Denny Hamlin’s No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing team gave him a clutch pit stop to emerge with the lead out of the pits and then he was able to hold the advantage on a two-lap overtime shootout to claim the Toyota Owners 400 victory Saturday night at his home track, Richmond (Va.) Raceway.

It was Hamlin’s 53rd career NASCAR Cup Series win, second of the season and his fifth victory at the three-quarter mile Richmond oval – a .269-second margin of victory over Team Penske’s Joey Logano. And it came at the expense of his JGR teammate Martin Truex Jr. who finished fourth despite leading a dominant 228 of the race’s 407 laps.

“This was a team win for sure,” said Hamlin, who led 17 laps on the night. “Each one of these pit crew members just did an amazing job, they’ve been killing it all year.

“Such a great feeling when you can come in and have a pit crew like that.”

It was a certainly a frustrating ending for Truex, who had been out front 54 consecutive laps in his No. 19 JGR Toyota when a caution flag flew with only two laps of regulation remaining. On the ensuing pit stop, Hamlin beat him off pit road and Truex was unable to take the lead back in that final two lap run, ultimately getting passed by Logano for second and polesitter Kyle Larson for third.

“It’s unfortunate, but it’s happened a few times over the years,” Truex said. “We were in a great spot and had a great Auto Owners Camry all night long and the guys did a really good job. Just got beat out of the pits and then he [Hamlin] jumped the start and just used me up in Turn 1.

“Definitely sucks. Another car capable of winning, we’ll just have to come back next week and try to get one.”

The silver lining for Truex, is that he still holds the championship lead by 14 points over Larson, who had a busy ending to the race. Contact between Hendrick Motorsports’ Larson and 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace brought out the final yellow flag to force the first overtime period for a NASCAR Cup Series race this season.

Larson was still able to come out fourth place on the pit stop and challenge for the win, although he and Truex banged doors in the closing laps fighting for position.

“My pit crew did a really good job to get us off pit road and get us those spots to restart fourth and gain one more,” Larson said. “I’ll take third after what could have been a lot worse there on the front stretch. Proud of the team.

“It was a good weekend for us, winning the pole, winning a stage and getting back to third. Happy about that.”

As for the late race contact between him and a frustrated Truex, Larson said. “I think he was just mad. He was mad the 11 [Hamlin] used him up on the restart and that’s probably where it really started from.

“I think he was more mad at Denny but I was the closest one for him to take his anger out on,” Larson added with a smile.

Larson’s Hendrick teammate – and fellow front-row starter – Chase Elliott finished fifth.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell, Hendrick’s William Byron, RFK Racing teammates Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher and 23XI Racing’s Tyler Reddick rounded out the top-10. Stewart-Haas Racing’s Josh Berry finished 11th, having run in the top-10 most of the night and Wallace, who also ran top-10 most of the race finished 13th after that late race contact with Larson.

Of note, with the track still damp from afternoon showers, the field started the race on wet weather tires. NASCAR threw a competition caution at Lap 30, bringing the cars down pit road for a mandatory change to racing slicks. And cars returned to the track in the order they were running at the time of caution. The move to use the wet weather tires allowed the race to start only a few minutes late and was widely praised.

The NASCAR Cup Series moves to another short track challenge next Sunday with the Cook Out 400 (3 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. Larson is the defending race winner.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here