The first race of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs was dominated by Denny Hamlin, but won by Kyle Larson.
The Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway is one of NASCAR’s oldest races. It is considered by many to be one of the crown jewel races in the top division of stock car racing. That makes it a race that every driver wants to win. Making it the first race of the 10-race post season makes it a race that all 16 Playoff drivers REALLY want to win!
The race looked to be Denny Hamlin’s to win for the first two stages. Denny won both stage one and stage two of the race while leading a race high 177 laps. However, late in the race Denny became one of more than half of the Playoff drivers that fell victim to either misfortune or mistake. Denny made a pit stop and felt that he had a loose wheel when he returned to the track. This caused him to have to pit a second time and took the chance to win the race away from Denny.
Kyle Larson managed to work his way to the front through the race. His crew adjusted his car through the race as well to make it handle better and therefore able to go faster. Kyle took the lead with 55 laps remaining. He was able to keep that lead through the end of the race and win his first Cup Series race at Darlington Raceway. It was his third points race win of the season and his first win in the post-season. He also won the 2023 All-Star Race (a non-points race).
Tyler Reddick finished in second and Chris Buescher claimed third. See the complete race results for the Cook Out Southern 500 here.
With the win, Kyle Larson gets an automatic advance to the Round of 12. That puts him at the top of the Playoff Standings following the race at Darlington. William Byron is in second-place with Tyler Reddick in third-place. See the complete 2023 Playoff Standings here.
The second race of the 2023 Playoffs is the Hollywood Casino 400 this Sunday, September 10th at Kansas Speedway.
(Feature photo credit: YouTube)
By: Buck Stevens