. Hamlin also won the Busch event in Mexico City in March.

McMurray had the strongest car early while Kenseth held the lead for much of the middle of the race. But Hamlin moved in front out of the pits during the fifth of nine caution periods and remained there through four restarts over the last 26 laps.

Each time, Roush racers closed in. And each time, Hamlin pulled away when the green flag dropped.

It was a vastly different scene for the young driver than a week earlier. His accident limited his mobility. It also kept the Virginia native from an appearance at Children’s Hospital as he came to Richmond as a Nextel Cup rookie.

Perhaps the hand also was a factor in Hamlin getting outdeuled down the stretch by Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the Crown Royal 400.

Hamlin wasn’t bothered by it this week, even joking that he thought he ran better with his hurt hand. “Maybe when it gets better, I might cut the other hand open,” he said after Busch qualifying.

Kenseth thought he was better on long runs and couldn’t get the momentum he needed with the cautions at the end.

“You always like to think you’re going to beat the guy in front of you,” Kenseth said. “It’s just hard to get a run.”

Kenseth led for 50 laps and McMurray for 46.

Hamlin and the field got a boost even before they strapped in for the race.

The second and third fastest qualifiers, Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne, along with Busch points leader Kevin Harvick, were sent to the back of the field.

Edwards was flagged for unapproved changes, while Kahne, who’ll start on the pole in the Nextel Cup Dodge Charger 500 on Saturday night, was late to the Busch drivers’ pre-race meeting.

Harvick changed engines after qualifying and started 43rd.

That didn’t stop him from charging through the field. He finished seventh, behind Kyle Busch. Harvick maintained his lead and has a 347-point edge on Clint Bowyer in second.

Hamlin moved up a spot in the points standings to third, 379 behind Harvick.

AP-ES-05-12-06 2308EDT