Hamlin conquers first Dover victory following a late pass; leads a JGR 1-2-3 finish

Denny Hamlin, who came into this weekend mounted with confidence, saved his best for the end after winning the first Drydene 311 event on Saturday, August 22, of a doubleheader weekend at Dover International Speedway following a late pass on teammate Martin Truex Jr. The victory was Hamlin’s sixth of the season (tied with Kevin Harvick for the most throughout the regular season), his first at Dover in his 29th attempt and the 43rd of his NASCAR Cup Series career.

The starting lineup was based on three statistical categories: current owner points standings, the results from a previous Cup race and the fastest lap from a previous Cup race. With that, Chase Elliott, coming off his historic victory at the Daytona International Speedway Road Course, started on pole position and was joined on the front row with Denny Hamlin. 

Rookie Brennan Poole started at the rear of the field due to failing pre-race inspection multiple times along with Daniel Suarez and Joey Gase, both of whom also started at the rear due to unapproved adjustments. In addition, Garrett Smithley, who was sent to the rear of the field, was assessed a pass-through penalty down pit road at the start of the race due to an impound procedure infraction.

When the green flag waved, Elliott launched ahead with an early jump to clear the field with the lead. Behind, Hamlin cleared the field to move into the runner-up spot in Turn 2 followed by teammate Martin Truex Jr. Jimmie Johnson and Joey Logano. Behind, William Byron was in sixth place and in front of Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick once the first lap was complete.

By the fifth lap, Elliott was ahead by more than a second over Hamlin. Teammates Johnson and Byron, both of whom were battling for the final spot to the Playoffs, were in sixth and seventh while Bowyer moved into third place ahead of Truex and Logano. 

Not long after, the caution flew the following lap when Kurt Busch, who was battling for a top-10 spot, spun and made head-on contact with the inside wall on the backstretch after being tapped by Erik Jones entering the turn. During the ensuing incident, Jones also received right-rear damage after getting hit by Alex Bowman and his No. 88 Acronis Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. The heavy left-front damage to his No. 1 Gearwrench Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE was enough to end Kurt Busch’s race in the garage and out of the race in last place of the 40-car field.

Under caution, Jones and Bowman made a pit stop to have the damage repaired to their respective machines. Chris Buescher, Corey LaJoie, Timmy Hill and rookie Christopher Bell also pitted.

When the race restarted around the Lap 10 mark, Elliott retained the lead following a strong start. Hamlin followed pursuit in the runner-up spot with Bowyer, Logano and Truex in the top five. Behind, Harvick and Byron battled for sixth place in front of Johnson.

By the 20th lap, Elliott was still ahead by more than a second over Hamlin. Behind, Harvick made his way into the top five after passing Truex. When the competition caution flew on Lap 25, Elliott was ahead by more than half a second over Hamlin followed by Bowyer, Harvick and Logano. By then, Byron and Johnson were in seventh and eighth followed by Keselowski while rookie Tyler Reddick was in 10th place. Ryan Blaney was in 11th place ahead of Kyle Busch and rookie Cole Custer while Aric Almirola was in 14th. Matt DiBenedetto, Austin Dillon and Matt Kenseth were in 16th, 18th and 19th while Bubba Wallace was in 21st. Ryan Newman and Erik Jones were in 24th and 25th.

Under the competition caution, nearly the entire field pitted and Logano exited first followed by a two-tire pit stop. Blaney and Almirola also gained spots up the leaderboard following two-tire pit stops while Hamlin edged Elliott as the first car to exit on four fresh tires.

When the pit stops concluded, Austin Dillon, who made his return behind the wheel after being absent last weekend at Daytona due to being diagnosed with COVID-19 symptoms, emerged with the lead after opting not to pit followed by Kenseth, Newman, Chris Buescher, Bell and Logano. Following the stops, Harvick made two extra pit stops to have lug nuts tightened on his No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang.

When the race resumed under green past the Lap 30 mark, Austin Dillon cleared Kenseth for the lead in Turn 2. Behind, Hamlin moved up to sixth while Elliott was back in 10th and after making the slightest of contact with Bowyer. By Lap 35, with Austin Dillon leading by more than a second over Kenseth, Buescher was in third place followed by Logano, Hamlin and Newman. Elliott was still stuck back in 11th place behind Almirola and Blaney.

By Lap 45, Austin Dillon extended his advantage to more than three seconds over Hamlin, who was charging to the front on fresh tires, followed by Kenseth, Logano and Bowyer. Five laps later, Dillon’s advantage decreased to above a second over Hamlin. Kenseth, on old tires, was still holding strong in third place ahead of teammates Logano, Keselowski and Bowyer. Behind, Truex was in eighth ahead of Newman, Johnson was in 11th in between Almirola and Blaney, Harvick moved up from 30th to 14th ahead of Elliott and Byron and Kyle Busch was in 18th. Jones was back in 21st followed by DiBenedetto and Wallace while Bowman was in 28th.

