Seems 21 was Denny Hamlin‘s fortunate quantity in Vegas.
After lastly getting his first profession victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on his twenty first strive, Hamlin is on an plain sizzling streak he simply may trip all the way in which to his long-sought first NASCAR Cup Collection championship.
Hamlin lastly broke by way of in Vegas on Sunday evening, holding off Chase Elliott and kicking off the second spherical of the playoffs along with his second win in September.
Three weeks after Hamlin bought his first victory of the season within the playoff opener at Darlington, he led 137 laps in Vegas in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, together with the ultimate 39.
After a season of irritating outcomes and a 17-year profession crammed with championship near-misses, Hamlin has emerged as a critical contender for the title as soon as once more. He’s simply 14 factors behind Kyle Larson within the factors standings, and he’ll haven’t any strain heading into the high-stakes upcoming races at Talladega and the Charlotte Roval along with his ticket already punched for the third spherical by this Vegas victory.
“It feels so good to win in Vegas,” Hamlin stated. “Final couple of occasions I’ve been shut, however simply didn’t have the proper brakes. Nice to carry these guys off.”
The 41-year-old veteran had struggled on this 1 1/2-mile observe for many of his profession, with simply two top-five finishes in his first 18 begins. He has put collectively three consecutive top-four finishes since then in Vegas, capped by this victory underneath the lights and fireworks.
“There was a degree the place I by no means thought I’d even sniff a victory right here,” Hamlin stated. “The crew has discovered a setup that has labored with my driving fashion. The crew goes to work to provide me what I have to go quick.”
Elliott closed in on Hamlin within the closing 5 laps as Hamlin’s efficiency appeared to say no, chopping the hole to a half-second with two laps to go — however the defending Cup Collection champion could not shut the remaining distance, ending second in his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
“We had been actually shut,” Elliott stated. “Simply not fairly shut sufficient. Denny did job controlling the hole to me. I really feel like we’ve been acting at a very nice degree the final 4 or 5 weeks. Simply haven’t had the outcomes to point out for it.”
Kyle Busch completed third on his hometown observe, adopted by Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Blaney because the 12 remaining playoff drivers started the second spherical and the ultimate seven races of the season. Hamlin, Busch and Truex put Joe Gibbs Racing in three of the highest 4 spots.
“I simply can’t consider a greater place to win,” stated Chris Gabehart, Hamlin’s crew chief. “Definitely our crew has been actually succesful all yr lengthy. Each metric apart from the win column has been astounding for our crew. It’s actually been our greatest yr collectively so far. You keep up entrance as a lot as we’ve got, the wins are going to lastly come. They’re coming on the proper time.”
Larson completed tenth on the observe the place he received in March. Kevin Harvick, who scrapped with Elliott over tactics final week at Bristol, completed ninth.
Larson received the primary stage, however Hamlin took the second when Larson wanted fuel and pitted with eight laps to go. Larson bought caught within the midfield within the closing stage whereas struggling along with his tires.
Harvick wasn’t actually in place for any payback on Elliott after the younger driver deliberately slowed Harvick at Bristol final week, ruining his probabilities of catching Larson. Harvick and Elliott had a vocal public disagreement after that race.
Harvick was nonetheless sore about it in Vegas, calling it “most likely the maddest I’ve ever been.”
“It was like chatting with a 9-year-old,” Harvick stated of his argument with Elliott. “It is equivalent. It’s 100% the very same situation. They get hung up on one factor and you’ll’t communicate to them in regards to the broader image about the entire thing works.”
LONG TIME COMING
Hamlin has made the playoffs 15 occasions, however he got here closest to a championship in 2010. He received eight races that yr and took a factors lead into the season finale at Homestead, solely to finish up second behind Jimmie Johnson with a 14th-place race end.
Kyle Busch was robust in his 600th profession Cup Collection begin, and older brother Kurt completed eighth in his 750th profession begin. The Las Vegas natives have been racing this observe on the far north finish of Las Vegas Boulevard because it reopened as a 1 1/2-mile oval in 1996.
Solely Richard Petty made 600 begins at a youthful age than Kyle Busch in NASCAR historical past.
Joey Gase went to a hospital after a violent one-car crash 92 laps in. His left rear tire flew off the automobile, sending him excessive into the skin wall off Flip 2.
Chase Briscoe completed 14th after an extended day for a soon-to-be father. He bought to Vegas on a business flight about three hours earlier than the race after staying behind in Charlotte along with his spouse, who is because of give delivery quickly. Briscoe almost did not make it to Nevada in any respect due to a flight cancellation, however American Airways got here by way of with a backup airplane simply in time.
UP NEXT: The NASCAR Cup Collection playoff race continues at Talladega subsequent Sunday.