• Returning to the No. 11 Sport Clips Toyota for his first full race since being sidelined earlier this season following a late-race accident at Auto Club Speedway, Denny Hamlin proved he was ready to get back to racing by securing the sixth starting position for the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.
• Battling a tight-handling Camry from the start of the 367-lap event, Hamlin slipped from his sixth-place starting position to 11th by the time the first round of green-flag pit stops began on lap 46. Hamlin brought the No. 11 machine down pit road on lap 53 for tires, fuel and a round of adjustments to help with the handling of the Sport Clips Toyota. As the field cycled through stops, Hamlin was scored 13th.
• Settling in for a long span of green-flag racing, the No. 11 team made several green-flag pit stops over the first 300 laps of the race, making adjustments on each stop to improve the handling of the Sport Clips Toyota.
• With just the second caution of the race coming on lap 301, Hamlin would pit from the sixth position for tires, fuel and adjustments. The race restarted on lap 308 with 11 cars on the lead lap and Hamlin running in the fifth position.
• Improving the car over the final laps and cautions of the race with solid stops by the No. 11 team, Hamlin would continue to gain positions in the closing laps of the 500-mile race to cross the finish line solidly in the second position in his return to the No. 11 Toyota.
• Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth won the race followed by Hamlin, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick.
Denny Hamlin’s Post Race Thoughts: “We ran good. We didn’t run as strong as what I hoped throughout the day. We were kind of mired in the fifth to eighth positions for most of the day. Track position was so key. You had two to three laps on restarts to get your positions and after that you were in defense mode. For me, we kept grinding away. Pit crew picked us up some stops obviously throughout the night. It was one of those days where we got our car better, pit crew picked us up positions and took us to the most optimum spot we could get to and that was second.”