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Denny Hamlin survives tire chaos race at Bristol | NASCAR


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Joe Gibbs Racing took the top two spots in Sunday’s race. Just five cars finished on the lead lap.

BRISTOL, Tenn. — With tire problems creating calamity all day, Denny Hamlin held off a challenging Martin Truex Jr. and lapped nearly the entire field to win Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Hamlin led 49 of the last 50 laps in a race that featured 54 lead changes, a NASCAR Cup Series record at a track under 1 mile. Martin Truex Jr. battled Hamlin in the race’s final period but could not pull off the pass. Truex settled for second, creating a 1-2 finish for Joe Gibbs Racing.

“Once it became a tire management race I really liked our chances,” Hamlin said after the race. “We had a great car. The pit crew did a phenomenal job all day.”

Just five cars finished on the lead lap as the field dealt with tire issues the entire race. Goodyear officials said resin on the race track impacted tire performance, which caused many cars to fall way off the pace. This caused calamity for the lead drivers as they tried to navigate around traffic.

It’s the fourth win for Hamlin at Bristol and his 52nd Cup Series win. The win is the second straight for Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota.  

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Tire wear became a key factor in the race early on. Issues hit several drivers throughout the day as their tires reacted poorly to the track’s surface.

William Byron became the race’s first casualty when he slammed the wall and suffered a broken toe link. Debris from Byron brought out a caution on lap 23. Byron finished 35th, eight laps down.

Everyone except for Tyler Reddick came to pit road for new tires. The move quickly backfired for Reddick as he spun out on the front straightaway. Reddick was hit by Zane Smith during his spin, ruining both drivers’ days.

Just before the end of the first stage, Ty Gibbs grabbed the lead from Denny Hamlin and instantly became one of the top contenders in Sunday’s race. Gibbs swept the first two stages despite tire strategy putting him near the back of the lead lap cars at various parts of the race.

Spins were the common caution cause of the day. Kyle Busch spun twice, Ricky Stenhouse and Austin Cindric spun together, and Josh Berry spun out on his own. 

With under 80 laps to go tires began failing on practically every car, slowing the race’s pace significantly and creating a large field of lapped traffic for lead cars to deal with.

Gibbs was in position for his first career win until he was also hit by tire calamity. 

Todd Gilliland blocked Gibbs, allowing Hamlin to get around and take the lead. Drivers began hitting pit road under green with extremely degraded tires. Gibbs hit the wall after significant tire loss and lost his shot at the win.

Remarkably, nobody wrecked as the field rode around on the worn-out tires. Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. prevailed as the top two cars and stayed bumper-to-bumper for the last 50 laps. 

Truex finished second, Brad Keselowski finished third, Alex Bowman finished fourth, and Kyle Larson finished fifth as the only drivers on the lead lap.

Milestone moment

Chase Elliot led just five laps on Sunday but got Hendrick Motorsports its 80,000th-led lap in the NASCAR Cup Series. The team is the only one to accomplish this feat with Petty Enterprises over 20,000 laps behind in second all-time.

Coming up

The NASCAR Cup Series makes its first stop at a road course race on Sunday, March 24 at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. Tyler Reddick is the defending winner.

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Denny Hamlin survives tire chaos race at Bristol | NASCAR

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