Kyle Larson made a hard push to overtake Denny Hamlin during the final 10 laps of Sunday’s Cook Out Southern 500, but Hamlin ultimately emerged with his first victory of the 2021 NASCAR season.
“It was a matter of time,” Hamlin said of his win on the NBCSN broadcast. “We can’t just keep leading with 10 laps to go every week and not get a win.”
That said, it looked as if Hamlin might see the lead slip away during the final lap. Larson made one last effort to pass Hamlin on the final corner. He came right up behind Hamlin’s car as he tried to “video game it,” by his own admission.
Bu Hamlin never feared that Larson would be able to pass him.
“He was going to have to go through me,” Hamlin said.
Hamlin’s confidence was rewarded, and his final maneuver to stay in front of Larson sealed the victory.
Hamlin’s near-flawless race came at a perfect time. Many of his playoff counterparts dealt with car troubles throughout the night. Four — Michael McDowell, Kyle Busch, William Byron and Chase Elliott — crashed out of the race entirely. Several others, like Alex Bowman, Martin Truex Jr., Christopher Bell and Ryan Blaney, saw loose wheels, car damage and penalties impact them.
Hamlin advances to the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs Round of 12 as a result of his win. Bowman, Busch, Byron and McDowell, meanwhile, all find themselves below the cut line heading into the second of three Round of 16 races, Saturday at Richmond.
Sporting News tracked live updates and lap-by-lap highlights from NASCAR’s playoff race at Darlington on Sunday night. Here are the complete results from the Southern 500.
NASCAR at Darlington live updates, highlights from Southern 500
(All times Eastern).
10:44 p.m. — And here’s an updated look at the playoff standings. Denny Hamlin has advanced to the Round of 12.
10:28 p.m. — Denny Hamlin earns his first victory of the season. He holds off Kyle Larson by less than a half a second to clinch a spot in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs Round of 12. Below are the unofficial top 10 finishers from the race.
1. Denny Hamlin
2. Kyle Larson
3. Ross Chastain
4. Martin Truex Jr.
5. Kevin Harvick
6. Kurt Busch
7. Brad Keselowski
8. Joey Logano
9. Chris Buescher
10. Austin Dillon
10:25 p.m. — Five laps to go, and Hamlin is still in the lead. Larson is than a second behind him.
10:22 p.m. — There are 10 laps left. Denny Hamlin is still ahead of Larson and Chastain. Hamlin is 0.68 seconds ahead as he looks for his first win of the season.
10:21 p.m. — Ross Chastain is continuing to gain, and Kyle Larson’s car is getting loose. Chastain is in third behind Larson and Denny Hamlin, but he could make a move on Larson with 13 laps to go. They are separated by less than a second.
10:19 p.m. — Kyle Larson is gaining on Denny Hamlin. With 18 laps to go, he’s about 0.35 seconds back of Hamlin.
10:16 p.m. — Martin Truex Jr. is gaining ground fast. He moved ahead of Kevin Harvick for fifth place and is chasing down Joey Logano in fourth place. He is less than five seconds off the lead.
10:14 p.m. — There are 25 laps to go. Denny Hamlin is leading Kyle Larson by about 0.5 seconds. Ross Chastain is just over a second back.
10:10 p.m. — Martin Truex Jr. has rebounded nicely from his penalty. He is in seventh place and is just over two seconds off the lead.
10:08 p.m. — We’ve restarted again. Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson are jockeying for first place with 35 laps to go. Ross Chastain is looking to play spoiler and currently sits in third.
10:02 p.m. — Caution 11 (Lap 327). Chase Elliott has crashed into the wall. It came just after the latest restarter. Bubba Wallace, Christopher Bell and Chase Elliott ended up driving three-wide, and Elliott suffered damage as a result and it looks like his day is done.
10:01 p.m. — The race has restarted again. There are 42 laps to go. Denny Hamlin is in the lead with Kyle Larson in hot pursuit. There are 15 cars on the lead lap.
9:58 p.m. — Ryan Blaney is back on the track despite his brakes failing. He’s a lap down, however.
