Harvick, Hamlin looking to get into win column tonight in Darlington

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 5, 2021

By Pete Iacobelli

AP Sports Writer

DARLINGTON, S.C. — So you’re saying there’s a chance.

That’s certainly the mindset of Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin, who enter NASCAR’s playoff chase at the Southern 500 without once celebrating in Victory Lane this season. It was Harvick and Hamlin who dominated in 2020, and the pair swept the three events at Darlington Raceway a year ago.

“There’s no time like Darlington to get back to winning,” track president Kerry Tharp said.

Harvick and Hamlin hope to break the drought tonight. That could be difficult with the seasons put together by Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. Harvick won the Southern 500 a year ago, part of his series-best nine victories, and finished fifth in the final standings.

“You obviously want to win, but some years just don’t go exactly how you want them to go and I think those are the years that you’ve got to dig down and do the things that our guys have done this year,” said Harvick, seeded last in the 16-driver playoff field. “So, got to be in it to win it, and we’ve given ourselves a chance and see where it all falls in the end.”

Hamlin was close behind Harvick with seven victories a year ago. Unlike Harvick, Hamlin was part of the final four for the championship but came up short of the title.

Blaney had his Penske race car locked into the playoffs for a while. But his team enters on a tear after winning the past two weeks at Michigan and Daytona, and he will start on the pole. This will be the first race at Darlington without restrictions on crowd size since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020. Larson is a 3-1 favorite to win, according to FanDuel.