Late caution helps Hamlin win NASCAR night race in Richmond

Denny Hamlin (11) takes the checkered flag to win Sunday night’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway. Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images.

Pit crew comes through to give Denny Hamlin the edge in overtime at Richmond Raceway

Denny Hamlin’s pit crew came through in crunch time Sunday night at Richmond (Va.) Raceway.

After a late caution forced overtime, Hamlin’s crew worked its magic and helped him win the race off pit road – moving up from third to first – ahead of Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr., Team Penske’s Joey Logano, and Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson.

Hamlin got a good jump on the restart and went on to win the Toyota Owners 400 NASCAR Cup Series race on the three-quarter-mile oval.

“This was a team win for sure,” said Hamlin. “Each one of these pit crew members just did an amazing job, they’ve been killing it all year. Such a great feeling when you can come in and have a pit crew like that.”

Denny Hamlin crosses the finish line to win Sunday night’s NASCAR Cup race at Richmond Raceway. Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images.

It was the second win of the season, and the fifth in Richmond, for the 43-year-old from nearby Chesterfield.

It was also Hamlin’s 53rd win in NASCAR’s Cup Series, putting him 13th on the all-time win list.

Logano finished second – 0.269 seconds back – followed by Larson and Truex.

Chase Elliott finished fifth, followed by Christopher Bell, William Byron, Brad Keselowski, Chris Buescher, and Tyler Reddick.

The 400 was essentially a two-man race – until it wasn’t.

Larson won the pole with Elliott second.

Truex lined up seventh at the start.

Larson had the best car early.

Truex had the best car late.

Larson led the race three times for 144 laps and won Stage 1.

Truex then dominated almost all the way to a win, leading five times for a race-high 228 laps, winning Stage 2, and was well on his way to victory when, with just over two laps to go, Larson – who was in fourth place at the time – got tangled up with fifth place Bubba Wallace on the frontstretch.

That sent Larson spinning, brought out the caution flag, and set up Hamlin’s dramatic charge to victory.

Wallace ended up 13th.

Denny Hamlin (11) leads Martin Truex Jr. and the field in the final restart of Sunday’s NASCAR race in Richmond. Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images.

“Well, I was a little bit loose, then I got finished off there. Thankfully it all kind of just worked out. I only lost, whatever, a spot to Bubba. I was able to keep it going,” said Larson. “Then my pit crew did a really good job to get us off pit road, restart fourth and gain one more.

“I will take a third after what could have been a lot worse there on the frontstretch. Proud of the team, proud of Chevy, everybody at Hendrick Motorsports. It was a good weekend for us, getting the pole, winning a stage, getting back to third at the end. Happy about that.”

“Yeah, I mean, it’s unfortunate. Unfortunately, this has happened here a few times over the years,” said Truex. “Yeah, we were in a great spot. Had a great Auto Owners Camry all night long. The guys did a really good job. Got beat out of the pits. Got… I don’t know. He jumped the start, then just used me up in Turn 1, so… Definitely sucks. But a good, solid day. Another car capable of winning. So just have to come back next week, try to get them again.”

NASCAR said Hamlin did not jump the start.

Denny Hamlin celebrates his victory in Sunday night’s Toyota Owners 400. Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images.

“Yeah, I mean, I went right at it, for sure,” said Hamlin. “I did that because I saw those guys rolling to me. The 22 (Logano) was laying back. The 19 (Truex) was rolling a couple miles an hour quicker than I was. I wasn’t going to let them have an advantage that my team earned on pit road.

“Certainly, made sure I went to my nose, got there. But I took off right away. Still, we were side by side down the water into Turn 1.”

A light rain delayed the start of the first night race of the Cup season by about 30 minutes as jet dryers worked to prepare the track.

The rain stayed away the rest of the night but teams started the race on wet weather tires.

NASCAR called for a competition caution after 30 laps, then decided that would be the time to switch everyone back to their normal Goodyear slick (dry track) tires.

All three national series are in action next weekend on another Virginia short track, the 0.526-mile “paperclip” at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway

NASCAR Cup Series Race – Toyota Owners 400

Richmond Raceway

Richmond, Virginia

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Statistics provided by NASCAR

(11)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 407.

(10)  Joey Logano, Ford, 407.

(1)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 407.

(7)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 407.

(2)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 407.

(29)  Christopher Bell, Toyota, 407.

(13)  William Byron, Chevrolet, 407.

(23)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 407.

(14)  Chris Buescher, Ford, 407.

(19)  Tyler Reddick, Toyota, 407.

(30)  Josh Berry #, Ford, 407.

(17)  Noah Gragson, Ford, 407.

(5)  Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 407.

(27)  Erik Jones, Toyota, 407.

(3)  Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 407.

(8)  Ty Gibbs, Toyota, 407.

(4)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 407.

(32)  Chase Briscoe, Ford, 407.

(12)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, 407.

(15)  Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, 407.

(6)  Todd Gilliland, Ford, 407.

(20)  Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 407.

(9)  Austin Cindric, Ford, 406.

(22)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 406.

(18)  John Hunter Nemechek, Toyota, 406.

(31)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 406.

(25)  Carson Hocevar #, Chevrolet, 406.

(16)  Ryan Preece, Ford, 406.

(33)  Ty Dillon(i), Chevrolet, 406.

(34)  Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 405.

(35)  Kaz Grala #, Ford, 405.

(36)  Justin Haley, Ford, 405.

(24)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 405.

(26)  Harrison Burton, Ford, 405.

(28)  Zane Smith #, Chevrolet, 404.

(21)  Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 404.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  94.076 mph.

Time of Race:  3 Hrs, 14 Mins, 41 Secs.

Margin of Victory:  .269 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  5 for 54 laps.

Lead Changes:  16 among 7 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   K. Larson 0;C. Elliott 1-5;K. Larson 6-48;B. Wallace 49;K. Larson 50-150;B. Wallace 151;M. Truex Jr. 152-171;J. Berry # 172;M. Truex Jr. 173-234;J. Berry # 235;M. Truex Jr. 236-286;C. Bell 287-294;M. Truex Jr. 295-335;D. Hamlin 336-345;C. Bell 346;M. Truex Jr. 347-400;D. Hamlin 401-407.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Martin Truex Jr. 5 times for 228 laps; Kyle Larson 2 times for 144 laps; Denny Hamlin 2 times for 17 laps; Christopher Bell 2 times for 9 laps; Chase Elliott 1 time for 5 laps; Bubba Wallace 2 times for 2 laps; Josh Berry # 2 times for 2 laps.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 5,23,48,19,22,38,9,1,4,41

Stage #2 Top Ten: 19,4,22,5,11,20,17,23,24,45

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