Saturday, March 2, 2024

Denny Hamlin speeds to Bristol Night Race win

Denny Hamlin speeding on pit road seems to be a recurring event. Him winning races is also just as frequent.

Despite being ordered to the rear for a speeding penalty following a lap 70 caution for Austin Cindric getting airbourne after hitting A.J. Allmendinger, Hamlin had plenty of time to make up lost ground. After spending the rest of the first and second stages catching up, he took the lead from his Joe Gibbs Racing team-mate Ty Gibbs on lap 354 and led 142 laps to clinch his third win of the year and third at Bristol Motor Speedway.

“It’s our year. I just feel like we’ve got it all put together. We’ve got the speed every single type of race track. Nothing to stop us at this point,” Hamlin said in his post-race interview before declaring to the jeering fans, “I beat your favourite driver. All of them.”

Fellow JGR driver Christopher Bell dominated the first two stages and led a race-high 187 laps, meaning the trio combined to lead 481 of 500 laps. The team’s fourth driver Martin Truex Jr. struggled mightily and brought out a caution for hitting the wall. Although he finished two laps down, he squeezed into the Round of 12 by just four points thanks to bonuses as the regular season champion; the latter caveat means he is tied for the points lead with William Byron.

Hamlin’s 23XI Racing employee Bubba Wallace claimed the twelfth and final spot in the next round. While Bristol is one of his weaker tracks and he finished a lap down, a third-place Stage #1 finish helped boost him over Ricky Stenhouse Jr. by seven points.

Reigning champion Joey Logano‘s hopes of repeating were dashed by a crash on lap 262 in which Corey LaJoie spun in front of him and also collected Ty Dillon and Justin Haley. Kevin Harvick also received some damage in the incident and placed a disappointing twenty-ninth, meaning his final season ends with a first-round exit. Michael McDowell finished sixth but did not advance to the next round, having been placed in a bad situation after crashing at Darlington.

“It’s a real bummer,” said Logano, whose elimination means the NASCAR Cup Series will still not have a back-to-back champion; the last driver to achieve the feat was Jimmie Johnson during his five consecutive titles from 2006 to 2010. “You get out of the race like that and you’re behind the wall and you’re in denial for a minute. You don’t want to believe that it happened and you want to think that it’s fixable, but the car was tore up too bad.”

The race was marred by concerns of rain, forcing the start to be pushed up an hour only for the first stage to suffer two rain delays.

Race results

Finish Start Number Driver Team Manufacturer Laps Status
1 2 11 Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 500 Running
2 36 5 Kyle Larson Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 500 Running
3 1 20 Christopher Bell Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 500 Running
4 20 17 Chris Buescher RFK Racing Ford 500 Running
5 8 54 Ty Gibbs Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 500 Running
6 4 34 Michael McDowell Front Row Motorsports Ford 500 Running
7 7 9 Chase Elliott^ Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 500 Running
8 6 6 Brad Keselowski RFK Racing Ford 500 Running
9 3 24 William Byron Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 500 Running
10 25 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet 500 Running
11 16 42 Carson Hocevar* Legacy Motor Club Chevrolet 499 Running
12 17 41 Ryan Preece Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 499 Running
13 13 48 Alex Bowman Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 499 Running
14 9 23 Bubba Wallace 23XI Racing Toyota 499 Running
15 12 45 Tyler Reddick 23XI Racing Toyota 499 Running
16 30 38 Todd Gilliland Front Row Motorsports Ford 499 Running
17 18 3 Austin Dillon Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 499 Running
18 26 10 Aric Almirola Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 499 Running
19 5 19 Martin Truex Jr. Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 498 Running
20 15 8 Kyle Busch Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 498 Running
21 24 99 Daniel Suárez Trackhouse Racing Team Chevrolet 498 Running
22 11 12 Ryan Blaney Team Penske Ford 498 Running
23 23 1 Ross Chastain Trackhouse Racing Team Chevrolet 498 Running
24 31 43 Erik Jones Legacy Motor Club Chevrolet 497 Running
25 10 7 Corey LaJoie Spire Motorsports Chevrolet 497 Running
26 35 15 J.J. Yeley* Rick Ware Racing Ford 495 Running
27 14 14 Chase Briscoe Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 495 Running
28 32 21 Harrison Burton Wood Brothers Racing Ford 495 Running
29 21 4 Kevin Harvick Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 495 Running
30 22 16 A.J. Allmendinger Kaulig Racing Chevrolet 491 Running
31 34 78 B.J. McLeod* Live Fast Motorsports Chevrolet 490 Running
32 29 2 Austin Cindric Team Penske Ford 488 Running
33 33 77 Ty Dillon Spire Motorsports Chevrolet 263 Accident
34 28 22 Joey Logano Team Penske Ford 262 Accident
35 19 31 Justin Haley Kaulig Racing Chevrolet 261 Accident
36 27 51 Ryan Newman Rick Ware Racing Ford 260 Accident
Bold – Currently in playoffs
^ – Currently in owner playoffs
Underline – Eliminated from playoffs
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for points