Denny Hamlin finds third victory in NASCAR’s Cup Series this year in the Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday night.
Homestead-Miami Speedway played host for the Dixie Vodka 400 on Sunday afternoon. For the first time, Cup drivers are racing at Homestead in summer instead of the championship event in fall. Near the mid-season, some drivers are struggling to find victory lane, while others are riding on momentum. With no practice or qualifying, teams are showing up on race day to figure out what they have in their cars. This challenge is adding new excitement to NASCAR racing.
The First Stage
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin brought the field to the green flag to begin the race, but Joey Logano had the better jump. Logano soared into the lead and led the field up to the competition caution.
Chase Elliott passed Logano for the lead on the following restart, but Chase’s lead was short-lived. A caution came out due to lightning in the area. After a small break in the action, the race picked back up again.
Elliott could not hold off the field after the restart. Ryan Blaney made the pass, and Denny Hamlin followed him past Elliott. Blaney led the field during the long green-flag run, but he ran out of momentum as his tires became worn. Denny Hamlin made a late pass for the lead to win the first stage.
The Second Stage
Ryan Blaney came charging back to the lead to begin the second stage with Denny Hamlin following closely in second place. The second stage ran caution-free, forcing drivers to come down pit road under the green flag for service.
Denny Hamlin short-pitted the rest of the field, and it paid off. Hamlin and his crew had a great stop and were able to cycle into the lead with 43 laps remaining in the stage. Denny Hamlin went on to win the second stage.
The Third Stage
Denny Hamlin brought the field around to begin the last stage of the race. He and Ryan Blaney had a battle for the race lead. It was Blaney winning the battle, with Hamlin trying to recover. The final stage of the race ran caution-free as drivers began making their way to pit road about halfway through the stage.
Chase Elliott moved back into the lead after the pit cycle. Although there was a nice gap between Elliott and second-place Denny Hamlin, the No 11 was the stronger car. Hamlin was able to close the gap on Elliott.
Elliott was struggling to maneuver around lap traffic, allowing the door to open for the FedEx No. 11. Hamlin was able to make the pass for the lead with 29 laps remaining. Chase Elliott was not able to recover. So, Denny Hamlin wins his third race of the year bringing home the trophy for the Dixie Vodka 400.
Denny Hamlin had a very strong long-run car, and with how the race played out, it was to his advantage. After the first stage, the rest of the race ran caution-free, except at the end of each segment, when Hamlin was able to make a late pass to win. In the last stage, he made the late pass on Chase Elliott to win the race. With three wins now on the season, Denny Hamlin appears the strongest contender for the championship at the end of the year.
The schedule switches up this week, however, as the field now heads to Talladega Superspeedway for next Sunday’s race. Then, the doubleheader at Pocono is bound to bring more compelling racing. New faces may find themselves in victory lane after these events. With still no practice and qualifying, there are a lot of unknowns heading into the next couple of weeks.