Hamlin fends off Larson for third Cup victory of 2024 at Dover

Denny Hamlin earned a monstrous NASCAR Cup Series victory in the Würth 400 at Dover Motor Speedway on Sunday, April 28, after fending off Kyle Larson during a 62-lap dash to the finish while dominating the final stage period. 

The three-time Daytona 500 champion from Chesterfield, Virginia, led twice for a race-high 136 of 400-scheduled laps in an event where he started sixth and ran up front throughout the event.

Hamlin accumulated a handful of stage points during the first two stage periods before leading for the first time before the start of the third stage after squeezing his way past Larson and Alex Bowman on pit road during the second stage break period and pit cycle. 

Despite being beaten off of pit road by Larson during a cycle of green flag pit stops with nearly 80 laps remaining, Hamlin quickly reassumed the lead from Larson during a late-race restart period with 72 laps remaining before he had to fend off Larson again during another restart period with 62 laps remaining.

Despite having an advantage that stretched as high as one second evaporate in the closing laps while mired within a bevy of lapped traffic, which enabled Larson to gain ground, Hamlin managed to fend off Larson’s late-race charge during the final 62-lap run to claim his third Cup Series victory of the 2024 season as he won by two-tenths of a second over Larson.

With on-track qualifying that determined the starting lineup on Saturday, April 27, Kyle Busch secured his first Cup pole position of the 2024 season and the 34th of his career after posting a pole-winning lap at 162.191 mph in 22.196 seconds. Joining him on the front row was Ryan Blaney, who clocked in the second-fastest qualifying lap at 161.951 mph in 22.229 seconds. 

Before the event, Christopher Bell and Zane Smith dropped to the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments made to their respective entries. Kaz Grala also dropped to the rear of the field in a backup car due to wrecking his primary car during Saturday’s practice session.

When the green flag waved and the event commenced, Kyle Busch launched his No. 8 FICO Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 ahead from the outside lane as he led the field through the first two turns and the backstretch. As the field behind fanned out and battled for early spots, Busch led the first lap ahead of Ryan Blaney and Tyler Reddick while Denny Hamlin and William Byron battled for fourth place in front of Noah Gragson. 

Through the first five scheduled laps, Busch was leading by half a second over Blaney as Reddick, Byron and Hamlin followed suit in the top five while Gragson, Michael McDowell, AJ Allmendinger, Chase Briscoe and Alex Bowman battled in the top 10. Amid the early on-track battles, Busch retained the lead by six-tenths of a second over Blaney by the Lap 10 mark. 

At the Lap 25 mark, Busch continued to lead Blaney by three-tenths of a second, with Reddick, Byron and Hamlin battling behind in the top five. Gragson, McDowell, Allmendinger, Briscoe and Bowman continued to run in the top 10 as Busch stabilized his lead to nearly three-tenths of a second over Blaney by the Lap 30 mark. 

On Lap 34, Blaney made his move beneath Busch through Turns 3 and 4 as he assumed the lead in his No. 12 Würth Ford Mustang Dark Horse. Nearing the Lap 40 mark, however, the event’s first caution period flew after Todd Gilliland slid up the track beneath Austin Dillon through Turns 3 and 4 before spinning his No. 38 A&W Ford Mustang Dark Horse towards the frontstretch’s inside wall.  

During the event’s first caution period, the lead lap field led by Blaney pitted for service. Following the pit stops, Blaney retained the lead after exiting pit road first followed by Byron, Hamlin, Reddick, Busch, McDowell, Gragson, Martin Truex Jr., Chase Briscoe and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.. Amid the pit stops, Reddick made contact with newcomer Corey Heim while trying to exit his pit box and Bell had to reverse his No. 20 Yahoo! Toyota Camry XSE to have a wheel tightened. In addition, Michael McDowell was penalized for speeding. 

When the event restarted under green on Lap 47, Blaney muscled ahead from the inside lane as he retained the lead through the first two turns. Meanwhile, Byron was being challenged by Reddick for the runner-up spot. Through Turns 3 and 4, Hamlin went up the track through Turns 3 and 4, which cost him a handful of spots and dropped him to seventh by the Lap 50 mark, where he was racing behind Kyle Busch, Briscoe, Gragson and Martin Truex Jr. By then, Blaney was leading by nearly three-tenths of a second over Byron. 

