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Denny Hamlin Makes Dover Würth His While

Denny Hamlin

Denny Hamlin captured the checkered flag after winning Sunday’s Würth 400 at Dover. (Photo: Jennie Mae Lingle | The Podium Finish)

DOVER, Del. — Denny Hamlin continues to strengthen his case as the definitive championship favorite after Sunday’s Würth 400 at Dover Motor Speedway.

Before the 11th round of the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season, Hamlin called his shot on his podcast, “Action Detrimental.” Typically known for his outspoken nature, it is safe to say he backed his words up.

While Hamlin started from the sixth position, it took him 254 laps to get to the lead. However, he made his stints at the front of the field count at the 1-mile concrete oval.

In the early going, Hamlin, who started sixth, maintained his position while Martin Truex Jr., his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, showcased his early race pace.

Although Kyle Busch started from the pole and led the opening 33 laps, Ryan Blaney made the race’s title sponsor happy when he took his No. 12 Würth Ford Mustang Dark Horse to the number one spot on Lap 34. With all three OEMs enjoying their stints in the lead, Chevrolet made more noise when William Byron was atop the leaderboard on Lap 79.

Byron’s time in the lead lasted for 36 laps as Truex roared past him en route to the Stage 1 win with Hamlin placing sixth. For an afternoon that looked like a Gibbs versus Hendrick Motorsports affair, such thoughts were realized by Stage 2.

In a caution-free Stage 2, Truex led the opening laps until the first green flag stops in this leg of the race. Blaney returned to the lead on Lap 184 before Corey LaJoie enjoyed a 33-lap stint at the front of the field, opting for a different pit strategy than the contenders.

Meanwhile, Kyle Larson, who started 21st and finished fifth in Stage 1, made his presence known on Lap 219, taking the lead from LaJoie. As typically seen in a race with long, green flag runs, Larson’s No. 5 car had consistent, raw pace, good enough to win Stage 2.

Likewise, for Hamlin, his car, strong on short runs, cashed in with a third place finish, netting 13 stage points.

One of the race’s critical moments happened during a Lap 255 pit stop. Entering pit road as the leader, Larson found himself in a fierce duel for the race off pit road against Alex Bowman and Hamlin. Bowman, deciding to not compromise himself or Larson, backed off, with a drag race between the Nos. 5 and 11.

Denny Hamlin

Denny Hamlin snatched the lead from Kyle Larson during a Lap 255 caution period at Dover. (Photo: Daniel Rankin | The Podium Finish)

Eking Larson out of pit road with the lead, Hamlin dictated the pace from Lap 254 to 317 as Larson’s car took a while to mount a charge. Another pit stop cycle ensued around Lap 318 which seemed to work in Larson’s favor, who regained the lead on Lap 325.

Then, a backstretch incident involving Josh Berry and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. resulted in a caution on Lap 322. Despite Larson’s pit crew keeping their driver in the lead, on a Lap 329 restart, Hamlin dashed to the lead, taking advantage of the inside line.

This proved to be the race-winning move for Hamlin as Larson, despite closing the gap from 3.2 seconds to 0.2 seconds in the final 62 laps. It became a cat and mouse game between the two friends and rivals, with Hamlin recognizing that the Lap 329 restart playing out as the decisive moment of the race.

“The winning moment was getting around him on that quick restart we had when we had that caution,” Hamlin said. “He controlled the restart. I got a really good restart on the bottom, and that was a big moment to clear him before that caution came out.

“Similar to what happened with Chase (Elliott) at Texas, where I was controlling it – till I wasn’t, but the tides turned today, and I was able to control the restart. Our Mavis Tire Toyota was just so good on the short run.”

Naturally, Hamlin anticipated Larson mounting a late race rally with the No. 11 car excelling on restarts and short green flag runs. Aero blocking became the name of the game.

“I knew he was going to make a charge, but I just tried to hit my marks,” he said. “As long as I hit my marks, I felt confident I could hold him off. This team just did an amazing job.”

Unlike the race at Las Vegas last month, Larson was on the offensive, trying to attack and pounce on Hamlin for the win. Like Tyler Reddick, Larson gave it all he had but came up a position short.

Denny Hamlin

Once Denny Hamlin took the lead on Lap 329, he held onto it like fans who purchased tickets to an Indiana Fever game. (Photo: Daniel Rankin | The Podium Finish)

“It’s so easy as the leader to shut off the air to the guy behind you at a track like Dover, especially where it’s low on grip as the run progresses,” Larson said. “I knew I was going to have an uphill battle once I lost the lead on that restart.

“I felt like if I had gotten the lead, I could have maintained my run like I did in the second stage and hold those guys off. It was a good day to get a lot of points and all that, but I would have loved to win obviously.”

Truex, the defending race winner, hoped to make good on another victory at Dover like younger brother, Ryan, in Saturday’s BetRivers 200. All things considered, including a smashed in nose during a restart, a podium still constituted for a good day.