On Lap 59, Hamlin emerged with the lead over Austin Dillon while a variety of battles around the track among a multitude of competitors continued to ensue. For the remainder of the first stage under a dozen laps remaining, Hamlin was able to cruise to the stage win on Lap 70 and for his sixth stage victory of the season. Austin Dillon settled in second place, more than four seconds behind Hamlin, followed by Keselowski, Bowyer and Truex. Logano, Harvick, Johnson, Buescher and Almirola settled in the top 10. By then, Blaney and Kyle Busch were in 11th and 12th while Elliott fell back to 17th after leading the first 28 laps of the race. Byron was all the way back in 21st.

Under the stage break, the leaders pitted and Hamlin retained the lead after exiting pit road first followed by Truex, Bowyer, Keselowski and Austin Dillon. During the pit stops, Elliott had a slow stop and dropped all the way back to 28th. Following the pit stops, however, Kenseth was sent to the rear after being nabbed with a pit road speeding penalty.

The second stage commenced under green on Lap 77, and Hamlin cleared the field with the lead through Turn 2 followed by teammate Truex and Bowyer. A lap later, Johnson moved up to sixth after passing Logano while Kyle Busch battled Almirola for ninth place. 

By Lap 85, Hamlin was still ahead by more than half a second over teammate Truex followed by Bowyer, Keselowski and Austin Dillon. Behind, Harvick was in eighth place in between Logano and Kyle Busch.

When the race reached its 100-lap mark, Hamlin stabilized his advantage to nearly a second over teammate Truex. Bowyer was still in third place followed by Keselowski and Johnson, who was 19 spots ahead of teammate Byron and in prime position of moving back into the top-16 in the standings. Harvick was in eighth place, but pursuing for more while racing behind Logano and Austin Dillon. 

Twenty laps later, on Lap 120, Hamlin and his No. 11 FedEx Toyota were still at the front by more than two seconds over teammate Truex and his No. 19 SiriusXM Toyota. Bowyer and Keselowski were still in third and fourth followed by Johnson, whose No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE was 18 spots ahead of teammate Byron. Harvick was in sixth ahead of Logano and Kyle Busch while Austin Dillon, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Almirola were in ninth, 10th and 11th. Blaney was in 12th followed by rookies Reddick and Custer while Jones was in 15th. Elliott was back up in 16th followed by Newman and DiBenedetto while Buescher, Wallace and Bell were in 20th, 21st and 22nd.

Not long after, Byron was lapped by Hamlin as he continued to struggle with the handling of his No. 24 AXALTA Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE and keeping pace with the leaders, leading to him and crew chief Chad Knaus voicing their frustrations over the radio.

Thirteen laps later, pit stops under green started as Harvick made the turn to pit road followed by Bell, Custer, rookie John Hunter Nemechek and Jones. The ensuing laps, Bowyer made his pit stop under green followed by Logano, Almirola, Truex, Blaney, Austin Dillon, Johnson and race leader Hamlin. During the cycle of pit stops under green, Johnson nearly collided with Stenhouse Jr. on the track, who slowed and made a late turn to pit road in Turn 3 in front of Johnson, who was coming with full speed, and caused Johnson to react swiftly to the right to avoid a collision.

When most of the pit stops concluded and the field cycled through, DiBenedetto emerged with the lead on Lap 143. Buescher was in second followed by Byron, McDowell and Bowman while Hamlin and Truex were in seventh and eighth.

On Lap 160, DiBenedetto made his pit stop under green and another lap later, Hamlin bolted his way around Byron to move back into the lead followed by Truex. By then, 19 competitors were pinned a lap behind the leaders, names that included Newman, Wallace, Bell, Ty Dillon, Buescher, Ryan Preece, Kenseth, Nemechek, DiBenedetto and Suarez. Shortly after, Almirola made an unscheduled pit stop under green to address a loose wheel.

With five laps remaining in the second stage, Hamlin stabilized his advantage to more than a second over teammate Truex. Bowyer was still holding strong in third place followed by Kyle Busch, Keselowski and Harvick. Johnson was in eighth while Byron was back in 25th and two laps behind the leaders following his pit stop under green. 

With no competition lurking behind and with a dominating car, Hamlin ran away with the second stage victory on Lap 185 as he claimed his series-leading seventh stage victory of the season. By then, he had lapped Blaney, who was in 15th. Truex was in second followed by Bowyer, Kyle Busch and Keselowski. Harvick, Johnson, Logano, Stenhouse and Elliott were scored in the top 10.

