Hamlin rolls to Vegas victory

Matthew Thacker/Motorsport Images

Hamlin rolls to Vegas victory

NASCAR

Hamlin rolls to Vegas victory

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Denny Hamlin picked up another opening-round win in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs with a dominant performance Sunday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Hamlin led a race-high 137 of 267 laps and won the second stage of the South Point 400. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver led comfortably to the finish after the final round of green-flag pits, cycling back to the top spot with 38 laps to go.

It is Hamlin’s second win of the season, both of which have come in the last four races. He won at Darlington Raceway to begin the postseason. Las Vegas marks Hamlin’s 46th career win in the Cup Series.

“Just so happy for our FedEx Office team,” Hamlin said. “The whole Toyota team, Joe Gibbs Racing, just gives us great race cars. That’s what I’m so proud of — to drive for those guys. I can’t thank them for everything they do. Vegas, it feels so good to win in Vegas. The last couple of times I’ve been so close just didn’t have the right breaks. They dialed the car in great.”

Hamlin is the first driver locked into the Round of 8.

Reigning series champion Chase Elliott finished second. Elliott cut Hamlin’s gap to under one second in the final few laps, but not enough to challenge for the race win.

Kyle Busch finished third, Martin Truex Jr. finished fourth, and Ryan Blaney finished fifth. Tyler Reddick finished sixth, Brad Keselowski finished seventh, and Kurt Busch finished eighth. Reddick and Busch led the way for non-playoff drivers.

Kevin Harvick finished ninth, and Kyle Larson completed the top 10. Larson won the first stage and led 95 laps. However, he faded from contention after losing his track position when crew chief Cliff Daniels pitted Larson before the end of Stage 2.

Four playoff drivers finished outside the top 10, and three were not on the lead lap. Joey Logano was the last of the playoff drivers on the lead lap, finishing 11th. There were 12 cars on the lead lap at the finish.

William Byron finished 18th. Byron drove from the back of the field into the top 10 twice during the race, but a flat tire around lap 225 again set the team back.

Alex Bowman finished 22nd and was two laps down. Bowman was forced to make an extra pit stop during the last pit stop cycle because of a punctured tire.

Christopher Bell finished 24th and was also two laps down. Bell was put behind early in the going when he damaged his car running into the back of Kurt Busch coming to pit road under the competition caution.

Byron, Harvick, Bowman, and Bell are the four drivers below the cut line going into Talladega Superspeedway.

“I’m so happy,” Hamlin said of being locked into the next round. “So happy to not have to worry about the next two weeks. I’m a professional, so I’m going to work just as hard each and every week to win.”

Joey Gase was transported to a local medical facility for further evaluation after a hard crash on lap 93 when the left rear wheel came off his Chevrolet. Gase walked to the ambulance under his own power.

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