9:57 p.m. — Martin Truex Jr. has been hit with a penalty for speeding on pit road. That’s yet another issue for a playoff driver.
9:51 p.m. — Caution 10 (Lap 319). Ryan Blaney’s brakes failed and caused him to spin out. He didn’t crash, but he did spin out on a turn and suffered a flat tire as a result. This gives the drivers on the lead lap a massive advantage, as the cars behind them will remain a lap down following the caution.
9:50 p.m. — Seven cars are now on the lead lap. Hamlin is in the lead and it looks like he’s planning to make just one more pit stop to stay ahead of the field. It will likely come soon. There are 50 laps left in the race.
9:46 p.m. — Only five drivers are on the lead lap with 60 laps to go. Why? Because Denny Hamlin hasn’t made a pit stop during the latest green-flag cycle. It looks like he’s trying to stretch as long as possible to set up just one or two more pit stops, though his plans could certainly change.
9:44 p.m. — Per the broadcast, since NASCAR switched to this format of 16 playoff drivers starting in the top 16 spots, nobody outside the top 16 has won a race. Ross Chastain has a chance to buck that trend tonight. He is racing in fourth place right now.
9:41 p.m. — Ross Chastain and Kyle Larson are starting another cycling of pit stops on the 300th lap. Larson continues to make excellent time in the pit. That’s part of the reason why he has maintained a lead for most of the evening.
9:35 p.m. — Kevin Harvick has a loose wheel and has to make a pit stop with 79 laps to go. He’s now down to 23rd in the racing order. It’s been a tough night for the playoff drivers.
9:32 p.m. — Larson is back in the lead after some pit road cycling. Denny Hamlin stopped a few laps after Larson and is now in ninth. Pitting strategy will come into focus during the final 85 laps; some cars will look to make just a couple more stops while others will have to stop more frequently.
9:27 p.m. — Kyle Larson barely made it into pit road at his last stop. He’s not the only racer to have issues in that area; the entrance at Darlington is very narrow.
9:25 p.m. — Cars are heading into pit road again with 97 laps to go. Kyle Larson went to the pit, and Denny Hamlin is now in front.
9:23 p.m. — Chase Elliott and Kevin Harvick bumped each other just a bit. They ended up being OK, but it was a close call.
9:17 p.m. — Joey Logano has worked his way up to third place. He has been running near the back of the top 10 for most of the night, but he is making a run toward the top early in Stage 3. We’re through 255 of 367 laps at Darlington.
9:15 p.m. — Christopher Bell’s car is a bit loose, and he has fallen to ninth place. He is planning to pit soon as a result.
9:10 p.m. — Chase Elliott has climbed into sixth place, his highest rank since some early tire troubles. He’s just about four seconds back of Kyle Larson.
9:08 p.m. — Stage 3 is underway. Kyle Larson continues to lead the field through 239 laps. There are 128 to go.
9:07 p.m. — Ryan Blaney picked up a penalty for an uncontrolled tire. As a result, he has been penalized ahead of the restart.
9:02 p.m. — Kyle Larson is the leader coming off pit road. He will lead the pack out of caution and into Stage 3.
8:57 p.m. — Caution 9 (Lap 231). Kyle Larson emerged with the victory in Stage 2. Christopher Bell and Ross Chastain were able to pass Denny Hamlin, who dealt with an issue on his back right tire in the final couple laps of the stage. Here are the results from Stage 2:
1. Kyle Larson
2. Christopher Bell
3. Ross Chastain
4. Denny Hamlin
5. Kevin Harvick
6. Kurt Busch
7. Joey Logano
8. Chase Elliott
9. Ryan Blaney
10. Tyler Reddick
8:54 p.m. — Aric Almirola has fallen to 18th place after finishing in the top 10 during Stage 1. Needless to say, Stage 2 has not been good for him.
8:52 p.m. — Things continue to hold to form with 10 laps left in Stage 2. Kyle Larson has a 3.3-second lead.
8:48 p.m. — There are 20 laps to go in Stage 2. Christopher Bell and Denny Hamlin are battling for second place while Kyle Larson remains in first. Chase Elliott has worked his way up to eighth place.
