NASCAR Cup Series

Denny Hamlin opens Round of 12 with South Point 400 win

3 Mins read
Credit: Steph Chambers/Getty Images

After going 0-for-26 in the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series regular season, Denny Hamlin is 2-for-2 in 2021 playoff round openers. After winning the first race in the Round of 16 at Darlington three rounds prior, he dominated the Round of 12 kickoff at Las Vegas Motor Speedway as he led 137 of 267 laps en route to his maiden win at the track.

Kyle Larson, who won last week at Bristol, was on the pole but second-place starter Ryan Blaney had the early advantage to lead seven laps before Hamlin did so until the lap 26 competition caution. Although Hamlin continued to lead on the restart, Larson was in front by lap 45 and held it to the end of the segment. Kyle Busch, Hamlin, Blaney, William Byron, Chase Elliott, Tyler Reddick, Kevin Harvick, Matt DiBenedetto, and Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the top ten. All but Reddick and DiBenedetto were in playoff contention, and Byron and Truex had started the night at the rear for multiple pre-race inspection failures (as did Aric Almirola and J.J. Yeley).

Five circuits into Stage #2 on lap 93, Joey Gase would be involved in the race’s lone wreck in major fashion when his left-rear wheel came off in turn two and caused him to spin and slam into the outside wall, briefly sending his car airbourne. The crash resulted in hospitalisation for additional evaluation.

“This evening, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Joey was in a scary wreck when a parts failure caused his LR wheel to come off which led him to make heavy contact with the wall and go airborn,” read a statement from his public relations team. “The medical staff at the track decided to take the precautionary measures to have Joey further evaluated at the hospital. He has been released from the hospital and will be further evaluated in Charlotte. Joey would like to thank the medical staff for taking great care of him and everyone for the prayers and ongoing support.”

Larson led on the restart and dominated the rest of the stage. However, he was among those who pitted under green shortly before the segment’s conclusion and cycled the lead to Reddick and Hamlin. The latter would take the stage win ahead of Busch, Reddick, Truex, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Harvick, Austin Dillon, and Bubba Wallace.

The 101-lap Stage #3 ran completely green. Hamlin led before the next green-flag pit cycle opened on lap 210, which rotated the top spot to Reddick, Keselowski, and Dillon. Dillon led the most of the trio with seven laps, his highest lap-led count of the season and a personal best at Las Vegas (beating his two in 2016), before relinquishing first back to Hamlin on lap 229.

Although Elliott tried to chase down Hamlin, he was too far away as he drove off to his second win of the year, forty-sixth of his career, and first at Vegas. The win locks him into the Round of 8.

“My crew chief (Chris Gabehart) would say I missed out on two more wins in the first round,” Hamlin commented in his post-race press conference. “We should have won all of them. I can’t disagree, we probably should have won every race so far in the playoffs. I guess I heard out there we led a third of all the laps so far in the playoffs. We’re good.

“We knew that this is what we’re capable of—really, we’ve shown this all year long. It shows in laps led, top fives, top tens. For whatever reason, whether it be bad luck, mistakes on our own, we haven’t got all the bunches of wins that we’ve had in the past.

“Hopefully, this is the start of a really good run.”

Race results

FinishStartNumberDriverTeamManufacturerLapsStatus
1611Denny HamlinJoe Gibbs RacingToyota267Running
2119Chase ElliottHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet267Running
31018Kyle BuschJoe Gibbs RacingToyota267Running
4419Martin Truex Jr.Joe Gibbs RacingToyota267Running
5212Ryan BlaneyTeam PenskeFord267Running
6138Tyler ReddickRichard Childress RacingChevrolet267Running
782Brad KeselowskiTeam PenskeFord267Running
8201Kurt BuschChip Ganassi RacingChevrolet267Running
954Kevin HarvickStewart-Haas RacingFord267Running
1015Kyle LarsonHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet267Running
11922Joey LoganoTeam PenskeFord267Running
121421Matt DiBenedettoWood Brothers RacingFord267Running
13153Austin DillonRichard Childress RacingChevrolet266Running
141914Chase BriscoeStewart-Haas RacingFord266Running
152699Daniel SuárezTrackhouse Racing TeamChevrolet266Running
162123Bubba Wallace23XI RacingToyota266Running
172247Ricky Stenhouse Jr.JTG Daugherty RacingChevrolet266Running
18324William ByronHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet266Running
191710Aric AlmirolaStewart-Haas RacingFord266Running
20296Ryan NewmanRoush Fenway RacingFord266Running
212334Michael McDowellFront Row MotorsportsFord266Running
22748Alex BowmanHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet265Running
231842Ross ChastainChip Ganassi RacingChevrolet265Running
241220Christopher BellJoe Gibbs RacingToyota265Running
252517Chris BuescherRoush Fenway RacingFord265Running
261643Erik JonesRichard Petty MotorsportsChevrolet265Running
273238Anthony AlfredoFront Row MotorsportsFord265Running
282437Ryan PreeceJTG Daugherty RacingChevrolet265Running
292841Cole CusterStewart-Haas RacingFord265Running
30277Corey LaJoieSpire MotorsportsChevrolet264Running
313551Cody Ware*Rick Ware RacingChevrolet260Running
323377Justin Haley*Spire MotorsportsChevrolet260Running
333478B.J. McLeod*Live Fast MotorsportsFord257Running
343600Quin HouffStarCom RacingChevrolet255Running
353053Garrett Smithley*Rick Ware RacingChevrolet254Running
363152Josh BilickiRick Ware RacingFord252Running
373715Joey Gase*Rick Ware RacingChevrolet84Accident
383866J.J. YeleyMBM MotorsportsToyota76Handling
Bold – Currently in playoffs
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for Cup points
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History major at San Jose State University and lifelong motorsports fan who covers NASCAR and the Stadium Super Trucks.
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