Denny Hamlin essentially called his shot this week, saying on his popular weekly podcast that he absolutely expected to win Sunday‘s NASCAR Cup Series Wurth 400 at Dover (Del.) Motor Speedway. And the veteran backed it up – holding off championship leader Kyle Larson by a slight .256-second to claim his third win of the season and 54th of his career — tying the legend Lee Petty on the all-time wins list.

Hamlin‘s No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota took the lead from Larson during a late race pit stop cycle, beating him off pit road then leading the final 72 laps. He got the jump on Larson‘s No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet on both of the final two restarts then managed an advantage that was more than 2-seconds at one point with Larson closing on him.

Larson got within two-tenths of a second of Hamlin as they negotiated traffic on the famous one-mile Dover track in the closing laps but was unable to get close enough to attempt a pass.

“You’d better win, if you’re going to open your mouth, that’s for sure,” Hamlin said of his bold prediction to win.

Hamlin, 43, immediately gave credit to his No. 11 JGR team.

“Just a great team, they just did a great job,” said Hamlin, who led a race best 136 of the 400 laps.

“All the guys on the wall right here, they made it happen,” he said motioning to his cheering team on pit wall. Thank you to them and to [crew chief] Chris Gabehart. The whole team just gave me a great car.

“I think the key moment, really was Kyle did an excellent job executing during the green flag pit cycle ad then we were able to get the lead there on that restart, then got the caution that allowed us to control the restart. That was really the key moment for us and certainly feels good winning here at Dover.”

Larson was understandably disappointed standing next to his car after the race and explained that contact between his car and the No. 19 car on a late race restart hurt his chances of being able to get going properly and challenge Hamlin.

“I knew when I got within three car-lengths, he was going to start moving around,” said Larson, who led 39 laps. “I couldn‘t really do anything. I was trying all sorts of different angles and speeds, all that. Nothing could generate enough speed to get close enough I guess, to do anything. That was a bummer.

“A great day for our HendrickCars.com Chevy team. Started 21st, drove up to sixth in the first stage or fifth. Got a stage win. Another stage win sounds good. Good points day. We would have loved to get a win.”

It was actually Hamlin‘s JGR teammate Truex — the defending race winner — who looked strongest in the field early on. He led 69 laps and won the opening stage, only to lose ground on a slow pit stop mid-race. His Toyota suffered some frontend damage from the restart incident that Larson referred to, but Truex held ground all day to finish third. He remains in second place in the championship standings, 15 points behind Larson.

“Feel like we let one get away today,” Truex said. “Had a really strong Bass Pro Camry. You can‘t lose control of these races mid-stage like that. The track changes and you get behind. Man, just stinks. Overall, a good day, just keep working on it.”

Dover polesitter Kyle Busch finished fourth in the No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet and Hendrick‘s Chase Elliott was fifth.

Stewart-Haas Racing‘s Noah Gragson — coming off his best career finish (third) last week at Talladega, Ala. – finished sixth, his fourth top-10 of the year. Reigning champion, Team Penske‘s Ryan Blaney was seventh followed by Hendrick‘s Alex Bowman, Kaulig Racing‘s Daniel Hemric and Joe Gibbs Racing‘s Ty Gibbs. It marked the second consecutive top-10 for Hemric, equaling his best result of the year.

It was a rough outing for the series‘ other three-race winners this season, Hendrick Motorsports‘ William Byron. The perennial race favorite was involved in a three-car accident with 23XI Racing‘s Bubba Wallace and JGR‘s Christopher Bell with 71 laps remaining. It marked the first DNF for Byron this season and the second consecutive DNF for both Wallace and Bell. Byron had an issue during a pit stop that left him mid-pack and that‘s exactly where the incident happened.

“Just sucks,” Byron told the Performance Racing Network. “We had a good car early, but once we got in traffic, we were terrible.”

Also of note, Corey Heim finished 25th in his NASCAR Cup Series debut. The 21-year old substituted for the injured Erik Jones in the Legacy Motor Club No. 43 Toyota. His team co-owner, seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson finished 28th in his third start of the season.

The NASCAR Cup Series moves to Kansas Speedway for the May 5 Advent Health 400 (3 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Hamlin is the defending winner.

— NASCAR Wire Service —

See race details at: Race Results, Driver Points Standings, Owner Points Standings, Cumulative Report, Penalty Report.

See more information on the  Dover race page.

 

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