8:45 p.m. — Another restart, another lead for Kyle Larson. Danny Hamlin is in second place and Christopher Bell is in third as the race enters its 208th lap.
8:41 p.m. — Byron is the third playoff driver to crash out of the race. Michael McDowell was the first and Kyle Busch was the second. Thirteen of the 16 playoff contenders remain in the race.
8:37 p.m. — Caution 8 (Lap 201). William Byron’s day has come to an end. He recovered from a small, early accident and climbed back into seventh place, but his left front scraped across the ground after the tire went flat in the 200th lap. Then, he hit the outside wall hard. He was OK after the crash.
8:36 p.m. — Now, Bell heads to pit row. Larson takes the lead back from him, and Bell comes out of the pit in sixth place.
8:35 p.m. — Drivers are starting to pit with 34 laps left in Stage 2. Larson just pitted along with most of the other leaders. Christopher Bell now leads, as he has yet to pit.
8:33 p.m. — Christopher Bell is in fourth place after dealing with issues related to debris he hit on the track. He is just about six seconds off the pace but is well-positioned to finish top-five in Stage 2.
8:28 p.m. — We have reached (roughly) the halfway point of the race. Through 183 laps of 367, Larson is still in front with Hamlin and Busch in second and third respectively.
8:25 p.m. — Chase Elliott and Erik Jones bumped each other a bit. They came away relatively unscathed. Meanwhile, Denny Hamlin and Kurt Busch had a close call battling for second place behind Kyle Larson.
8:24 p.m. — William Byron was involved in an early accident with Alex Bowman. Both cars stayed in the race, and Byron has worked his way back into the race. He is in seventh place right now and is about 6.5 seconds behind Kyle Larson.
8:20 p.m. — The race has restarted once again. Kyle Larson is in the lead through 168 laps and 53 of 115 laps in Stage 2.
8:16 p.m. — Christopher Bell actually hit the debris in question twice. He ran it over the second time, but it hit him on the bounce the first time. That’s more car trouble for a driver in the 16-man playoff field.
8:12 p.m. — Caution 7 (Lap 164). There’s some debris on the racetrack, so there’s a caution here. Martin Truex Jr. has a loose wheel, so this will allow him a chance to get to pit road. Christopher Bell, who was running in first place, hit the debris and will need to have his car repaired. He hasn’t pitted since lap 126, so he needed to pit soon anyway.
8:10 p.m. — Chase Elliott just missed pit road as he tried to come down to make some changes to his car. He made it in after the next lap, but he dropped from ninth to 11th with his miss.
8:07 p.m. — Some race updates: Aric Almirola has had trouble during the second stage. He has fallen to 15th place after finishing Stage 1 in the top 10. Meanwhile, Ross Chastain is in fourth place and is doing everything he can to try to pass Denny Hamlin in third place.
8:04 p.m. — Busch also sped off the racetrack after his crash.
8:02 p.m. — Kyle Busch discussed his accident and refused to blame Austin Dillon for the crash. He blamed his race team for the issues.
“Run like s— and you get wrecked,” Busch said on the NBCSN broadcast. “It wasn’t the No. 3’s fault. That’s what you get when you run like s—.”
7:57 p.m. — Ross Chastain has climbed into fifth place. He continues to be the highest-running non-playoff driver in the field.
7:56 p.m. — Tyler Reddick very nearly lost control of his car after the restart. His car got loose and had to slow while he was in a pack of cars. Incredibly, nobody crashed and the race continued.
7:55 p.m. — Kyle Larson leads in lap 130 after the restart. Now, Kurt Busch is in second place after his brother crashed out.
7:48 p.m. — Caution 6 (Lap 126). Well, that didn’t last long. Kyle Busch crashes into the wall after brushing Austin Dillon’s car, and Busch’s day is done. He was fourth place in the playoff standings entering the night. He joined Michael McDowell as playoff drivers that won’t finish the race.
7:46 p.m. — The fifth caution is over and Stage 2 of the race begins. Kyle Larson is at the front of the pack after passing Denny Hamlin coming out of caution. We’re on lap 123 of 367, so we’re about a third of the way through the race.
