Denny Hamlin now has two more wins in the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs than he scored during the entire regular season, as he scored his second win of the Playoffs in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
For Hamlin, it’s all about the teamwork within Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota Racing Development that makes these wins possible.
“Just so happy for our FedEx Office team,” Hamlin stated after winning the race. “The whole Toyota team, Joe Gibbs Racing just gives us a great race cars. That’s what I’m so proud of is to drive for those guys. Can’t thank them enough for all that they do.”
Hamlin led a race-high 137 laps and never really endured a realistic challenge for the lead once Tyler Reddick pitted several laps after Hamlin on the final green flag pit stop of the race.
This marks the 46th win of Hamlin’s illustrious career and it’s his first-ever victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“It feels so good to win in Vegas,” Hamlin said. “Last couple of times, I was so close but just didn’t have the right breaks. They dialed the car in great and we were able to hold those guys off.”
This race was the first of three in the Round of 12 in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. Hamlin will automatically advance to the Round of 8 with his win.
Chase Elliott attempted to make things interesting by catching a bit of Hamlin’s draft with two laps to go, but he was stalled when he hit the wake of the No. 11 car on the final lap.
“Yeah, we were really close, just not quite close enough,” Elliott said after the runner-up finish. “Denny does a good job controlling the gap to me. He was having a hard time with [DiBenedetto], I think he was doing a good job of giving himself enough room to him to be able to work the lanes and kind of control the gap back to me.”
Hamlin cruised to a margin of victory of 0.442-second over Elliott.
Kyle Busch was really good all race long and finished third, but after scrubbing the wall a couple of times, he just lacked what he needed to get to victory lane.
“We got all we could,” Busch said. “I felt like during the day time, we were a little bit better than [Hamlin], we could race with him. I felt like I was looking forward to the lights coming on and us picking up speed and being able to rip the wall a little bit faster. But when we got hit into the fence off of turn two the first time, it definitely knocked speed out of our race car.
“We helped it a little bit coming to pit road putting the last set of tires on it and I got into the fence again trying to get by a lapped car. Just not enough room over there, I guess.”
Martin Truex Jr. rallied from a pre-race inspection penalty, which forced him to start in the rear of the field to finish fourth.
Ryan Blaney, who led the opening lap of the race and a total of eight laps in the race came home in fifth.
Tyler Reddick, due to that botched pit strategy, faded to a sixth-place finish.
Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Larson rounded out the top-10 finishers in the race.
Sunday’s race was ultra-tame. The only on-track incident was a scary freak accident for Joey Gase. On lap 91, Gase’s left rear tire flew off of his No. 15 car, which sent him hard into the wall. Gase was transported to the local hospital for further evaluation.
Here are how the NASCAR Cup Series Round of 12 Playoff Standings look with two races remaining in the round:
- Denny Hamlin, Advanced with win
- Kyle Larson, +57 points
- Kyle Busch, +35
- Martin Truex Jr., +31
- Ryan Blaney, +24
- Chase Elliott, +22
- Joey Logano, +6
- Brad Keselowski, +4
- William Byron, -4 points
- Kevin Harvick, -7
- Alex Bowman, -13
- Christopher Bell, -25