Race Weekend Central

Denny Hamlin Dominates Las Vegas, Wins 1st Race in Sin City

The mayhem of Bristol in mid-September was followed by a very calm, near-serene race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where Denny Hamlin won stage two and cruised to the race win ahead of Chase Elliott, securing the No. 11 a spot in the Round of 8.

With his second win of the season, Hamlin can now relax before the series heads to Talladega Superspeedway and the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL. He also tied Buck Baker for 17th all-time with 46 career victories.

Hamlin led the most laps en route to his first career win in Sin City.

“Just so happy,” Hamlin said after the race. “All Toyota teams, just Joe Gibbs Racing just gives us great racecars. That’s what I’m so proud of, just to drive for those guys and can’t thank them enough for everything they do. Vegas, it feels so good to win at Vegas.

“Last couple times, I’ve been so close, just didn’t have the right brakes. They dialed the car in great, and great to hold those guys off.”

Elliott, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Blaney completed the top five. Tyler Reddick, three-time Vegas winner Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Larson rounded out the top 10.

Larson rolled off on the pole, but outside polesitter Blaney led the opening lap before Hamlin took control. Hamlin battled with Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch after pit stops under a competition caution, but both of them dropped back as Larson climbed to the front.

Larson set sail once he got there and won stage one. Christopher Bell spent a little extra time on pit road during the stage to fix damage after contact during the round of stops.

Once stage two got underway, a hard crash from Joey Gase put things back under yellow-flag conditions. Gase lost a wheel in turn 2 and spun, slamming the outside wall.

Distant replay footage appeared to show the No. 15 car on top of the outside retaining wall before it landed and came to a stop on the apron.

Gase was moving and talking with medical personnel at the crash scene, but NASCAR later announced he had been taken to a local hospital for further evaluation.

No red flag was displayed, and things shook out to where Hendrick Motorsports ran 1-2-3-4 in a weekend dotted with similar results: Christian Eckes led a 1-2-3-4 ThorSport Racing finish in Friday’s (Sept. 24) Camping World Truck Series race, while Josh Berry was followed by two JR Motorsports teammates in Saturday’s (Sept. 25) Xfinity Series race.

Hamlin went on to win the second stage, though, as the varied pit strategies played out. Larson was mired back below the top 10 when the final stage got underway, while JGR ran 1-2-3 up front. Also running well was Reddick, who at one point nearly challenged Hamlin for the lead.

Few issues plagued postseason competitors, but both Alex Bowman and William Byron ended up dealing with flat tires.

Elliott was the Hendrick car that came to life late as Larson struggled to cut through the field, contending with Hamlin late and closing in as the laps waned. He couldn’t get within more than three-tenths of a second, though, and could only watch as Hamlin won his second race of 2021 and locked himself into the Round of 8 ahead of the unpredictable Talladega.

“I’m so happy I don’t have to worry about the next two weeks,” Hamlin said. “But I’m a professional, so I’m gonna work just as hard every week to win.”

In post-race inspection, Harvick’s No. 4 had two lug nuts not safe and secure, so crew chief Rodney Childers is suspended for next week’s race at Talladega Superspeedway.

The Cup Series heads back east next week for a date with Talladega on Sunday, Oct. 3. The YellaWood 500 is set for 2 p.m. with coverage on NBC’s flagship station.

About the author

Adam Cheek joined Frontstretch as a contributing writer in January 2019. A 2020 graduate of VCU, he works as a producer and talent for Audacy Richmond's radio stations. In addition to motorsports journalism, Adam also covered and broadcasted numerous VCU athletics for the campus newspaper and radio station during his four years there. He's been a racing fan since the age of three, inheriting the passion from his grandfather, who raced in amateur events up and down the East Coast in the 1950s.

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