Denny Hamlin Dominates at Las Vegas as Hendrick Stumbles
Punches his ticket to the next round of NASCAR's Playoffs
It seems the second verse is same as the first for Denny Hamlin. Hamlin won the opening race of NASCAR’s Playoff Round of 12 with a convincing performance Sunday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Hamlin, whose first win of the season came at Darlington the race that opened the Playoffs, led a race high 137 laps and beat reigning champion Chase Elliott to the line by .442 of a second.
It was his first win at Vegas in 19 previous starts and the 46th of his career.
“Vegas, it feels so good to win in Vegas,” Hamlin said. “Last couple times I've been so close, just didn't have the right breaks. They dialed the car in great. Great to hold those guys off.”
And like it did in the first round the win secures Hamlin a spot in the Round of 8.
“I'm so happy,” Hamlin said. “So happy to not have to worry about the next two weeks. I'm professional so I'm going to work just as hard each and every week to win.”
In a race that had only one caution for an on-track incident, Hamlin took the lead for the final time on lap 229 after green flag stops cycled through and held it to the end.
Behind Elliott, Kyle Busch was third.
“We got all we could,” Busch said. “I felt like during the daytime we were a little bit better than the 11, we could race with him. I was looking forward to the lights coming on, us picking up speed, being able to rip up the wall a little bit faster.
“When we got hit into the fence off of two the first time, it definitely knocked speed out of our car. We helped it a little bit coming to pit road, putting the last set of tires on it, then I got into the fence again trying to get by lap cars. Not enough room over there.”
Busch was followed by Martin Truex Jr. who had started in the rear due to inspection failures in fourth and Ryan Blaney fifth.
Early on in looked like it would be an all Hendrick Motorsports show with Kyle Larson leading from pole and leading 95 laps that included winning Stage 1. At one point all four Hendrick cars were running in the top 4 spots including William Byron, who also started in the rear of the field due to inspection issues.
It all fell apart for the Hendrick team in Stage 2 however when Joey Gase suffered a hard hit on lap 93 after losing a left rear wheel. It would be the races only caution for an incident on the track, and Gase who was walking, was later taken to a local hospital for a precautionary check. During the caution the Hendrick drivers stayed out while Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Truex were among those pitting.
This led to the Hendrick cars pitting under green later during Stage 2 and left them deep in the field. Hamlin would win Stage 2 which ended at lap 160 while all four Hendrick cars finished the stage outside top 10.
The race would run green in the final stage and Hamlin would pit for the final time under green on lap 215. Larson would follow as would Hendrick driver Alex Bowman and Byron. Bowman would have to re-pit shortly after with a flat tire due to broken valve stem; Byron would also get a flat tire and had to pit on lap 225 while running in the top five.
At the end of the night Elliott was the highest finishing Hendrick driver in second.
“Obviously circumstances kind of went our way,” Elliott said. “We were able to get back on the lead lap when that cycle stopped. We were there in the middle with those guys making it on fuel. We were on the fortunate end because we got back on the lead lap, didn't have to wave-around or get the Lucky Dog.
“We just kept tuning on it, felt like we really needed a little track position.”
Tyler Reddick was sixth, Brad Keselowski seventh, Kurt Busch eighth, Kevin Harvick ninth and Larson recovered to finish 10th.
Other Playoff drivers: Joey Logano was 11th; Byron was scored 18th one lap down, Bowman 22nd two laps down and Christopher Bell, who suffered damage after hitting Kurt Busch during the first pit stops finished 24th also two laps down.
Byron, Harvick, Bowman, and Bell are all below the cutoff to advance as the series heads to Talladega Superspeedway next Sunday.
On one point they held the top four spots
NASCAR Cup Series Race Results South Point 400
Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Las Vegas, Nevada
Sunday, September 26, 2021
1. (6) Denny Hamlin (P), Toyota, 267.
2. (11) Chase Elliott (P), Chevrolet, 267.
3. (10) Kyle Busch (P), Toyota, 267.
4. (4) Martin Truex Jr. (P), Toyota, 267.
5. (2) Ryan Blaney (P), Ford, 267.
6. (13) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 267.
7. (8) Brad Keselowski (P), Ford, 267.
8. (20) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 267.
9. (5) Kevin Harvick (P), Ford, 267.
10. (1) Kyle Larson (P), Chevrolet, 267.
11. (9) Joey Logano (P), Ford, 267.
12. (14) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 267.
13. (15) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 266.
14. (19) Chase Briscoe #, Ford, 266.
15. (26) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 266.
16. (21) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 266.
17. (22) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 266.
18. (3) William Byron (P), Chevrolet, 266.
19. (17) Aric Almirola, Ford, 266.
20. (29) Ryan Newman, Ford, 266.
21. (23) Michael McDowell, Ford, 266.
22. (7) Alex Bowman (P), Chevrolet, 265.
23. (18) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 265.
24. (12) Christopher Bell (P), Toyota, 265.
25. (25) Chris Buescher, Ford, 265.
26. (16) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 265.
27. (32) Anthony Alfredo #, Ford, 265.
28. (24) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 265.
29. (28) Cole Custer, Ford, 265.
30. (27) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 264.
31. (35) Cody Ware(i), Chevrolet, 260.
32. (33) Justin Haley(i), Chevrolet, 260.
33. (34) BJ McLeod(i), Ford, 257.
34. (36) Quin Houff, Chevrolet, 255.
35. (30) Garrett Smithley(i), Chevrolet, 254.
36. (31) Josh Bilicki, Ford, 252.
37. (37) Joey Gase(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 84.
38. (38) JJ Yeley(i), Toyota, Handling, 76.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 144.643 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 46 Mins, 8 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.442 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 4 for 21 laps.
Lead Changes: 21 among 10 drivers.
Lap Leaders: K. Larson (P) 0;R. Blaney (P) 1-7;D. Hamlin (P) 8-26;R. Blaney (P) 27;K. Busch (P) 28-29;D. Hamlin (P) 30-44;K. Larson (P) 45-83;D. Hamlin (P) 84-88;K. Larson (P) 89-91;W. Byron (P) 92-98;K. Larson (P) 99-101;C. Elliott (P) 102;K. Larson (P) 103-152;D. Hamlin (P) 153-162;T. Reddick 163;D. Hamlin (P) 164-166;M. Truex Jr. (P) 167;D. Hamlin (P) 168-213;T. Reddick 214-217;B. Keselowski (P) 218-221;A. Dillon 222-228;D. Hamlin (P) 229-267.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Denny Hamlin (P) 7 times for 137 laps; Kyle Larson (P) 4 times for 95 laps; Ryan Blaney (P) 2 times for 8 laps; William Byron (P) 1 time for 7 laps; Austin Dillon 1 time for 7 laps; Tyler Reddick 2 times for 5 laps; Brad Keselowski (P) 1 time for 4 laps; Kyle Busch (P) 1 time for 2 laps; Martin Truex Jr. (P) 1 time for 1 lap; Chase Elliott (P) 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 5,18,11,12,24,9,8,4,21,19
Stage #2 Top Ten: 11,18,8,19,22,2,1,4,3,23