Denny Hamlin charges to Saturday Dover Cup victory
Denny Hamlin passed teammate Martin Truex Jr. for the lead with nine laps to go and went on to win Saturday’s Cup race at Dover International Speedway.
The victory is Hamlin’s sixth of the year, tying him with Kevin Harvick for the most this season. Hamlin and Harvick have combined to win three of the last four Cup races.
“I’ve been running down the leaders these last few weeks, but I haven’t been able to get there,” Hamlin told NBCSN. “We just didn’t control that restart there and we just had to battle back. We had to go back and get it. I was able to work the top line there a little bit to get the momentum. It looked like our car was just a little bit better at moving around to different lines.”
Hamlin swept both stages in scoring his first career Cup victory at Dover.
Truex’s runner-up finish ended his streak of five consecutive third-place finishes, a million to one shot. The odds were 23.5 million to one that Truex would finish third in six consecutive races.
Kyle Busch finished third, giving Joe Gibbs Racing a 1-2-3 finish. Busch was followed by Harvick and Chase Elliott, who won last week’s race on the Daytona road course.
Jimmie Johnson placed seventh and moved ahead of Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron for what would be the final playoff spot with two races left in the regular season. Johnson leads Byron by three points. Byron lost 28 points to Johnson on Saturday.
Johnson was solid at the track he’s won 11 times before. He scored seven stage points.
Byron struggled with his car’s handling and had a pit strategy gamble fail and eventually put him two laps down, ruining his race. He finished three laps down in 28th.
The series races again at Dover on Sunday, completing the doubleheader weekend. The race is at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN.
STAGE 1 WINNER: Denny Hamlin
STAGE 2 WINNER: Denny Hamlin
WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Chase Elliott’s fifth-place finish was his fifth top 10 in a row. ... Jimmie Johnson moved into a playoff spot with his seventh-place finish. This marks the third time this season he’s had back-to-back top-10 finishes. He’s had three consecutive top 10s once this season. ... Ricky Stenhouse Jr.'s 10th-place finish is his first top 10 in the last 11 races.
WHO HAD A BAD RACE: William Byron entered the race 25 points ahead of Jimmie Johnson for the final playoff spo and left outside the playoff picture after a 28th-place finish. ... Kurt Busch crashed early and finished last in the 40-car field. The incident was triggered by contact from Erik Jones, who apologized on NBCSN after the race for the incident.
NOTABLE: Denny Hamlin said after the race that the goal for this season is 10 wins. He’s 60% of the way threre.
NEXT: Sunday at Dover (4 p.m. ET on NBCS)