At the Lap 70 mark, Blaney extended his advantage to nearly a second over Byron while Reddick, Busch and Truex were scored in the top five ahead of Larson, Hamlin, Bowman, Stenhouse and Gragson. Meanwhile, Ryan Preece, who had smoke brewing inside of his No. 41 Morton Buildings Ford Mustang Dark Horse and who pitted early, took his car to the garage and eventually became the first retiree of the event. 

Nine laps later, Byron implemented a crossover move on Blaney through the backstretch to muscle his No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 ahead as he assumed the lead for the first time of the day. Behind, Reddick retained third place ahead of a hard-charging Truex while Busch was in fifth ahead of Larson and Hamlin. 

By Lap 100, Byron was leading by a second over Reddick, who claimed the runner-up spot from Blaney a few laps earlier, while Truex battled Blaney for third place. Behind, Busch retained fifth ahead of Larson, Hamlin, Bowman, Elliott and Stenhouse while Allmendinger, Gragson, Brad Keselowski, Bubba Wallace and Chris Buescher trailed in the top 15. Meanwhile, Ross Chastain was back in 16th as Ty Gibbs, Austin Cindric, rookie Josh Berry and Christopher Bell occupied the top 20. 

Fourteen laps later and with the leaders mired in lapped traffic, Truex, who zipped past Reddick’s No. 45 McDonald’s Toyota Camry XSE a lap earlier, muscled his No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry XSE into the lead as Byron was having issues trying to navigate past the lapped competitor of Daniel Suarez. Truex would proceed to drive away from Byron as Reddick attempted to battle Byron for the runner-up spot. 

Then with three laps remaining in the first stage period, the caution flew after Brad Keselowski, who was battling Gragson in the top 15, spun from the middle to the apron of the track in Turn 2 as he emerged with a flat right-rear tire to his No. 6 BuildSubmarines.com Ford Mustang Dark Horse. Keselowski’s incident was enough for the first stage period scheduled to conclude on Lap 120 to conclude under caution as Truex claimed his second Cup stage victory of the 2024 season. Byron settled in second followed by Reddick, Blaney and Larson while Hamlin, Busch, Bowman, Elliott and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. were scored in the top 10. 

Under the stage break, the lead lap field led by Truex pitted for service. Following the pit stops, Truex retained the lead after exiting pit road first just ahead of Byron as Blaney, Reddick, Hamlin, Larson, Busch, Bowman, Elliott and Allmendinger exited suit in the top 10. 

The second stage period started on Lap 129 as Truex and Byron occupied the front row. At the start, Truex and Byron battled dead even for the lead through the first two turns before Truex muscled ahead from the outside lane through the backstretch. As Truex led the field back to the frontstretch during the proceeding lap, Byron, Reddick and Blaney followed suit from second to fourth, respectively, while Hamlin and Larson battled dead even for fifth place in front of Bowman, Busch and Elliott. 

Just past the Lap 140 mark, Truex was leading by six-tenths of a second over Byron while Reddick, Blaney and Larson were racing in the top five ahead of Hamlin, Bowman, Busch, Elliott and AJ Allmendinger. Stenhouse, Bubba Wallace, Chris Buescher, Austin Cindric and Ty Gibbs followed suit in the top 15 as Truex extended his advantage to a second over Byron by the Lap 150 mark. 

Through the first 165 scheduled laps, Truex continued to lead by more than a second over Byron followed by Reddick, Blaney and Larson, all of whom continued to race in the top five, as Hamlin, Bowman, Busch, Elliott and Allmendinger also continued to run in the top 10. Behind, Stenhouse, Wallace, Busch, Gibbs and Cindric were scored in the top 15 ahead of Berry, Chastain, Gragson, Bell and Logano while Carson Hocevar, Daniel Hemric, Briscoe, John Hunter Nemechek and Corey LaJoie were mired in the top 25. Meanwhile, Corey Heim, who was making his Cup Series debut while substituting for the injured Erik Jones in the No. 43 Dollar Tree/Petty 75th Toyota Camry XSE, was in 26th ahead of Daniel Suarez, McDowell, Justin Haley and Keselowski. 

