Denny Hamlin at Homestead’s three-time successful membership – CBS Detroit
Denny Hamlin found the magic again at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Hamlin took the lead for the last time with 30 laps remaining, holding back Chase Elliott for his record-breaking third NASCAR Cup Series win at Homestead.
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Former drivers Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle are the other three-time winners. Hamlin is at the club now, having fought Elliott for most of the time.
“This one was really special,” said Hamlin.
Hamlin drove to his third win of the season and his 40th overall win. He opened the season with a Daytona 500 win and won at Darlington last month. And when the night was over, Hamlin – who wears the Michael Jordan “Jumpman” logo on his racing suit – made no secret of the fact that he drives with a little more energy these days.
“I am motivated. I’m more motivated than ever, ”said Hamlin.
He led 137 of 267 laps of the 1 1/2 mile in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 11 Toyota, finishing 0.895 ahead of Elliott.
“I just need to get through the lap better,” said Elliott.
Ryan Blaney finished third in a race that was often delayed by rain and lightning strikes. Tyler Reddick finished fourth.
“I just had to perform a bit better,” said Reddick. “It was difficult. We were just a little wrong in the last two races.”
Fittingly, a very long day sparked a very long week for NASCAR – three Cup Series races in eight days, all of which left the drivers in hot and steamy weather conditions that exhausted many of them, all around the ongoing national outcry about the struggle for racial equality.
Bubba Wallace, the only black driver in the Cup series, has become the sport’s most prominent activist after successfully calling NASCAR last week to ban Confederate flags at its events. The series quickly did just that, mostly rave reviews. While the fans – 1,000 of them, mostly invited military personnel who were each able to bring a guest – were at a NASCAR race for the first time since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, there was no insight into the banned flags.
Most of those fans were gone by the time Hamlin checked the checkered flag at 10:46 p.m. and ended marathon day.
The race was over. That was the day. In the end.
“I knew if I was just patient, going at the pace I wanted and the pace I was comfortable with, we’d be hard to beat in the long run,” said Hamlin.
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Wallace finished 13th. Jimmie Johnson, the seven-time champion who owned the tunnel that leads to the track in his honor and who is retiring as a full-time driver after that season, finished 16th.
Hamlin won the first two stages and this season bucked a trend where riders who do not end up winning.
Elliott swept the first two legs in Las Vegas before finishing 26th, Clint Bowyer made it before 22nd in Darlington, Alex Bowman took the first two in Charlotte but finished 19th and Elliott did it again and finished 22nd in Bristol.
The last rider to win the first two stages and ultimately win the race was Martin Truex Jr. in Martinsville on October 27th.
“I’ll take every win I can,” said Hamlin. “Let’s just keep piling them up.”
The weather played with the race all day.
A light shower, with it raining only over turns 3 and 4, popped up the moment the drivers started the engines to get things going. The first lightning bolt of the day followed and the delay meant that the race started 55 minutes later than planned.
The drivers made three laps – not even five miles – when a lightning bolt was detected near the track and a warning came out which turned into a break in the red flag and lasted 2 hours and 8 minutes. And after another 25 laps, when things finally resumed, lightning struck again, triggering another interruption of nearly 39 minutes.
“It was a little different,” said Blaney. “Of course we drove later than we thought, but on the other hand the race we are used to down here usually ends a little later. … It was difficult to get in and out of the car, that part stinks, but safety is important. “
If you count the delay before the race, that was 3 hours and 42 minutes to sit around in interruptions due to the weather on a day when most of the track was completely dry. It was 8.15 p.m. when the green flag fell again and the drivers – who had only driven 33 laps up to then – started the final 234 times around the surface of the Homestead.
Austin Dillon had a day he will never forget, even though his seventh place didn’t even come close to the most significant development. Dillon and his wife Whitney became parents early Sunday, announcing the birth of a boy named Ace.
“The hardest thing I ever had to do was say goodbye to race today,” Dillon wrote in the Instagram post announcing the birth. “Hopefully we’ll bring back a trophy for Ace on the first day we welcomed him to this world!”
Instead, the trophy went to Hamlin, who won this season with stands full of fans (Daytona), no fans (the second race in Darlington) and a few fans (Homestead).
“It’s a number I’ve been looking for for a few years and at one point I didn’t know if I would get there,” said Hamlin as he hit the 40-win milestone. “I’ve adjusted my goals since then. … I don’t think we’re still at the top of our game with our team. “
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