7:41 p.m. — Denny Hamlin comes out of the pit as the race’s leader. Ross Chastain moved up to eighth while Chase Elliott moved into the top 10 coming off pit road.
7:37 p.m. — Caution 5 (Lap 116). Stage 1 is over, and Denny Hamlin is the winner. He staves off Kyle Larson as the race enters a competitive caution. Here’s a look at the race’s top 10 after stage one. Of the group, only Ross Chastain is not in the playoff hunt.
1. Denny Hamlin
2. Kyle Larson
3. Kurt Busch
4. Ryan Blaney
5. Kevin Harvick
6. Martin Truex Jr.
7. Tyler Reddick
8. Aric Almirola
9. Ross Chastain
10. Joey Logano
7:34 p.m. — Five laps left in the stage. Ryan Blaney and Kevin Harvick are battling for the fourth spot as we reach the end of the stage. Playoff points are on the line here.
7:32 p.m. — There are 10 laps to go in the first stage. It looks like Denny Hamlin’s stage to lose. He’s up 3.3 seconds on Kyle Larson. Kurt Busch is close behind at 3.8 seconds. No other driver is within six seconds.
7:30 p.m. — Chase Elliott has worked his way back into the top 10. He dealt with a tire issue earlier but he is very much in the race now.
7:29 p.m. — We’re through 100 of 367 laps at Darlington. Denny Hamlin has a 4.1-second lead on Kyle Larson. There are 15 laps to go in Stage 1.
7:27 p.m. — The sun is just about to set, meaning it will have less of an impact on drivers soon. It’s still shining on them off Turn 2 right now.
7:23 p.m. — Is there another playoff driver dealing with car issues? Tyler Reddick, who is running in seventh place, is dealing with a bit of vibration on his car.
7:21 p.m. — Kyle Larson has moved into second place after the pit stops. He is just about three seconds off Denny Hamlin’s pace during the 86th lap.
7:18 p.m. — Drivers are starting to head down to pit road at lap 82. Leader Denny Hamlin is among those that have gone into the pit. He maintains the lead as the other drivers cycle through their pit stops.
7:15 p.m. — We’re through 78 of 115 laps in Stage 1. Denny Hamlin is maintaining a lead that he has had since exiting pit road during the last caution. This is the longest consecutive stretch without a caution during the race.
7:11 p.m. — Chase Elliott is climbing back up after an early tire issue. He just passed Brad Keselowski and has worked his way back to 13th place. He is 8.8 seconds off the lead.
7:07 p.m. — Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick are having a fierce battle for the fourth spot in the race. Larson is keeping a high line on the outside and Harvick has nearly passed him a couple of times, but ultimately backed off just a bit.
7:04 p.m. — Once again, we are out of caution. The top five are Hamlin, Harvick, Blaney, Kurt Busch and Larson.
7:03 p.m. — Michael McDowell has spoken about his crash and how it changes his goals for the next two races.
7:01 p.m. — Alex Bowman’s car had a small fire on pit road. The No. 48 car is still running, but it has taken a beating through 52 laps.
6:58 p.m. — Denny Hamlin takes the lead after the latest caution. He is in first coming off pit road.
6:55 p.m. — Caution 4 (Lap 48). We have another crash. James Davison hit the outside wall. Cody Ware comes out with a right flat tire and he now has some damage to his right front. Davison is out of the race. Neither Davison nor Ware are playoff drivers.
6:52 p.m. — Kyle Larson has climbed into the top five. He’s about 3.5 seconds behind Kevin Harvick, who is leading the field through 44 laps.
6:48 p.m. — We’re out of caution now. Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. are leading the field right now on the 37th lap.
6:45 p.m. — Four playoff drivers have already suffered some sort of crash. Alex Bowman, William Byron and Chase Elliott have had minor incidents. Michael McDowell had a big crash that has knocked him out of the race. We’re through 34 laps.
