Connect with us

NASCAR Cup Series

Denny Hamlin Storms to Victory in Los Angeles

Denny Hamlin became a four-time Busch Light Clash winner after winning in Los Angeles (Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish).

LOS ANGELES — Denny Hamlin showcased once again he beat everyone’s favorite driver during Saturday’s Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Much to the chagrin of the Southern California fans, it was Hamlin’s fourth Clash victory with his previous three wins coming at Daytona International Speedway, winning the 2006, 2014 and 2016 editions.

“A lot of it was just what happened in front of me with the 54 (Ty Gibbs) and the 22 (Joey Logano),” said Hamlin. “You just never know what was going to happen there, but I got a really good run off of turn two in my Sport Clips Camry and just got position and was able to hang on from there. It’s so chaotic – the restarts – everyone is just bumping and banging, but it feels great to win here in LA.”

After setting the fastest qualifying time at 13.139 seconds, Hamlin carried that momentum into the race, leading 58 of 151 laps. However, Hamlin’s shining moment wouldn’t really spark until the bitter end of the race. Throughout the night, the main event was controlled by Joey Logano, who lead at halfway, and Ty Gibbs, who led a race-high 84 laps.

On the penultimate restart, Hamlin saw the opportunity to get by Logano and Gibbs for the top spot with 10 laps remaining.

Coming to the white flag, all looked good for an easy win until Gibbs’ solid run went south when he got turned by Kyle Larson in Turn 3, bringing out the caution. With the race needing to finish under green flag conditions, the race went into overtime and it was a seamless restart for Hamlin, who did not look back as he was indeed the ruler of the Golden State.

Behind Hamlin, more chaos ensued as Bubba Wallace was turned by Larson while battling for position. Larson crossed the line in fifth while Wallace wound up 12th in the final running order. No secret, both men have had history over the years and Larson hopes it doesn’t carry over into the season.

“(Bubba) ran through me three times and I was just the one that happened to get him at the end,” said Larson. “I hope he understands that part of it. Given our history, who knows. But I’m over it.”

The last-lap tangle between Larson and Wallace (Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish).

In the garage area, there was no love lost between Gibbs, who ended up finishing 18th, and fourth-place finisher Logano. Both had a heated discussion in Gibbs’ hauler where Logano told the 21-year-old he would remember what he did in the race.

Gibbs responded by saying he has been watching how Logano can be behind the wheel. Logano followed up Gibbs’ response and said “keep watching” as both disgruntled racers went their separate ways.

All three manufacturer’s represented the steps on the podium as behind the Toyota racer were Chevrolet’s Kyle Busch and defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Ryan Blaney, who represents Ford.

Busch explained losing to Hamlin stings, especially when his No. 8 Chevrolet clicked more in the first 75 laps and felt he was far better than the race winner.

“The first-half we were better – we had a better car and we were better than the No. 11,” said Busch. “Some of the adjustments we made weren’t as good and some of the adjustments they made were better. All-in-all, I’m glad to have a good night. Glad to come out of here in one piece, even with all the bumping and banging and everything else that happens.”

For Blaney, his road to bronze was a grind as he rolled off shot gun on the field in 23rd. As the race progressed, the Team Penske racer had some fortune come his way during restarts.

However, on the final and most important restart, it did not click for Blaney as he settled for third.

“The plan was not to take a provisional. Our group was pretty slow. I guess we just couldn’t go, so we were lucky that we got in the race and then we did a good job all night,” said Blaney. “We just kind of stayed clean and our car was fast too, to just kind of drive up through the field. A couple of restarts went our way to where our lanes went. I had a shot.

“I got a terrible restart on the last one, but I probably wouldn’t have won anyway. We came from a long way back, so it was fun. I think every time I’ve been here I’ve been spun backwards two or three times, so it’s nice not to have that at the last one. It’s good.”

Hamlin’s victory also symbolizes a return to form as he had successful shoulder surgery during the off-season. Now, the goal is to keep the 2024 campaign going in the right direction.

A win like Saturday night, while no points were on the line, was a confidence booster for the man who has been racing in the Cup Series full-time back in 2006.

“It’s a great momentum boost,” said Hamlin. “It doesn’t do much more than that. But I clean off all the trophies every January 1st in the entryway of the house, and now we get to add one pretty quick, so really happy about that.”

Hamlin burns it down as the other two podium finishers look on in defeat (Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish).

The main event was scheduled for Sunday evening, but due to severe weather expected to impact Los Angeles County, ranging from five to eight inches of rain to floods, NASCAR made the decision to have the race on Saturday. Fans were able to attend free of charge, but it turned the race weekend upside down.

Rather than having heat races and a last chance qualifier, the 23-car field was determined based on qualifying speed. Due to this, notable drivers such as Christopher Bell and Chris Buescher, both who had strong playoff runs in 2023, missed the big dance. Daniel Suárez, who went on to win the NASCAR Mexico Series race, missed out on pulling double duty in SoCal.

With the move to Saturday, the Cup Series can now shift their minds into the 66th Daytona 500, which is two weeks away. Hamlin will look to become the third man to win at least four Daytona 500 victories as the late Cale Yarborough and Richard Petty remain alone in that category.

2024 Busch Light Clash Results

Finish Start Car No. Driver Sponsor/Make Status
1 1 11 Denny Hamlin Sport Clips Haircuts Toyota Running
2 5 8 Kyle Busch Morgan & Morgan Chevrolet Running
3 23 12 Ryan Blaney Menards/Great Lakes Flooring Ford Running
4 2 22 Joey Logano Shell Pennzoil Ford Running
5 8 5 Kyle Larson Chevrolet Running
6 4 48 Alex Bowman Ally Chevrolet Running
7 22 14 Chase Briscoe Mahindra Tractors Ford Running
8 13 6 Brad Keselowski Castrol Edge Ford Running
9 19 19 Martin Truex, Jr. Bass Pro Shops Toyota Running
10 6 24 William Byron Liberty University Chevrolet Running
11 12 41 Ryan Preece United Rentals Ford Running
12 9 23 Bubba Wallace Columbia Sportswear Company Toyota Running
13 21 42 John Hunter Nemechek Dollar Tree Toyota Running
14 11 45 Tyler Reddick Jordan Brand Toyota Running
15 7 1 Ross Chastain Busch Light Chevrolet Running
16 20 47 Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. Food4Less/Ralphs/Cheerios Chevrolet Running
17 18 7 Corey LaJoie Celsius Chevrolet Running
18 3 54 Ty Gibbs Monster Energy Toyota Running
19 15 34 Michael McDowell Margaritaville at Sea Ford Running
20 17 10 Noah Gragson Rush Truck Centers Ford Running
21 10 51 Justin Haley Walmart Health & Wellness Ford Engine
22 14 9 Chase Elliott NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Steering
23 16 38 Todd Gilliland gener8tor Ford Brakes

Throughout my young motorsports media career, my number-one goal is to be a personnel that can be flexible with my writing and photography in the world of NASCAR and INDYCAR. Content delivery is vital because this is my main passion and what keeps me going. On the side, I also do sports production ranging from Seattle Kraken hockey to the 2023 NCAA Women's March Madness. All for the love of the game. With four National Motorsports Press Association photography awards, I'm not slowing down anytime soon. Outside of media, I'm super vocal about my musical tastes that goes from Metallica to HAIM. At times, there might be some Paul Thomas Anderson and Southern California references in my social media.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in NASCAR Cup Series