Denny Hamlin got by Matt DiBenedetto with 12 laps to go and went on to win Saturday’s Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Hamlin overcame a night of challenges including falling laps down to the field to get back to Victory Lane for the fourth time this season. It was the 35th victory of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career.
He wrestled the lead away from DiBenedetto, who learned he was losing his ride in the Leavine Family Racing Toyota next year earlier this week and was trying for his first career win.
“It feels good. My first reaction was I’m sorry to Matt, I know those guys really wanted to win and Matt deserves a win,” Hamlin said. Watching him do an interview, I get emotional for him, just hate that I had to take it from him.”
Hamlin’s win kept a string of top-five finishes alive for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver.
“It’s on a roll like I’ve never seen before. It hasn’t been this good in a long time,” Hamlin said.
He led four times for 70 laps.
DiBenedetto was disappointed and emotional in the aftermath of what was still his career-best finish.
“I try not to get emotional but it’s been a tough week and I want to stick around,” he said fighting back tears. “I want so bad to win in the Cup Series and to come that close…Great day, but this one’s going to hurt for sure.”
Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch and Kurt Chase Elliott rounded out the top five.
Kyle Larson, Clint Bowyer, Daniel Suarez, Kurt Busch and Ryan Blaney completed the first 10 finishers.
Larson and Kurt Busch won the first two stages. Stage Points
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is now off until Sunday, September 1st at Darlington Raceway.
How Hamlin Won: He came back from a number of challenges all night long including damage in an incident and a loose wheel that caused a green flag pit stop. But Hamlin made up being laps down and charged back to the front and ran down DiBenedetto, weaving his way through traffic before finally getting by for the top spot with 12 laps to and went on to win.
Who Had a Good Day: DiBenedetto’s best career finish added to a strong 2019. Five of his nine career top 10 finishes have come in the last 9 races. He led the most laps Saturday with 93, had only 73 laps led in his career prior…Elliott has finished top-five in the last two Bristol night races…Suarez in eighth ties his best Bristol finish, both set in 2019.
Who Had a Bad Day: Kevin Harvick’s Michigan win a week ago was just a faded memory after he was taken from contention by a transmission failure after a mid-race pit stop…Austin Dillon’s run of bad finishes continued when he slammed the wall early and was hit by Jimmie Johnson…Front Row Motorsports teammates Michael McDowell and David Ragan tangled on lap 374 in an incident that started when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. hit the wall after contact from Ryan Blaney ahead of them. Jimmie Johnson also received damage.
What Else Happened: After the Gander Outdoors Truck Series and Xfinity Series races, there was anticipation for a much more physical race than how things turned out on Saturday night. While there were some incidents along the way, the race was a much tamer affair that featured long green flag runs and drivers having to finesse their way around for the 500-lap grind as displayed by Hamlin and DiBenedetto in their race to the win.
Quotable: “…damn it. #!%& was that? That was my fault, but…,” Clint Bowyer after his early race tangle and spin with Quinn Houff.
Notables: Hamlin’s four wins are the most for him in a season since 2012…It was his tenth career short track win…Hamlin scored the 13th Bristol win for JGR.