6:42 p.m. — Caution 3 (Lap 32). Michael McDowell has crashed. The No. 34 car lost control and crashed into the outside wall before coming back across to crash into the inside wall. He didn’t hit any other cars. McDowell is done for the day.
6:41 p.m. — Chase Elliott had to go down pit road a second time after suffering some minor fender damage after a minor collision with a tire carrier. That has knocked him down the leaderboard a bit.
6:39 p.m. — Coming out of the pit, Kevin Harvick has taken the lead from Kurt Busch. Harvick won the 2020 Southern 500 and has won the event twice overall.
6:37 p.m. — Caution 2 (Lap 26). We’re at a competition caution now. Kurt Busch is still out in front. Michael McDowell has moved up to the eighth spot after pitting for new tires following the 17th lap. His new tires helped him climb up the standings.
6:34 p.m. — Bowman is back on the race track now. His car doesn’t look to be in the best shape, but he’s back out there, nonetheless.
6:33 p.m. — The caution is now over. Kurt Busch, who passed Ryan Blaney just before Bowman’s accident, is in the front of the field.
6:28 p.m — Caution 1 (Lap 17). Alex Bowman crashed into the wall a bit amid some issues with electrical systems. He also brushed William Byron’s right rear tire.
6:25 p.m. — Through 10 laps, Ryan Blaney remains in the lead. He has led for all 10 laps as the pole-sitter.
6:24 p.m. — Alex Bowman is dealing with some electrical issues. He’s still in the top five, but that could cause him some issues. It will be interesting to see if he can fix that when he heads to pit row.
6:22 p.m. — Michael McDowell (14th in the playoff standings) got close to hitting another car during the first turn. He managed to control his car just enough to avoid it.
6:20 p.m. — We are underway at Darlington. Pole-sitter Ryan Blaney leads after one lap.
6:17 p.m. — The cars are working their ways around the track behind the pace car. Ryan Blaney is on the pole, followed by Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman.
6:11 p.m. — The engines have been started. It won’t be long until the race begins.
6:09 p.m. — Two playoff drivers, Tyler Reddick and Denny Hamlin, ran in yesterday’s Xfinity Series race at Darlington. Reddick finished in seventh place while Hamlin finished 12th.
6:00 p.m. — The pre-race ceremonies are now underway!
5:58 p.m. — We’re almost ready to race. NBC’s pre-race coverage is ongoing and the Southern 500 is officially set to begin in 20 minutes, at 6:18 p.m. ET.
5:52 p.m. — Speaking of Elliott, he is the reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion. He raced from the pole at last year’s Southern 500, but he finished in 20th place during the race.
5:45 p.m. — Chase Elliott is driving the No. 9 car at Darlington. The design was chosen as part of the Chase Elliott Foundation’s “Desi9n To Drive” competition that benefits Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. IT features a paint scheme designed by Mary Frances Webb, a 15-year-old who receives cancer treatment at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
Chase Elliott’s paint scheme designed by 15 y.o. Mary Frances Webb from Athens, Ga.
Elliott’s scheme and uniform designed by cancer patients from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta in support of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. pic.twitter.com/AcMyzMonZY
— Alex Andrejev (@AndrejevAlex) September 5, 2021
5:36 p.m. — Bad news for Austin Dillon: he’ll start the race at the back of the pack after failing multiple pre-race inspections. Dillon finished 17th in NASCAR’s regular-season standings and was the first driver out of the 16-car playoff field.
5:35 p.m. — Larson is well ahead in the playoff standings at this point. His five wins have given him a big leg up in NASCAR’s playoff standings.
5:33 p.m. — Kyle Larson was just asked what it was like coming into the playoffs as a favorite. “I haven’t thought about it,” he told NBC Sports.
5:30 p.m. — The 72nd running of the Southern 500 is nearly here, and Darlington Raceway is looking sharp and ready to race.
NASCAR start time today
- Time: 6 p.m. ET (TV time)
- TV channel: NBCSN (TSN5 in Canada)
- Live stream: NBCSports.com | fuboTV ( 7-day free trial )
The green flag for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race on Darlington Raceway’s 1.366-mile egg-shaped oval is scheduled to drop at 6:18 p.m. ET.
