Hamlin earns milestone win at Homestead

Denny Hamlin outlasted multiple weather delays due to lightning strikes and a late duel with Chase Elliott to win the Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway for his third win of the season. It was his third in Miami and his 40th NASCAR Cup Series career win, moving him into a tie with NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin for 19th place on the all-time Cup wins list.

The starting lineup was based on a random draw. Hamlin started on pole position and was joined on the front row by Joey Logano. Quin Houff started at the rear of the field due to failing pre-race inspection twice along with B.J. McLeod due to unapproved adjustments.

Delayed for nearly an hour due to scattered rain and lightning reported near the track, the race was able to roll under green-flag conditions for the opening three laps, where Logano, who started on the bottom lane, took an early lead and was followed by teammate Brad Keselowski. Shortly after, the first caution of the day flew on the fourth lap due to a lightning strike reported near the area. The field led by Logano was directed to pit road as the red flag was displayed.


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Following a delay of more than two hours, all drivers and crew members returned to their respective positions as the track was cleared for racing to resume. When the race returned to green on the ninth lap, Logano retained the lead over Hamlin, who settled in second while being pursued by Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick. 

By Lap 20, Logano, Keselowski and Hamlin separated themselves from the pack by three seconds over fourth-place Harvick, who was being pursued by Elliott and rookie Tyler Reddick, who started in 24th. A lap later, the caution flew when Ryan Newman slid below the apron through Turns 3 and 4 after sustaining a flat right-rear tire. He was able to nurse his No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford back to pit road to have the tire changed. Immediately, NASCAR declared the caution for Newman to serve as the competition caution initially established for Lap 25. At the time of caution, Kyle Busch was back in 10th after starting fourth and Jimmie Johnson was in 18th after starting ninth. Under caution, the leaders pitted and Logano retained the lead followed by Harvick, Reddick, Hamlin and Elliott. Following the pit stops, Matt Kenseth made another pit stop to address a loose wheel while Ty Dillon was assessed a pit road speeding penalty.

When the race restarted on Lap 25, Logano received a bump from Reddick to retain the lead as Reddick battled Elliott for second. A lap later, Blaney made a three-wide move on Harvick and Hamlin in Turn 3 to move into fourth. Four laps later, Elliott emerged as the new leader after passing Logano in Turn 1 while Reddick wasted no time challenging Logano for the runner-up spot. Two laps later, just as Blaney was about to challenge teammate Logano for third, the fourth caution of the race flew due to another lightning strike reported outside the track. The field was directed to pit road and the race was placed in a red-flagged situation.

Following a weather delay of nearly 40 minutes, the red flag was lifted and the drivers were cleared to return to their cars and reignite their engines. Once the cars returned to track under caution, the field pitted. Following the pit stops, Logano sustained damage after making contact with Houff. Behind, Harvick and Matt DiBenedetto also sustained damage to their respective machines when the field stacked up behind Logano. Harvick and DiBenedetto would pit again to have the damage addressed and repaired, sending them to the rear of the field.

When the race restarted under green-flag conditions under the lights on Lap 37, Blaney made a charge on the outside lane to take the lead by the time the field cycled back to the start/finish line. Eight laps later, Blaney was ahead by more than a second over Hamlin, who slid in front of Elliott entering Turn 2 to move in the runner-up spot. Reddick and Keselowski followed suit. 

By Lap 60, Blaney was still ahead by more than a second over Hamlin and Reddick. Aric Almirola, who started 21st, moved up to fourth and was trailing the leaders by four seconds followed by Elliott. During this time, Chris Buescher and William Byron, both of whom started 13th and 22nd, were in ninth and 10th while the Busch brothers of Kyle and Kurt, both of whom started fourth and 10th, were in 11th and 12th. Truex, who started sixth and was coming off his midweek win at Martinsville Speedway, was in 13th while Newman recovered from his early spin to settle in 14th. Harvick and Logano were back in 15th and 17th while Johnson was trapped in 26th. During this time, Erik Jones made an unscheduled pit stop to address a loose wheel. 

With the laps of the first stage dwindling, a battle for the lead started brewing as Hamlin caught Blaney. Hamlin made several attempts in charging his No. 11 FedEx Toyota on the inside lane through the corners and try to clear Blaney entering the straightaways, but Blaney would gain momentum from rim-riding towards the outside wall to maintain his advantage through the straightaways. With four laps remaining in the stage, Hamlin moved back to the lead and was able to stabilize his lead to above a second. From there, Hamlin was able to fend off Blaney to win the first stage on Lap 80, his second of the season. Blaney finished second followed by Reddick, Elliott and Almirola. Keselowski, Alex Bowman, Byron, Bowyer and Buescher finished in the top 10. By then, teammates Kyle Busch and Truex were in 11th and 12th, Harvick was in 14th, Logano was in 20th and Johnson was in 25th.

Under the stage break, the leaders pitted and Hamlin retained the lead followed by Elliott, Blaney, Bowman and Reddick. Once most of the leaders completed their stops, Logano remained on pit road to continue to have the front-nose damage repaired, but he was able to exit pit road in front of the pace car and remain on the lead lap. In addition, Johnson spent extra time on pit road as his crew went to work to repair a roof flap on top of his No. 48 Ally Chevrolet.

