NASCAR Cup Series

Denny Hamlin leads JGR domination in Drydene 311 Race 1

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Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Joe Gibbs Racing had a good Saturday afternoon. In the first Drydene 311 of the NASCAR Cup Series‘ doubleheader at Dover International Speedway, Denny Hamlin passed team-mate Martin Truex Jr. late to lead a 1–2–3 finish for the team.

Last week’s winner Chase Elliott started on the pole via formula ahead of runner-up Hamlin. Brennan Poole was the lone driver ordered to the rear after failing inspection twice.

Stage #1

After seven laps with Elliott leading, Kurt Busch spun to bring out the first caution of the day; Erik Jones had made contact with him, and Alex Bowman suffered damage after colliding with the #20.

Elliott continued to lead until the lap 25 competition caution. On pit road, Joey Logano was the first out while Kevin Harvick was forced to pit twice for a loose wheel. Austin Dillon, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Chris Buescher, and Christopher Bell stayed out.

The race resumed on lap 32 with Dillon leading. Dillon, returning to racing after missing the last Sunday’s Go Bowling 235 with COVID-19, led until Hamlin passed him on lap 60.

Hamlin would take the stage victory ahead of Dillon. Following were Brad Keselowski, Clint Bowyer, Truex, Logano, Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Buescher, and Aric Almirola.

Stage #2

Kenseth was penalised for speeding between stages, while Hamlin was the first off pit road.

Hamlin led for much of the stage before pitting as part of the green-flag pit cycle. Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Matt DiBenedetto, and William Byron spent time in front before they also hit the pits. Almirola had to pit again for a loose wheel, while Byron’s two-tyre stop failed as he fell two laps down.

After re-assuming the lead, Hamlin scored another stage win. Truex finished second, followed by Bowyer, Busch, Keselowski, Harvick, Johnson, Logano, Stenhouse, and Elliott.

Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Stage #3

As Truex took the lead on pit road, Dillon suffered a speeding penalty.

JGR drivers occupied the top spots as the final segment commenced, with Truex leading Busch and Hamlin. Hamlin took second from Busch on lap 247.

The final green-flag pit cycle opened with 50 laps remaining. Dillon inherited the lead during the shuffle and would end his day with 49 laps led, the most in his Cup career. Byron, needing a caution to regroup, subsequently pitted and fell a third lap down.

Hamlin chased down Truex and closed the gap with ten laps to go. Carrying a strong run, Hamlin successfully made the pass a lap later through the first two turns. He would hold the position to the checkered flag for his sixth win of 2020 and first Cup career victory at Dover; his best finish at the track had been second in the 2018 fall race.

Truex and Busch finished behind him to complete a JGR sweep of the podium positions. Jones, the fourth JGR driver, bounced back from the poor start to finish twelfth and on the lead lap. The runner-up finish for Truex snaps a five-race string of third-place runs.

“I’ve been running down the leaders these last few weeks and I haven’t been able to get there,” Hamlin began in a post-race interview with NBCSN. “We just didn’t control that restart there and we just had to battle back. We had to go back and get it. We just was able to work the top line there a little bit to get some momentum and it looked like our car was just a little bit better at moving around different lines.”

As part of the doubleheader field invert, twentieth-placed DiBenedetto will start on the pole for Sunday’s race.

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