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NASCAR Cup Series: Hamlin takes an overtime, mixed-conditions win at Richmond

Written by Sean McKean, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri

On Easter Sunday night, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin took his second win of the season, in an overtime finish. It was the Virginia native’s fifth win at his home track and second on the season – joining William Byron as a multi-time winner thus far.

For the first time in a NASCAR points-paying race, the wet tyres would come out for a damp start. Few knew how the cars would handle upon the drop of the green flag, but as the race began, a battle for the lead between Hendrick teammates Kyle Larson – the pole sitter – and Chase Elliott unfolded. Larson would come out on top.

Throughout the field, 23XI’s Bubba Wallace and Stewart Haas’s Josh Berry began carving their way through the field. Wallace, having qualified well, made his way to the front and began charging towards Larson up front.

Berry, who had started 30th, made his way up to the top 15. Before they could make it higher, however, NASCAR threw the competition caution on lap 30 to put the cars back onto slick tyres.

The green flag came back out with more of the same: Larson and Wallace led the way up front, while Berry kept charging through the pack. Though, on lap 64, the first caution of the race would come out from the nose of Berry, as he would come into contact with Trackhouse’s Daniel Suarez, spinning the Mexican out. 

The caution for Suarez’s spin brought an end to the first stage. Larson comfortably took the win ahead of Wallace and Larson’s teammate Alex Bowman.

Under the stage caution, the first competitive stop (one that results in lost positions) occurred; however, little changed in the running order.

Stage two began on lap 80, and Josh Berry was continuing his charge to the front of the field. By lap 85, the five-time Xfinity series race winner had broken into the top four, and was charging up to Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex for third. However, he eventually got third due to Bubba Wallace falling back through the field with tyre falloff.

On lap 123, the first green flag pit stops began, with Truex, Berry and Joey Logano taking the chance on the alternate strategy. After the rest of the frontrunners pit, they would share the top three. 

Right before the provisional top three of Truex, Berry and Logano were to pit, a caution came out on lap 170 for Kyle Busch tapping the wall. While cleanup was not needed, it cost drivers such as Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell valuable track position.

After the green flag came back out, the rest of the second stage remained clean. Martin Truex took stage victory followed closely by Josh Berry and Joey Logano.

In typical Richmond fashion, the last stage was more of a strategy affair than chaotic one. The only driver to fall back through the field was Josh Berry, who had made a mistake in his first stint and received a speeding penalty in the second.

Aside from Berry’s misfortune, the next 250 laps was the “Truex-train.” Though drivers like Kyle Larson and Joey Logano tried battling the Gibbs driver, the #19’s pace seemed to be ahead of all others.

The race was flipped upside down on lap 398 though. With only two laps remaining, Kyle Larson got loose on the nose of Bubba Wallace, and as a result, he spun on the front stretch. What resulted was yellow flag pit stops that saw Denny Hamlin take the lead from third. 

On the ensuing overtime restart – the first of the 2024 season – Truex fell through the field while Hamlin went very early, allowing Hamlin to sneak through to take his second win of the season. 

After the race, Hamlin commented on what it meant to him to win yet again at one of his home tracks. 

“It’s special. Having friends and family here certainly means a lot,” Hamlin said in the post-race press conference. “Each win is special in certain ways, but the Richmond ones always have a special place in my heart.” 

With how quickly Hamlin went on the overtime restart, a few drivers and even the TV analysts assumed that he jumped it. However, Hamlin simply stated what actually happened.

“I went right at it [the restart zone], for sure. I saw those guys [Logano and Truex] rolling behind me, so I wasn’t going to let them have an advantage my team earned on pit road. I took off right away.”

Behind Hamlin, Joey Logano rallied for a quiet second. Kyle Larson took third after a nail-biting battle with Martin Truex, who finished fourth. Chase Elliott rounded out the top five. 

Right after everyone crossed the line, Truex seemed to have not only hit Larson’s car, but also Hamlin’s car post race out of frustration, having lost a race in which he dominated. Whilst many in the media had thoughts regarding the behaviour, team owner Joe Gibbs defended his actions in the press conference.

“These guys put so much into this, and these things are so hard to win, so when you have an experience like Martin had tonight, it’s hard,” Gibbs said. “He drove his heart out, and then to have a caution with three laps to go, it was devastating.

“You’re happy for Denny obviously, but you feel for Martin and how bad he wanted this. It’s a part of our sport and it’s very hard… You really feel for them when you have a night like Martin went through.”

Catch the next round of NASCAR action for more short-track action at Martinsville Speedway on April 7th.


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