The start of the second stage on Lap 88 featured an intense duel between Hamlin and Elliott for one full lap with Elliott edging ahead at the line. By the next lap, Elliott was able to clear Hamlin for the lead as Blaney followed in second. Behind, Reddick was challenged by Hendrick Motorsports’ teammates Bowman and Byron for fourth while Kyle Busch was in seventh. On Lap 91, Blaney reassumed the lead and three laps later, Elliott dropped to fifth after being overtaken by Hamlin, Reddick and Byron. With three Hendrick Motorsports’ drivers of Byron, Elliott and Bowman running inside the top six, the fourth HMS driver, Johnson, was in 23rd. Unlike Blaney, who was leading, his teammate, Joey Logano, was trapped in 29th. By Lap 100, Blaney was still in command by more than a second over Hamlin and Reddick with Byron trailing by nearly three seconds and both Bowman and Kyle Busch by nearly five seconds. 

While the race progressed, green-flag pit stops started to occur on Lap 117 when Newman made a pit stop. Following the stops six laps later, Hamlin reassumed the lead by two seconds over Blaney as Reddick trailed by seven seconds and teammates Byron and Elliot trailed by nearly 10 seconds. Kyle Busch and Truex were in seventh and ninth while Harvick was in eighth. Keselowski was in 14th, rookie Christopher Bell was in 16th and Bubba Wallace was in 20th.

By Lap 150, Hamlin was ahead by nearly five seconds over Blaney, who was in a fierce battle with Reddick for the runner-up spot. Elliott trailed by six seconds, Byron trailed by 10 seconds and Bowman by 12 seconds. In addition, drivers like John Hunter Nemechek, Newman, Cole Custer, Johnson, Logano, Kenseth, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ty Dillon and Suarez were behind by a lap. Three laps later, Blaney dropped to fourth as Reddick and Elliott moved up the leaderboard. When the second stage concluded on Lap 160, Hamlin won the stage followed by Reddick, Elliott, Blaney and Byron. Bowman, Truex, Austin Dillon, Kyle Busch and Almirola finished in the top 10.

Under the stage break, the leaders pitted and Hamlin exited pit road first followed by Elliott, Reddick, Blaney, Byron and Bowman. Kurt Busch was penalized for an uncontrolled tire violation.

When the final stage started with 99 laps remaining, Hamlin received a push from Reddick to maintain the lead through Turns 1 and 2 and clear the field. Elliott and Reddick duked for the runner-up spot while the rest of the field fanned out across the track while battling one another for positions. The caution returned three laps later when Logano and Newman made contact with one another and against the outside wall through Turns 1 and 2. Under caution, the leaders returned to pit road and Hamlin exited the pits first again followed by Elliott, Reddick, Blaney, Truex and Byron. Following the stops, Austin Dillon was penalized for an uncontrolled tire violation.

With 92 laps remaining, the green flag flew and Hamlin received another shove from Reddick to maintain the lead. In addition, Blaney went three-wide with Elliott and Reddick in Turn 2 before moving into second by Turn 4. Both Blaney and Elliott remained within sight of one another while pursuing Hamlin for the lead. Behind, Reddick fended off a charge from Byron to remain in fourth as he started to pursue Elliott for more. Meanwhile, Almirola was in sixth, Bell was in eighth and Jones, who had rallied from his early unscheduled pit stop, was in ninth in front of teammate Truex. Harvick and Kyle Busch were in 10th and 11th while DiBenedetto and Wallace were in 13th and 15th.

With 75 to go, Blaney caught Hamlin for the lead and two laps later, he was able to return to the lead. A lap later, Hamlin returned the favor and threw himself back to the top spot. While Hamlin and Blaney battled, Elliott joined the battle as the top three were ahead by a second over fourth-place Reddick. Not long after, Elliott moved into second and started to pursue Hamlin for the lead. 

As the run progressed, Hamlin was able to stabilize his lead under a second over Elliott with Blaney trailing by nearly two seconds. With 61 to go, Harvick’s night went south as he made an unscheduled pit stop due to a flat tire, which left him two laps behind the leaders. Three laps later, Buescher made an unscheduled pit stop after meeting the same fate as Harvick. In addition, Bowman made a scheduled pit stop for four fresh tires. Shortly after, green-flag pit stops started to occur as Stenhouse, Ryan Preece and Austin Dillon pitted. Following the stops, Elliott cycled back to the lead followed by Hamlin with Blaney, Reddick and Jones in the top five.

With 40 to go, Elliott stabilized his lead by more than a second over Hamlin and more than four seconds over Blaney. A lap later, Kenseth, who was running inside the top 10 and was the only competitor who had yet to make a scheduled green-flag pit stop, pitted. Eight laps later, Hamlin was able to cut the deficit to half a second as he started to gain ground on Elliott on the long runs. Another three laps later, Hamlin gained a huge run in Turn 2 to pass Elliott for the lead after Elliott struggled to lap Logano, who refused to yield to the leaders. As the laps continued to dwindle to the final stages, the battle for the lead remained between two cars as Hamlin led a hard-charging Elliott by half a second with Blaney trailing by two seconds.