Under the stage break, the leaders pitted and Truex, on this occasion, emerged with the lead over Hamlin. Teammate Kyle Busch exited in third place followed by Bowyer and Keselowski. Following pit stops, however, Austin Dillon was sent to the rear of the field due to being nabbed a pit road speeding penalty.

When the final stage started with 119 laps remaining, Truex, who restarted on the outside lane, jumped with the lead ahead of teammate Kyle Busch, who restarted on the inside lane in second place. Hamlin, who restarted in the second row on the outside lane next to Keselowski, was back in fourth. Behind, Bowyer was in fifth ahead of Logano while Harvick, Elliott, Johnson and Stenhouse were running in the top 10. By then, Johnson was 20 spots ahead of Byron, who continued to struggle to keep pace with the leaders and his teammate for the final spot in the Playoffs.

With 100 laps remaining, Truex stabilized his advantage to nearly a second over Kyle Busch and his green No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry. Hamlin was in third place, trailing by, followed by Keselowski, Bowyer, Logano and Harvick. Elliott was in eighth followed by teammate Johnson and Stenhouse. By then, 18 competitors were running on the lead lap with Ty Dillon running in 18th.

Ten laps later, Truex, who was pursuing his first win since June at Martinsville Speedway, was still ahead by less than a second over teammate Kyle Busch and two seconds over his other teammate, Denny Hamlin. By then, with the Playoff picture dominating the headlines in the final races of the regular season, Johnson was in ninth, Jones was in 12th, Reddick was in 14th, DiBenedetto was in 16th ahead of Buescher, Almirola was in 21st in between Newman and Bell, Wallace was in 25th and Byron was back in 29th.

Another 10 laps later and with the race continuing to dwindle under green, Truex was still leading teammate Kyle Busch by half a second with Hamlin trailing by less than two seconds.

Under 70 laps remaining, Buescher made a pit stop under green followed by Bowman. Shortly after, Hamlin passed teammate Kyle Busch for the runner-up spot and encountered a bevy of lapped traffic while continuing to pursue teammate Truex for the lead. Behind, with lapped traffic starting to interfere those on the lead lap, Harvick was in sixth place in between Keselowski and Elliott.

With 60 laps remaining, Harvick and Elliott made a pit stop under green and they were soon joined by Logano, Johnson, Newman, Bowyer and Kyle Busch. Not long after, Hamlin and Truex also made pit stops under green.

While most of the field pitted, others that included new leader Keselowski had yet to make a stop while they opted to stretch their fuel cell to the fullest as possible. Under 50 laps remaining and with Keselowski, Stenhouse and Reddick pitting, Austin Dillon, who had yet to make a pit stop under green, was leading by more than 11 seconds followed by Truex, Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Bowyer, Harvick and Elliott.

Under 40 laps remaining, Austin Dillon and his No. 3 Dow/Behr Ultra Scuff Defense Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE were still leading by four seconds over Truex, who continued to chip away Dillon’s huge advantage on old tires and low fuel. Then, with approximately 30 laps remaining, Truex reassumed the lead while Austin Dillon, who was hoping for a caution to cycle back with the leaders, pitted and was eventually lapped.

Under 20 laps remaining, Truex was leading by nearly a second over teammate Hamlin with teammate Kyle Busch trailing by less than six seconds. Ten laps later and with 10 laps remaining, however, the battle for the lead started brewing with Hamlin drawing himself right to the rear bumper of Truex and challenging for the lead while Truex struggled to navigate his way around the lapped car of Almirola. 

A lap later, Hamlin emerged with the lead after gaining a huge run through Turns 3 and 4, crossing beneath Truex and sliding up in front of Truex in Turn 1 to clear him for good through Turn 2. Another lap later, Hamlin was ahead by four-tenths of a second over Truex. When Hamlin started the final lap, he was ahead by nearly a second from teammate Truex. With his teammate unable to gain a run to challenge the lead back, Hamlin was able to cross the finish line in first place and take the checkered flag for the win by more than a second. 

With the win, Hamlin recorded the 150th Cup win for Toyota and the 183rd Cup win for Joe Gibbs Racing. He also recorded his 12th Cup victory with crew chief Chris Gabehart. Sunday’s Dover event marked the first time since Homestead last November where three Joe Gibbs Racing competitors rounded out the podium results. Hamlin’s victory marked the ninth time since June where a Cup race was won by either Hamlin or Kevin Harvick as Hamlin continued his pursuit and momentum for his first Cup championship.

“I’ve been running down the leaders these last few weeks, but I haven’t been able to get there,” Hamlin said in Victory Lane on 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] Just was able to work the top line there a little bit to get some momentum and it looked like our car was just a little bit better at moving around tp different lines. Proud of this whole FedEx Office team. This Camry was fast today. It was just unbelievable how good it was. Pit crew did an amazing job. Win No. 43. This is pretty awesome.” 