Fifteen laps later, Truex extended his advantage to more than two seconds over Byron while Larson was up to third place as Reddick and Blaney followed suit in the top five. Behind, Bowman, Hamlin, Busch, Elliott and Stenhouse continued to run in the top 10 while Wallace moved up to 11th as he was ahead of Buescher, Gibbs, Berry and Chastain. 

Another three laps later, green flag pit stops commenced as Bell, Allmendinger and Cindric pitted before Byron and Larson pitted during the following lap. The leader Truex would pit under green on Lap 184 along with Bowman, Hamlin, Elliott and Reddick while more names including Blaney and Busch pitted by Lap 186. With more of the leaders making pit stops, Corey LaJoie, who has yet to pit, was leading in his No. 7 Gainbridge Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 while Larson, who managed to exit pit road ahead of Truex, was running in third place. LaJoie would continue to lead the race and remain on the track by the Lap 190 mark as Larson trailed LaJoie by 19 seconds. 

At the halfway mark on Lap 200, LaJoie, who continued to run on the track on old tires and fuel, was leading by more than 13 seconds over Larson while Truex, Reddick and Bowman occupied the top five ahead of Hamlin, Busch, Elliott, Blaney and Stenhouse. Meanwhile, Wallace, Gibbs, Buescher and Allmendinger rounded out the top 14 competitors who were scored on the lead lap while Bell was the first competitor scored a lap down in 15th place. 

Eighteen laps later, Larson tracked and overtook LaJoie, who had led 33 laps, to assume the race lead. With LaJoie pitting under green just past the Lap 220 mark, teammate Bowman moved his No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 into the runner-up spot while Hamlin, Truex, Busch, Elliott, Reddick, Blaney, Stenhouse and Wallace were running in the top 10.  

By Lap 235, Larson retained the lead by two-tenths of a second over teammate Bowman while Hamlin trailed in third place by eight-tenths of a second. Meanwhile, Truex trailed the lead by a second in fourth place followed by Elliott, who trailed the lead by two seconds, as Busch, Reddick, Blaney, Stenhouse and Wallace continued to race in the top 10 ahead of Gibbs, Allmendinger, Bell, Buescher and Berry. Meanwhile, Keselowski, who scraped the outside wall 15 laps earlier, was mired in 34th place and scored multiple laps down after pitting to address a flat tire to his entry.  

When the second stage period concluded on Lap 250, Larson, who was mired in lapped traffic, captured his sixth Cup stage victory of the 2024 season. Teammate Bowman settled in second followed by Hamlin, Truex and Elliott while Busch, Reddick, Blaney, Stenhouse and Wallace were scored in the top 10. By then, 21 of 37 starters were scored on the lead lap while Daniel Hemric managed to fend off Corey Heim to be the first competitor scored a lap down and the recipient of the free pass. 

During the stage break, the lead lap field led by Larson returned to pit road for service. Following the pit stops, Hamlin, who was in a tight three-wide squeeze against Bowman and Larson to exit pit road first, managed to fend off both to exit first as Larson and Bowman followed suit in second and third, respectively. Busch and Truex exited in the top five as Elliott, Blaney, Reddick, Wallace and Gibbs all exited pit road in top-10 spots. 

With 142 laps remaining, the final stage commenced as Hamlin and Larson occupied the front row. At the start, Hamlin rocketed his No. 11 Mavis, Brakes, Tires Toyota Camry XSE ahead from the outside lane as he led the field through the first two turns and the backstretch while Larson retained second ahead of teammate Bowman and Busch. Truex was mired back in fifth ahead of Blaney, Elliott, Gibbs, Reddick, Stenhouse, Wallace, Bell and Berry, as Hamlin retained the lead with 140 laps remaining. 

With 130 laps remaining, Hamlin extended his advantage to three seconds over Larson as Bowman, Busch and Truex trailed in the top five by five seconds. Hamlin would stabilize his advantage to three seconds over Larson with 120 laps remaining before the advantage slightly decreased to two seconds with 110 laps remaining. Behind, Bowman, Busch and Truex continued to run in the top five. 

Down to the final 100 laps of the event, Hamlin was leading by two seconds over Larson followed by Busch, Truex and Bowman while Blaney, Elliott, Gibbs, Reddick and Wallace were running in the top 10. Behind, Stenhouse, Berry, Allmendinger, Chastain and Bell were in the top 15 ahead of Buescher, Briscoe, Byron, Gragson and Logano while Cindric, Hemric, LaJoie, Corey Heim and Nemechek were trailing in the top 25. 

