In Saturday’s Drydene 311 Race 1, Denny Hamlin led a Joe Gibbs Racing 1-2-3, beating out teammate Martin Truex Jr. to win.
Hamlin passed Truex with nine laps to go after Truex battled handling issues and lap traffic late. Truex stayed close for a few laps, but eventually Hamlin pulled away to a margin of victory of 1.179 seconds.
Hamlin led the most laps of any driver in the field (115) en route to the win. It was his sixth win of 2020 and the first time in his 15-year Cup career that he had won at Dover.
“It’s awesome, the monster trophy is one I’ve wanted to win. I’ve always been very envious of the people who had it. My teammates are a lot better at this racetrack and I always felt like a fifth place driver and I feel like I’ve just gotten better, so it gives me confidence to be able to win.”
Hamlin’s win Saturday was also the 43rd of his Cup career, which puts him one away from tying his childhood hero, Bill Elliott, who won 44 times in the Cup Series.
Truex finished second after lead 88 laps but had no qualms with the finish Saturday.
“We really struggled with the handling, so to run second like that is a big challenge and it’s something you’re proud of,” Truex stated. “If we had the best car, we’d be mad to run second, but we had a good day overall.”
Truex’s second-place finish breaks a streak of five straight third-place finishes that began with a third-place finish in July 23’s Super Start Batteries 400 at Kansas.
Truex took the lead from Hamlin on pit road during the final caution of the race, which fell on lap 187 for the conclusion of the second stage. The lap 187 caution was the final caution of the race as the race ran under green for the final 119 laps.
During the opening stages of the green flag run, Truex’s closest competition appeared to be teammate Kyle Busch. Busch ran the outside line and closed to within three tenths of a second of Truex before his tires started to wear out. Busch was passed by Hamlin and fell back to third, which is where the defending Cup champion finished.
Busch is winless through 24 races, which is the deepest he has gone into a Cup season without a win since his rookie season in 2005, when Busch earned his first win at race 25. Tomorrow will mark race 25 of the 2020 season and a possible return to glory with some possible changes.
“As a third-place car, you want to be smart so that way you don’t turn into a seventh or eighth place car. You want to lean on your teammates and lean on what they’re doing for changes. The track is going to change for tomorrow so you have to make changes to counteract that.”
Despite Busch not winning, his third-place finish is his best finish since June 7’s Folds of Honor Quiktrip 500 at Atlanta, a race that saw Busch finish second to Kevin Harvick. Busch is currently locked into the playoffs by 107 points with two races to go until the playoffs.
The top 10 finishers were as follows: Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott, Clint Bowyer, Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Where one Busch brother fared well on Saturday, another Busch brother found issues. Kurt Busch spun and hit the backstretch wall after Erik Jones made contact with Busch. The wreck ended Busch’s day after completing only six laps.
Despite the wreck, Jones sustained minimal damage to the right front fender. The damage was done to the left rear of his car, which is where Alex Bowman made contact with him. Bowman sustained damage to his right front fender which took him out of contention, eventually resulting in a 21st place finish, two laps down. Jones finished on the lead lap in 12th.
After Busch’s early wreck, the race ran with minimal cautions, only slowing for the lap 27 competition caution and the two stage breaks at laps 72 and 187. In the end, the race had only four cautions for 21 laps after 311 laps.
The race had 15 lead changes among 10 drivers. Hamlin (115) and Truex (88) led the way in laps led and were followed by Austin Dillon (49), Chase Elliott (27), Matt DiBenedetto (17), Brad KeselowskI (9), Kyle Busch (3), Matt Kenseth (1), Ricky Stenhouse Jr (1) and William Byron (1) for laps led.
Jimmie Johnson holds the final playoff spot by three points over teammate William Byron.
Matt DiBenedetto, who is just ahead of Johnson in points, starts on the pole for Sunday’s Drydene 311 Race 2, alongside Ryan Newman on the front row.