Denny Hamlin has won at Homestead-Miami Speedway twice this year — in both the virtual and real world.
Sunday night, Hamlin dominated the Dixie Vodka 400 by earning both stage wins, leading a race-high 137 laps, and grabbing his third victory of the season. It is Hamlin’s third win at the 1.5-mile facility in south Florida, or fourth if you counted his iRacing triumph when NASCAR was on hiatus from the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this spring.
Hamlin powered his No. 11 FedEx Toyota to the top spot for the final time with 30 laps to go, getting to the outside of Elliott coming off Turn 2. Elliott had been making his way through lapped traffic, including Joey Logano, who he collided with a few weeks ago, which aided in Hamlin closing the gap.
Although Elliott kept pace with Hamlin into the final laps, he scrubbed the wall with five laps to go and lost all momentum. Hamlin then easily drove away to his 40th career in the NASCAR Cup Series.
“Our car was really good,” said Hamlin. “This is a setup based off of what we had in the fall here last year going for the championship. (We) Had a strong car all day, obviously, with the laps led and was able to get around Chase there at the end. This whole FedEx team has just done a phenomenal job. This Camry is real special.”
Elliott, who led 27 laps, held off Ryan Blaney for the second spot. The No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports team got the jump on Hamlin during the final round of pit stops, pitting one lap sooner that cycled Elliott to the lead with 46 laps to go.
However, Elliott complained his Chevrolet was tighter after pit stops, and Hamlin was encouraged by his team that he would make up the 1.5 seconds he was behind. Hamlin was on Elliott’s bumper with 34 laps to go.
Elliott was asked about the effect of Logano racing the leaders hard in both his TV interview and later in his post-race availability. Both times Elliott said, “I just need to get through lap traffic better.”
Rookie Tyler Reddick finished fourth while Aric Almirola completed the top five. Blaney led the second-most laps behind Hamlin with 70.
Rounding out the top 10, Kyle Busch came home in sixth place, Austin Dillon was seventh and rookie Christopher Bell earned a career-best finish with an eighth-place result. William Byron finished ninth with Brad Keselowski 10th.
Erik Jones had to pit with a flat right-rear tire with eight laps to go. He fell from inside the top 10 to a 21st-place finish. Point leader Kevin Harvick finished 26th, off the lead lap. Harvick struggled with an ill-handling Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, and hit the wall a few times, and fell behind when he had to pit with 60 laps to go for a flat tire.
After leading 27 laps early in the night, Logano failed to contend after suffering nose damage to his Ford Mustang. Logano was running third when the field came down pit road after the second lightning delay when he ran into the back of Quin Houff. He finished 27th, two laps down.