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  • Writer's pictureSports Speak



Motorsports Today has covered three NASCAR Cup Series races on-site in our existence. All three have been Joe Gibbs Racing triumphs, including Sunday afternoon, when Denny Hamlin used second half speed and clutch pit road performances to hold off Kyle Larson for the victory in the Wurth 400, the sport’s sole trip to Dover Motor Speedway on the 2024 calendar.

“It’s certainly more of a team sport than it’s ever been,” Hamlin explained. “The pit crew did a phenomenal job. That’s why I’m confident I can win each and every week. I have one of the best teams out there.”

Kyle Busch, a three-time winner at the “Monster Mile,” led the 37-car field to green, alongside Ryan Blaney, looking to claim Ford’s first victory of the season. Several contenders, including Kyle Larson, Ross Chastain, Chase Elliott, and Christopher Bell, would be forced to play the recovery game, all starting from the back half of the grid.

Busch led the first 33 laps before Blaney slipped by, all while Tyler Reddick turned some of the fastest laps on track and closed in on both leaders. Reddick passed Busch two laps later. On lap 38, Todd Gilliland brought out the first caution of the day after spinning off of turn four into the inside wall.

Corey Heim, making his Cup Series debut filling in for the injured Erik Jones, had a rude awakening to NASCAR’s top division, getting spun by fellow Toyota Tyler Reddick during his first pit stop with a Next Gen car.

The Hendrick Motorsports cars showed their speed early on, as William Byron took the lead from Ryan Blaney on lap 78. Meanwhile, Kyle Larson climbed to 6th after starting 21st in the first 60 laps, while Chase Elliott cracked the top 10 in the opening stage after rolling off the grid P29.

At the green and white checkered flag to wrap up though, it was all about attrition and tire conservation. Martin Truex Jr. made a bold move past the slowing Byron and the lapped car of Daniel Suarez to steal the lead. A Brad Keselowski spin clinched the stage victory for last year’s Dover winner.

After barely holding onto the lead after the pit cycle, Truex Jr. rocketed away early in stage 2, but things would change during the afternoon’s first green flag stops. A slow finish to the 19’s service, paired with a jack issue for William Byron, allowed Kyle Larson and his blinding quick pit crew to cycle to the lead at the midway point of the Wurth 400, after a bold strategy by Corey LaJoie to stay out and hope for a caution did not pay dividends.

Suddenly though, the fourth car in the Hendrick stable became a prime contender. Alex Bowman closed quickly, nearly passing his teammate for the lead before Brad Keselowski cut a tire in front of them, forcing Bowman to slow up. That was all Larson needed to collect his seventh stage win of the season.

It would be Joe Gibbs Racing that flexed its collective muscle in the ensuing pit cycle though, as Denny Hamlin jumped both Larson and Bowman to assume the top spot with 145 laps to go. Hamlin then took full advantage of the clean air, shooting out to a three second lead.

As the race passed lap 300 though, Hamlin’s torrent pace began to slow, as Kyle Larson methodically cut into the gap as Hamlin navigated lapped traffic. Larson would pull in front of Hamlin after making green flag stops with 82 laps left, but the cycle was interrupted when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. crashed on the backstretch after contact with Josh Berry’s Ford.

Daniel Hemric was the most significant beneficiary of the caution, as he had stayed out prior to the yellow flag waving, and cycled all the way to fifth place for the ensuing restart.

The aforementioned restart was short-lived, as a crash took out William Byron, Christopher Bell, and Bubba Wallace after the latter was spun by rookie Zane Smith on the back straightaway. The race would return to green and Hamlin would once again showcase his short-run prowess and storm to the front. Kyle Larson inched into the picture, and was right on Hamlin’s bumper through the final 10 laps, but couldn’t find his way around.

Denny Hamlin was victorious, capturing his third win of the season and fifth for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2024, and was unsurprisingly greeted with a chorus of boos as he emerged from the car.

“When you’re at a sport’s top level, everyone is shooting for you,” Hamlin’s crew chief Chris Gabehart said, emphasizing the target that his three-time Daytona 500 winning driver increasingly has centered at his back.

Kyle Larson was second, followed by Martin Truex Jr, Kyle Busch (who scored his first top five finish since Atlanta in February), and Chase Elliott. The 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season will continue next weekend at Kansas Speedway. Stay tuned on X @MtrsprtsToday for more content from our coverage of the events from the Monster Mile!

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