Kurt Verlin
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Toyota Returns to NASCAR with Race Win

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Denny Hamlin wins 2020 Toyota 500
Photo: Toyota

The COVID-19 pandemic is not over, but racing is back in the NASCAR world, and Toyota took no time at all to return to its winning ways — this time with Denny Hamlin at the wheel.

Earlier this month, NASCAR released a revised Cup Series schedule featuring a dense assortment of races taking place every Sunday and almost every Wednesday in between. Only one of these races was part of the original, pre-COVID-19 schedule, and because of the different restrictions on gatherings across states, the short-term schedule features a limited number of tracks and includes a few repeats.

Indeed, the first two races both took place at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina. While Toyota managed to earn three top-10 finishes at the first race on Sunday, it wasn’t until Wednesday’s Toyota 500 that, fittingly, the manufacturer and its drivers really showed up.

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Denny Hamlin celebrates Toyota 500 win in COVID-19 mask
Photo: Toyota

Hamlin, who won the season-opening Daytona 500, was running in the top five all evening long and took the lead for the last time, under caution, on lap 197 of 208. The race was then called shortly after because of rain, but there was no question that Hamlin was a deserving winner. Behind him, another four Camry drivers finished in the top 11.

“I’ve got my happy face on and made sure I brought it with me today,” said Hamlin of the unique mask he wore following Wednesday’s race. “The pit crew did a great job today. Everybody really. I was pretty happy with how it all turned out. This is a driver’s race track. You can move around, you can do different things to make your car handle. We got it right today.”

Denny Hamlin currently sits eighth in the standings with two wins to his name, with Martin Truex Jr the only Toyota driver ahead of him. Toyota is second in the manufacturers’ championship behind Ford and ahead of Chevrolet, but with many more races (hopefully) to come, it’s far too soon to say which driver and which car has the advantage in 2020.

Race Winner: Learn more about the Toyota Camry