With 17 to go, Hamlin started to stretch his advantage to nearly a second over Elliott as Blaney started to close within Elliott for the runner-up spot. A lap later, Elliott was able to trim the deficit to two-tenths of a second as leader Hamlin started to approach lapped traffic. Another two laps later, Elliott was behind by a tenth of a second as Reddick started to creep towards the leaders, making it a four-car battle for the win. 

With eight to go, Reddick moved into third, but Blaney retook the position a lap later. During this time, Hamlin was leading Elliott by four-tenths of a second and was establishing a possible run for Hamlin as Blaney and Reddick lost ground to the leaders. In addition, Jones made an unscheduled pit stop after making contact with the wall.

In the final laps, Elliott made contact with the wall, which allowed Blaney to challenge him for second while Hamlin to stabilize his lead over a second. With no late cautions nor challenges falling on him, Hamlin was able to cruise around the track for a final circuit and take the checkered flag to claim another win at Homestead. 

With the win, Hamlin also became the first three-time winner of this year’s Cup season as he also recorded the 180th Cup win for Joe Gibbs Racing. The win also came as Hamlin’s crew chief, Chris Gabehart, returned to the track following his four-race suspension for the fallen ballast at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May.

“Definitely, [the crew] just made our car really good,” Hamlin said on FOX. “This is the setup based on what we had in the fall here last year going for the championship. I had a strong car all day, obviously, with the laps led and was able to get around Chase there at the end. This whole FedEx team’s just done a phenomenal job with this Camry. This one’s real special. Gotta thank Coca-Cola, the Jordan brand, FedEx, all of our partners, everyone at JGR for putting together great race cars and keep digging and getting ourselves a little bit better. It seems like the end of these races seems to be Chase’s long suit, best suit. I knew that if I was just patient and ran the pace that I was comfortable with, we were gonna be hard to beat in the long run.”

Elliott held off Blaney to finish second, less than a second behind Hamlin, while Reddick notched a solid fourth-place run for his first top-five finish in the Cup Series.

“This Camaro just needed to get through lapped traffic a little better,” Elliott said on MRN. “That’s really about it. I thought, other than that, we did everything we needed to do.”

“We could be running 20th every week,” Blaney said on Zoom. “You’re proud of the runs that you’ve created in a speed our team’s got. I’m proud of that. Yeah, it stinks we haven’t won, but the way I look at it is just keep running up towards the front like that. Just proud with the speed we have and that we’re close. Just little things will go a long way when you’re this close. If you have to find 15 spots worth of speed, that’s when it’s troublesome. Just proud of the effort. [I’m] Not frustrated or anything. Hopefully, we can keep this up and just keep getting better week in and week out.”

Almirola recorded a strong fifth-place result while Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, Bell, Byron and Keselowski rounded out the top 10 as 15 competitors finished on the lead lap. Johnson finished 16th, one lap down, in his 20th and final start at Homestead. Everyone except for J.J. Yeley finished the race on the track.

The race featured 17 lead changes with seven different leaders. There were six cautions for 27 laps.

Harvick, who finished 26th and was a lap behind, continues to lead the Cup Series regular-season standings by eight points over Elliott and 29 over Logano. 

Results:

1. Denny Hamlin, 137 laps led, Stage 1 & 2 winner

2. Chase Elliott, 27 laps led

3. Ryan Blaney, 70 laps led

4. Tyler Reddick, three laps led

5. Aric Almirola 

6. Kyle Busch, two laps led

7. Austin Dillon

8. Christopher Bell

9. William Byron

10. Brad Keselowski, one lap led

11. Clint Bowyer

12. Martin Truex Jr.

13. Bubba Wallace

14. Matt DiBenedetto

15. Michael McDowell

16. Jimmie Johnson, one lap down

17. Kurt Busch, one lap down

18. Alex Bowman, one lap down

19. John Hunter Nemechek, one lap down

20. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., one lap down

21. Erik Jones, one lap down

22. Cole Custer, one lap down

23. Chris Buescher, one lap down

24. Ryan Preece, one lap down

25. Matt Kenseth, one lap down

26. Kevin Harvick, one lap down

27. Joey Logano, two laps down, 27 laps led

28. Ty Dillon, two laps down

29. Corey LaJoie, three laps down

30. Ryan Newman, four laps down

31. Daniel Suarez, four laps down

32. Brennan Poole, seven laps down

33. Quin Houff, eight laps down

34. Timmy Hill, 10 laps 

35. B.J. McLeod, 11 laps down

36. Joey Gase, 12 laps down

37. Josh Bilicki, 22 laps down

38. J.J. Yeley – OUT, Fuel pump

The NASCAR Cup Series will return to action at Talladega Superspeedway Sunday, June 21, for its second superspeedway event of this season. The race will air at 3 p.m. ET on FOX. 

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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