“In the middle of the race, losing the lead was the difference maker,” Truex said. “Just lost the lead to the 5 there. Once I got close to him, tried to start moving around, I got a little too tight. He was backing up. It just didn’t quite have what I needed to get by him.

“They all pounced on us, and we lost control of the race. Then I got the nose damage. Feel like we let one get away today. Had a really strong Bass Pro Camry. You can’t lose control of these races mid stage like that. The track changes, you get behind. Man, just stinks. Overall, a good day. Just keep working on it.”

The field continues to work on closing the gap on Hamlin, who may call his next shot in the next month on his podcast. If he does not, his crew chief, Chris Gabehart, may prod him into doing so, especially with a challenge that came prior to Sunday’s race.

Denny Hamlin

As the younger folks would say, like Denny Hamlin, that pit crew though. (Photo: Josh Jones | The Podium Finish)

“My crew chief challenged me to get at least one win in the next three weeks before the All-Star break to not be depressed,” Hamlin said. “You are going to have to go out and do that for me. I knew that these three tracks coming up – here, Kansas and Darlington – we can win them all.”

Stage 1 Top 10 Results
  1. Martin Truex Jr.
  2. William Byron
  3. Tyler Reddick
  4. Ryan Blaney
  5. Kyle Larson
  6. Denny Hamlin
  7. Kyle Busch
  8. Alex Bowman
  9. Chase Elliott
  10. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Stage 2 Top 10 Results
  1. Kyle Larson
  2. Alex Bowman
  3. Denny Hamlin
  4. Martin Truex Jr.
  5. Chase Elliott
  6. Kyle Busch
  7. Tyler Reddick
  8. Ryan Blaney
  9. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  10. Bubba Wallace
Würth 400 at Dover Motor Speedway Race Results
Finish Start Car No. Driver Sponsor/Make Status
1 6 11 Denny Hamlin Mavis Tire Toyota Running
2 21 5 Kyle Larson Chevrolet Running
3 15 19 Martin Truex Jr. Bass Pro Shops Toyota Running
4 1 8 Kyle Busch FICO Chevrolet Running
5 29 9 Chase Elliott NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Running
6 5 10 Noah Gragson MillerTech Ford Running
7 2 12 Ryan Blaney Würth Ford Running
8 9 48 Alex Bowman Ally Chevrolet Running
9 14 31 Daniel Hemric Poppy Bank Chevrolet Running
10 19 54 Ty Gibbs Monster Energy Toyota Running
11 4 45 Tyler Reddick McDonald’s Toyota Running
12 22 1 Ross Chastain Moose Fraternity Chevrolet Running
13 10 16 AJ Allmendinger (i) Action Industries Chevrolet Running
14 12 4 Josh Berry (R) Ford Running
15 11 2 Austin Cindric Menards/Quaker State Ford Running
16 13 22 Joey Logano Shell Pennzoil Ford Running
17 18 17 Chris Buescher Fastenal Ford Running
18 31 99 Daniel Suárez Jockey Chevrolet Running
19 7 14 Chase Briscoe Mahindra Tractors Ford Running
20 34 42 John Hunter Nemechek Acme Toyota Running
21 25 7 Corey LaJoie Gainbrdige Chevrolet Running
22 20 77 Carson Hocevar (R) Premier Security Chevrolet Running
23 36 51 Justin Haley Walmart Health & Wellness Ford Running
24 37 71 Zane Smith (R) Focused Health Chevrolet Running
25 32 43 Corey Heim (i) Dollar Tree/Petty 75th Toyota Running
26 26 21 Harrison Burton DEX Imaging Ford Running
27 23 3 Austin Dillon BREZTRI Chevrolet Running
28 27 84 Jimmie Johnson Dollar Tree/Family Dollar Toyota Running
29 35 15 Kaz Grala (R) N29 Capital Partners Ford Running
30 24 6 Brad Keselowski Ford Running
31 30 38 Todd Gilliland A&W All American Food Ford Running
32 16 23 Bubba Wallace XFINITY/U.S. AIR FORCE Toyota Accident
33 3 24 William Byron Liberty University Chevrolet Accident
34 33 20 Christopher Bell Yahoo! Toyota Accident
35 17 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Hungry Jack Chevrolet Accident
36 8 34 Michael McDowell The Pete Store Ford Hub
37 28 41 Ryan Preece Morton Buildings Ford Safety

Rob Tiongson is a sports writer and editor originally from the Boston area and resides in the Austin, Texas, area. Tiongson has covered motorsports series like NASCAR and INDYCAR since 2008 and NHRA since 2013. Most recently, Tiongson is covering professional basketball, mainly the WNBA, and women's college basketball. While writing and editing for The Podium Finish, Tiongson currently seeks for a long-term sportswriting and sports content creating career. Tiongson enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson is an alum of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and St. Bonaventure University's renowned Jandoli School of Communication with a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism.

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