Then with nearly 80 laps remaining, another cycle of green flag pit stops commenced as Truex pitted before a bevy of names led by the leader Hamlin peeled off the track to pit a lap after. Then as the cycle of green flag pit stops continued, the caution flew with 79 laps remaining after Stenhouse, who was running in the top 10 earlier and trying to merge back onto the track following his green flag pit stop, made contact with Berry that sent Stenhouse’s No. 47 Hungry Jack Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 spinning towards the inside wall in Turn 2.

At the moment of caution, Hemric, who had yet to pit, was leading while Larson, Hamlin, Busch and Truex followed suit in the top five. During the caution period, however, Hemric pitted along with Bowman and Busch, which enabled Larson to cycle back as the leader. 

During the following restart period with 72 laps remaining, Larson and Hamlin battled dead even for the lead through the first two turns until Hamlin started to muscle ahead through the backstretch. The caution, however, quickly returned after rookie Zane Smith made contact with Bubba Wallace through the first two turns.

It resulted in Wallace spinning his No. 23 Xfinity/U.S. Air Force Toyota Camry XSE towards the bottom of the backstretch as he was then hit on the right side by Byron, who had collided into Bell as Bell hit the inside wall head-on before Wallace and resulted with all three eliminated from contention with wrecked cars. The incident marked Bell’s second wreck of the weekend after he crashed during Saturday’s qualifying session.

As the event restarted under green with 62 laps remaining, Hamlin fended off Larson and teammate Truex to retain the lead through the first two turns. Hamlin proceded to lead the following lap ahead of Larson and Truex while Gragson and Elliott battled for fourth place in front of Busch, Blaney and Hemric, with Bowman and Chastain racing in the top 10.  

With 50 laps remaining, Hamlin extended his advantage to more than a second over Larson as Truex, Gragson and Elliott were scored in the top five ahead of Busch, Blaney, Hemric, Bowman and Chastain. Behind, Gibbs, Reddick, Berry, Allmendinger and Cindric occupied the top 15 as Cindric, Logano, Buescher, Briscoe and Nemechek were in the top 20. 

Fifteen laps later, Hamlin stabilized his advantage to more than a second over Larson while Truex, Gragson and Busch trailed under five seconds in the top five. Behind, sixth-place Elliott trailed by more than five seconds as Blaney, Hemric, Bowman and Chastain continued to run in the top 10. 

Down to the final 20 laps of the event, Hamlin, who was mired in lapped traffic, continued to lead by six-tenths of a second over a hard-charging Larson, who was slowing clipping away Hamlin’s advantage in his No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, as third-place Truex trailed by two seconds. Behind, Gragson and Kyle Busch continued to run in the top five ahead of Elliott, Blaney, Hemric, Bowman and Chastain while Gibbs, Reddick, Berry, Allmendinger and Cindric were in the top 15. 

Five laps later, Hamlin’s advantage decreased to within four-tenths and half a second as Larson continued to gain ground on him for the top spot. Larson would trail the leader Hamlin by two-tenths of a second with 10 laps remaining as both were mired within lapped traffic and with Larson trying to steer across different sections of the circuit to gain more ground on Hamlin. 

Down to the final five laps of the event and with the leaders mired in more lapped traffic, Hamlin was leading by a tenth of a second over Larson. Despite Larson making continuous efforts around the turns and the straightaways to narrow the gap between himself and Hamlin, Hamlin managed to maintain both his ground and lane as he also started to blend within Larson’s advantageous line to move in front of Larson, stall his momentum with the dirty air retain the top spot. 

When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Hamlin remained as the leader by two-tenths of a second over a hard-charging Larson. Despite Larson’s final lap effort to go up the track to gain a draft for two final corners, Hamlin managed to keep himself in front of Larson for a final circuit and navigated back to the frontstretch victorious for his third checkered flag of the 2024 Cup Series season. 

With the victory, Hamlin scored career win No. 54 in NASCAR’s premier series, which placed him in a tie with Lee Petty for 12th place on the all-time Cup Series wins list. Hamlin also racked up his second victory at Dover along with the fourth of the season and the fifth for Toyota through the first 11 events on the 2024 Cup schedule. The 2024 season marks Hamlin’s eighth season of notching at least three victories in a Cup Series season. 