Ideal weather conditions are expected. The National Weather Service’s Sunday forecast for Darlington, S.C., is for sunny skies and temperatures in the high 80s during the daytime, and clear skies with lows in the mid-to upper 60s at night.
NASCAR starting lineup at Darlington
Here is the complete NASCAR starting lineup for Sunday’s playoff race at Darlington Raceway, the Cook Out Southern 500.
(Playoff drivers are denoted by “p-” next to their names.)
|Start pos.||Driver||Car No.||Team|
|1||p-Ryan Blaney||12||Team Penske|
|2||p-Denny Hamlin||11||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|3||p-Kurt Busch||1||Chip Ganassi Racing|
|4||p-Chase Elliott||9||Hendrick Motorsports|
|5||p-Alex Bowman||48||Hendrick Motorsports|
|6||p-Kyle Larson||5||Hendrick Motorsports|
|7||p-Tyler Reddick||8||Richard Childress Racing|
|8||p-Aric Almirola||10||Stewart-Haas Racing|
|9||p-Kevin Harvick||4||Stewart-Haas Racing|
|10||p-Martin Truex Jr.||19||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|11||p-Joey Logano||22||Team Penske|
|12||p-Kyle Busch||18||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|13||p-Christopher Bell||20||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|14||p-William Byron||24||Hendrick Motorsports|
|15||p-Michael McDowell||34||Front Row Motorsports|
|16||p-Brad Keselowski||2||Team Penske|
|17||Bubba Wallace||23||23XI Racing|
|18||Ryan Preece||37||JTG Daugherty Racing|
|19||Ryan Newman||6||Roush Fenway Racing|
|20||Justin Haley||77||Spire Motorsports|
|21||Austin Dillon||3||Richard Childress Racing|
|22||Erik Jones||43||Richard Petty Motorsports|
|23||Ross Chastain||42||Chip Ganassi Racing|
|24||Chase Briscoe||14||Stewart-Haas Racing|
|25||Corey LaJoie||7||Spire Motorsports|
|26||Daniel Suarez||99||TrackHouse Racing|
|27||BJ McLeod||78||Live Fast Motorsports|
|28||Josh Bilicki||52||Rick Ware Racing|
|29||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||47||JTG Daugherty Racing|
|30||Matt DiBenedetto||21||Wood Brothers Racing|
|31||Cole Custer||41||Stewart-Haas Racing|
|32||Anthony Alfredo||38||Front Row Motorsports|
|33||Cody Ware||51||Petty Ware Racing|
|34||Chris Buescher||17||Roush Fenway Racing|
|35||Joey Gase||15||Rick Ware Racing|
|36||James Davison||53||Rick Ware Racing|
|37||Quin Houff||00||StarCom Racing|
NASCAR playoff standings
The Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington is the first of three races in the Round of 16. The other races are the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond on Sept. 11 and the Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol on Sept. 18. The playoff field will be cut down to 12 drivers after Bristol.
|1||Kyle Larson||5||Hendrick Motorsports||2052|
|2||Ryan Blaney||12||Team Penske||2024|
|3||Martin Truex Jr.||19||Joe Gibbs Racing||2024|
|4||Kyle Busch||18||Joe Gibbs Racing||2022|
|5||Chase Elliott||9||Hendrick Motorsports||2021|
|6||Alex Bowman||48||Hendrick Motorsports||2015|
|7||Denny Hamlin||11||Joe Gibbs Racing||2015|
|8||William Byron||24||Hendrick Motorsports||2014|
|9||Joey Logano||22||Team Penske||2013|
|10||Brad Keselowski||2||Team Penske||2008|
|11||Kurt Busch||1||Chip Ganassi Racing||2008|
|12||Christopher Bell||20||Joe Gibbs Racing||2005|
|13||Aric Almirola||10||Stewart-Haas Racing||2005|
|14||Michael McDowell||34||Front Row Motorsports||2005|
|15||Tyler Reddick||8||Richard Childress Racing||2003|
|16||Kevin Harvick||4||Stewart-Haas Racing||2002|