“People always ask when you have Q&A’s, ‘What’s your least favorite track?'” Hamlin added. “I always say Dover just because I’m not good here. I love the track. I just haven’t been very good here, but we just have unbelievable cars right now. It just seems like we’re coming to the race track prepared. I’m putting the work in and we’re getting results because of it.”

Truex, who led 88 laps, settled in the runner-up spot for his ninth top-five result of the season followed by teammate Kyle Busch, who led three laps and recorded his 11th top-five result. Following the race, Truex was straightforward in expressing his displeasure with the lapped car of Almirola for holding him up and allowing Hamlin to pass him for the lead and the win.

“Really, I think if [Almirola] just wasn’t pinned in on the bottom [lane] in front of me, I would’ve been fine,” Truex said. “Every time I tried to move up to get some air on my car, he just slide up in front of me like an idiot. He’s the reason we lost the lead but in the end, we weren’t good enough. I thought that [Hamlin] was better than us all day long. We got the lead there in the pits and was able to use clean air to our advantage. I was never happy with the car all day long. The SiriusXM Camry was fast, but the balance was all over the place. It was firing off tight and getting really loose on the long runs. At the end, [there was] nothing I could do. Just out of control, sideways.”

“We had a pretty fast Interstate Batteries Camry,” Busch said. “We made it all the way upfront and did a good job there. The time that we put tires on under green, the car was really fast, really good. So, I was optimistic keeping up with Truex. Then once we got tires on it, I could, maybe, keep up or be faster. We were so tight at the end. It went from being four, five numbers loose to four, five numbers tight. A ten number swing in just putting tires on. Crazy how that happens, but [we] come home with a good solid third place. [I] Got two good teammates, notebook, everything that they got to lean on. Hopefully, we can work on some things for tonight, get ourselves better and try to come out here with a win tomorrow.”

Harvick recorded a strong fourth-place result followed by Elliott, who earned his ninth top-five result. Bowyer, Johnson, Logano, Keselowski and Stenhouse finished in the top 10.

Almirola, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Bowyer and DiBenedetto continue to remain inside the top-16 cutline following their runs on Saturday. With his seventh top-10 result of this season, Johnson holds sole possession of the 16th and final spot to the Playoffs by three points over teammate Byron, who concluded his long race in 28th place. Jones finished 12th and he trails the top-16 cutline by 22 points while Reddick, who finished 13th, trails by 45 points.

DiBenedetto finished 20th and will start on the pole for Sunday’s Cup Dover race, second of the weekend, alongside 19th-place finisher Newman.

There were 15 lead changes for 10 different leaders. The race featured four cautions for 21 laps.

With his 16th top-five result, Harvick continues to lead the regular-season series standings by 100 points over Hamlin.

Results.

1. Denny Hamlin, 115 laps led, Stage 1 & 2 winner

2. Martin Truex Jr., 88 laps led

3. Kyle Busch, three laps led

4. Kevin Harvick

5. Chase Elliott, 27 laps led

6. Clint Bowyer

7. Jimmie Johnson

8. Joey Logano

9. Brad Keselowski, nine laps led

10. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., one lap

11. Cole Custer

12. Erik Jones

13. Tyler Reddick, one lap down

14. Ryan Blaney, one lap down

15. Austin Dillon, one lap down, 49 laps led

16. Chris Buescher, one lap down

17. Aric Almirola, two laps down

18. Ty Dillon, two laps down

19. Ryan Newman, two laps down

20. Matt DiBenedetto, two laps down, 17 laps led

21. Alex Bowman, two laps down

22. Christopher Bell, two laps down

23. Matt Kenseth, two laps down, one lap led

24. John Hunter Nemechek, two laps down

25. Ryan Preece, two laps down

26. Michael McDowell, three laps down

27. Bubba Wallace, three laps down

28. William Byron, three laps down, one lap led

29. Corey LaJoie, three laps down

30. Daniel Suarez, five laps down

31. J.J. Yeley, nine laps down

32. Josh Bilicki, 12 laps down

33. Quin Houff, 13 laps down

34. Timmy Hill, 13 laps down

35. Joey Gase, 18 laps down

36. Brennan Poole – OUT, Rear end

37. Garrett Smithley – OUT, Battery

38. B.J. McLeod – OUT, Handling

39. Reed Sorenson – OUT, Handling

40. Kurt Busch – OUT, Accident

The NASCAR Cup Series will return the following day, August 23, for its second doubleheader series event of the weekend at Dover, which will air at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN.



The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

Andrew Kim
An avid motorsports enthusiast from California with aspirations of working in any form of communications, PR or digital/social media in motorsports.

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