“Just a great team,” Hamlin said on FS1. “This whole Mavis, Tires, Brakes team just did a great job. All the guys on the wall right here, they’re the ones that make it happen. Thank you to them. [Crew chief] Chris Gabehart, [spotter Chris] Lambert, the whole team, for just giving me a great car. Man, I love winning. Kyle [Larson] did a great job executing on that green flag pit cycle. We were able to get the lead there on that restart, which allowed us, with the caution, to control the restarts. That was the key moment for us. Man, it certainly feels good winning here at Dover.” 

Larson, who led 39 laps compared to Hamlin’s race-high 136 and won the second stage period, settled in the runner-up spot for the second time this season. The result, however, was enough for the 2021 Cup Series champion to maintain the lead in the regular-season standings. 

“I could pace [the car] and get closer to [Hamlin] at the end of the runs, but it’s just so easy to air block,” Larson said. “Not that he was doing anything dirty or anything like that. It’s just so easy as the leader, especially at a place like this, to shut off the air on the guys behind you. I knew when I got within three car lengths, he was gonna start moving around. I just couldn’t really do anything. I was trying all sorts of different angles and speeds, all that, and nothing could generate enough speed to get close enough to do anything. That was a bummer.” 

Martin Truex Jr., who led 69 laps and won the first stage period, settled in third place for his third top-five result of the season while pole-sitter Kyle Busch, who led 34 laps, and Chase Elliott finished in the top five. 

Noah Gragson, Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Daniel Hemric and Ty Gibbs ended up in the top 10 in the final running order. 

Notably, Tyler Reddick, winner of last weekend’s Cup event at Talladega Superspeedway, ended up 11th ahead of Ross Chastain, AJ Allmendinger, rookie Josh Berry and Austin Cindric. In addition, Joey Logano ended up 16th ahead of Chris Buescher and Daniel Suarez, Corey LaJoie came home 21st despite leading 33 laps, Corey Heim settled in 22nd place in his Cup Series debut while substituting for the injured Erik Jones and Jimmie Johnson ended up 28th behind Austin Dillon in his third Cup start of the 2024 season.  

There were 12 lead changes for nine different leaders. The race featured five cautions for 42 laps. In addition, 17 of 37 starters finished on the lead lap. 

Following the 11th event of the 2024 Cup Series season, Kyle Larson leads the regular-season standings by 15 points over Martin Truex Jr., 33 over Chase Elliott, 49 over Denny Hamlin, 56 over Tyler Reddick, 62 over William Byron and 68 over Ryan Blaney. 

Results. 

1. Denny Hamlin, 136 laps led 

2. Kyle Larson, 39 laps led, Stage 2 winner 

3. Martin Truex Jr., 69 laps led, Stage 1 winner 

4. Kyle Busch, 34 laps led 

5. Chase Elliott 

6. Noah Gragson 

7. Ryan Blaney, 47 laps led 

8. Alex Bowman 

9. Daniel Hemric, five laps led 

10. Ty Gibbs 

11. Tyler Reddick 

12. Ross Chastain 

13. AJ Allmendinger 

14. Josh Berry 

15. Austin Cindric 

16. Joey Logano 

17. Chris Buescher 

18. Daniel Suarez, one lap down 

19. Chase Briscoe, one lap down 

20. John Hunter Nemechek, two laps down 

21. Corey LaJoie, two laps down, 33 laps led 

22. Carson Hocevar, three laps down 

23. Justin Haley, three laps down 

24. Zane Smith, three laps down 

25. Corey Heim, three laps down 

26. Harrison Burton, three laps down 

27. Austin Dillon, four laps down 

28. Jimmie Johnson, five laps down 

29. Kaz Grala, six laps down 

30. Brad Keselowski, 17 laps down 

31. Todd Gilliland, 21 laps down 

32. Bubba Wallace – OUT, Accident, one lap led 

33. William Byron – OUT, Accident, 36 laps led 

34. Christopher Bell – OUT, Accident 

35. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – OUT, Accident 

36. Michael McDowell – OUT, Hub 

37. Ryan Preece – OUT, Safety 

Next on the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the AdventHealth 400 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas. The event is scheduled to occur next Sunday, May 5, and air at 3 p.m. ET on FS1. 

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

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