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Hamlin rallies to beat DiBenedetto in night race

By Jeff Birchfield • Aug 18, 2019 at 3:06 AM

BRISTOL, Tenn. — Denny Hamlin maintained his hot streak on the NASCAR circuit and crushed Matt DiBenedetto’s hopes for a Cinderella ending.

Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Toyota for the powerhouse Joe Gibbs Racing team, passed DiBenedetto’s No. 95 Toyota for the lead with 12 laps to go to win Saturday’s Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

It was the fifth straight top-three finish for Hamlin and his sixth consecutive top-five finish.

View Dakota Hamilton’s photos from Saturday at BMS

Hamlin’s second career win in Bristol’s night race gave him his fourth victory of the season and the 35th first-place showing of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career.

“I’m so sorry to Matt DiBenedetto and Mike Wheeler. I hate it,” said Hamlin, a 38- year-old Virginia driver. “I know what a win would mean for that team. But I have to give 110 percent for my team and FedEx. This team is really kicking butt right now.

“I got behind him, worked him over in the top groove, worked him over and didn’t want to show him the bottom (groove) until I knew I could make the move.”

DiBenedetto, who earlier in the week found out he was losing his Leavine Racing Toyota ride at the end of the season, was emotional afterward. He led 93 laps and scored a career-best second-place finish, but had to fight back tears after the tough loss.

He said the handle on his car went away after he made contact with the No. 6 Ford of Ryan Newman, who was fighting hard to stay in the lead lap.

“I wanted to win so bad for this team, these guys. I’m thankful they gave me this opportunity. I’m sad,” said DiBenedetto, who came out to the “Rocky” theme in pre-race introductions. “We got tight after the deal with Newman.

“Congrats to Denny. I’ve been a fan of his since I was a kid. To race him door to door at Bristol … I’m not done yet. Something will come open. It’s been a hard week and I’m a little misty.”

Two-time Bristol winner Brad Keselowski finished third in the No. 2 Team Penske Ford, passing Chase Elliott for second before Hamlin with fresher tires got by both on his way to the front.

“It was a great day for us. We had a really great race car,” Keselowski said. “We led a lot of laps. It shows we have some capabilities of running up front and winning races.

Eight-time Bristol winner Kyle Busch passed Elliott to finish fourth in the No. 18 Toyota. Elliott wound up fifth in the No. 9 Hendrick Chevrolet.

Kyle Larson, who led three times for 62 laps in his No. 42 Chevrolet, finished sixth. Clint Bowyer and Daniel Suarez in a pair of Stewart-Haas Racing Fords, defending race champion Kurt Busch and Ryan Blaney rounded out the top 10.

COMPETITION THROUGHOUT

It was a competitive race throughout with 23 lead changes among 10 drivers.

Hamlin and Larson swapped the lead four times in the first 50 laps. With three laps to go in Stage 1, Elliott briefly inched ahead of Larson only to see Larson get back around him and take the win.

Kurt Busch took the win in Stage 2 when most of the leaders came to the pits with six laps to go. By staying on the track, he started the final stage in 14th position.

Hamlin had his own struggles. After starting on the pole, he fell a lap behind with a flat tire before rallying for the win.


Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race

Saturday

At Bristol Motor Speedway, Bristol, Tenn.

1. (1) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 500 laps, 40 points.

2. (7) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 500, 41.

3. (13) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 500, 40.

4. (31) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 500, 40.

5. (6) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 500, 46.

6. (2) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 500, 41.

7. (20) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 500, 30.

8. (18) Daniel Suarez, Ford, 499, 38.

9. (4) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 499, 40.

10. (12) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 499, 32.

11. (14) Ryan Newman, Ford, 499, 34.

12. (17) Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 499, 27.

13. (3) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 498, 33.

14. (22) Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 498, 23.

15. (10) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 497, 22.

16. (11) Joey Logano, Ford, 497, 21.

17. (29) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 497, 20.

18. (23) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 497, 19.

19. (30) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 496, 18.

20. (24) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 496, 17.

21. (21) William Byron, Chevrolet, 496, 22.

22. (9) Erik Jones, Toyota, 495, 23.

23. (25) Paul Menard, Ford, 495, 14.

24. (26) Corey Lajoie, Ford, 494, 13.

25. (32) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 490, 0.

26. (39) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 490, 0.

27. (27) Matt Tifft, Ford, suspension, 487, 10.

28. (36) JJ Yeley, Ford, 485, 9.

29. (5) Aric Almirola, Ford, 482, 9.

30. (34) Quin Houff, Chevrolet, 478, 7.

31. (38) Kyle Weatherman, Ford, 474, 0.

32. (33) BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, garage, 410, 0.

33. (15) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ford, garage, 391, 4.

34. (19) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 387, 3.

35. (35) Josh Bilicki, Chevrolet, garage, 373, 0.

36. (16) David Ragan, Ford, accident, 371, 1.

37. (28) Michael McDowell, Ford, accident, 368, 1.

38. (37) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, clutch, 269, 1.

39. (8) Kevin Harvick, Ford, clutch, 244, 8.

Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 94.526 mph.

Time of Race: 2 hours, 49 minutes, 9 seconds.

Margin of Victory: 0.502 seconds.

Caution Flags: 8 for 61 laps.

Lead Changes: 23 among 10 drivers.

Lap Leaders: D.Hamlin 0-14; K.Larson 15-23; D.Hamlin 24-38; K.Larson 39-45; D.Hamlin 46-83; K.Larson 84-129; B.Keselowski 130; C.Elliott 131-163; K.Harvick 164-191; B.Keselowski 192; M.Truex 193-244; Ku.Busch 245-253; Ky.Busch 254-264; B.Keselowski 265-349; Ky.Busch 350; B.Keselowski 351; Ky.Busch 352; B.Keselowski 353-354; Ky.Busch 355-365; B.Keselowski 366; Ky.Busch 367-372; E.Jones 373-395; M.DiBenedetto 396-488; D.Hamlin 489-500

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): M.DiBenedetto, 1 time for 93 laps; B.Keselowski, 6 times for 91 laps; D.Hamlin, 4 times for 79 laps; K.Larson, 3 times for 62 laps; M.Truex, 1 time for 52 laps; C.Elliott, 1 time for 33 laps; Ky.Busch, 5 times for 30 laps; K.Harvick, 1 time for 28 laps; E.Jones, 1 time for 23 laps; Ku.Busch, 1 time for 9 laps.

Wins: Ky.Busch, 4; D.Hamlin, 4; M.Truex, 4; B.Keselowski, 3; J.Logano, 2; K.Harvick, 2; C.Elliott, 2; Ku.Busch, 1; A.Bowman, 1.

Top 16 in Points: 1. Ky.Busch, 932; 2. J.Logano, 893; 3. D.Hamlin, 855; 4. M.Truex, 838; 5. K.Harvick, 830; 6. B.Keselowski, 794; 7. C.Elliott, 757; 8. Ku.Busch, 741; 9. R.Blaney, 686; 10. A.Bowman, 675; 11. K.Larson, 665; 12. W.Byron, 664; 13. A.Almirola, 654; 14. E.Jones, 646; 15. R.Newman, 603; 16. D.Suarez, 591.

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