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    Friday, June 14, 2024

    Denny Hamlin holds off Larson late to win NASCAR Cup race at Dover Motor Speedway

    Denny Hamlin celebrates in Victory Lane after winning a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Dover Motor Speedway, Sunday, April 28, 2024, in Dover, Del. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

    Dover, Del. — Denny Hamlin called his shot ahead of Dover, guaranteeing a win on his podcast, then followed through on his bold boast that would have made the Bambino proud and held off Kyle Larson down the stretch to park his Toyota in victory lane.

    Hamlin wiggled past lapped traffic and never let Larson squeak by him over the final laps in a showdown between two of NASCAR's elite drivers and won the Cup race by about a quarter of a second Sunday at Dover Motor Speedway.

    “You better win if you're going to open your mouth, that's for sure,” Hamlin said.

    Hamlin has the victory lane celebration down pat this season. He celebrated last week at Talladega Superspeedway in his role as co-owner of 23XI Racing when Tyler Reddick took the checkered flag. Hamlin's contribution was a bit overshadowed by his fellow team owner — Michael Jordan. For the first time since he became a NASCAR Cup team owner, Jordan was at the track to savor in person a victory by one of his drivers.

    Hamlin took his turn in the spotlight this week with the Monster trophy as a driver for Joe Gibbs Racing at Dover.

    “It is a little bit different when you win it yourself versus as a car owner,” Hamlin said.

    Hamlin knew the win was coming. Or at least, publicly he was willing to say he did, going so far as to call his shot — he even referenced Babe Ruth on the podcast — that he would master the Monster Mile.

    "I'm going to call it now. We're going to win Dover," Hamlin said last week on “Actions Detrimental.” "Got it?

    Got it.

    “Hopefully some listeners of ‘Actions Detrimental’ maybe cashed in today,” Hamlin said.

    Hamlin led 136 of the 400 laps and won at Dover for the second time in his career.

    Perhaps fittingly, the Babe wore No. 3 for the New York Yankees — and there was Hamlin and the rest of his No. 11 team flashing three fingers in tribute to the team's third win of the season.

    Hamlin's three wins tie him with William Byron for most this season in the series. Hamlin also picked up his 54th career Cup win, all with Joe Gibbs Racing. He's tied with Lee Petty for 12th on the career Cup list.

    “I couldn't hold Lee Petty's helmet," Hamlin said.

    The tone for the season was set from the opener when Hamlin also won the Clash at the Coliseum exhibition race.

    Larson finished second and nipped at Hamlin's bumper for most of the final 25 laps and seemed on the brink of passing the Toyota. Larson's No. 5 Chevrolet just couldn't close the deal on the mile concrete track. Hamlin took the lead off a restart with 81 laps left and never let it go, repeatedly choking off Larson's Chevy at the top of the track.

    “I just couldn't really do anything,” Larson said. “Nothing could generate enough speed to get close enough to do anything.”

    Hamlin was soundly booed as he grabbed the checkered flag — boos louder than usual at the track because of the surprisingly full grandstands.

    After rainouts forced Monday races each of the last two years, the sun came out Sunday — and so did the fans. The grandstands were packed and the track came close to its 54,000 capacity. While NASCAR tracks do not release attendance numbers, the crowd was easily the largest at Dover since before the pandemic.

    Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott completed the top five.

    The big one

    There was a multi-car wreck with 71 laps left in the race that took out Christopher Bell, Bubba Wallace and William Byron.

    Coming off a restart, Zane Smith appeared to get into the left rear of Wallace's Toyota which sent him into traffic and into Byron and Bell. Wallace was running 11th at the time of the wreck. Bell was 16th and Byron 18th.

    Truex close

    A year after the Truex brothers swept Dover — Ryan Truex won the Xfinity race; Martin Truex the Cup race — they failed to repeat. Ryan Truex went back-to-back and won a second straight Xfinity race on Saturday. Martin Truex won the first stage of the race and led 69 laps before he suffered some damage to the nose of his Toyota.

    “Feel like we let one get away today," Martin Truex said. “You can’t lose control of these races mid stage like that. The track changes, you get behind.”

    All-star sub

    Kevin Harvick, the 2014 NASCAR champion who retired at the end of last season, will drive the No. 5 Chevrolet in place of Larson in practice and qualifying for the NASCAR All-Star race.

    Larson will stay in Indianapolis on May 17 to practice for the Indianapolis 500 rather than travel to North Wilkesboro Speedway to practice and qualify for the NASCAR All-Star race. He will become the fifth driver in history to attempt to complete “ The Double ” and run 1,100 miles in one day, starting with the Indianapolis 500 in an Indy car and then flying to Charlotte to drive in the Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR’s longest race of the year.

    Up next

    Kansas Speedway where Hamlin is the defending race winner.

    “I'm not going to call my shot just yet,” Hamlin said, laughing.

    Denny Hamlin celebrates with a burnout after winning a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Dover Motor Speedway, Sunday, April 28, 2024, in Dover, Del. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)
    Denny Hamlin, front left, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Dover Motor Speedway, Sunday, April 28, 2024, in Dover, Del. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)
    Kyle Busch leads the field to the green flag to start a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Dover Motor Speedway, Sunday, April 28, 2024, in Dover, Del. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

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