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NASCAR Cup: Denny Hamlin denies Matt DiBenedetto win at Bristol

BRISTOL, TENNESSEE – AUGUST 17: Denny Hamlin(L), driver of the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota, speaks with Matt DiBenedetto, driver of the #95 Toyota Express Maintenance Toyota, in Victory Lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 17, 2019 in Bristol, Tennessee. DiBenedetto was passed by Hamlin in the closing laps and finished runner-up. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

By AMANDA VINCENT

Denny Hamlin passed Matt DiBenedetto on lap 489 of the 500-lap Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway on Saturday night to claim his fourth win of the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, tying him with Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. for most wins through the first 24 races of the season.

“It feels good. My first reaction was I was sorry to Matt,” Hamlin said. “I know those guys really wanted to win and Matt deserves a win, but –  I’m watching him do an interview, I get emotional for him. Just hate it that I had to take it from him.”

Hamlin won the race, but DiBenedetto stole the show, especially in the final 100 laps. DiBenedetto ran in or near the top-five throughout the race. He took the lead on lap 396, and led a race-high 93 laps on his way to a career-best second-place finish just a couple of days after announcing he was out at Leavine Family Racing, effective at the end of the season.

“I don’t even know what to say,” DiBenedetto said. “I’m so sad we didn’t win but proud, proud of the effort. I got tight, there, from the damage from trying to get by (Ryan) Newman, and that immediately flipped a switch and got tight. Man, this opportunity has been – that’s what I want everybody to know, how thankful I am that I got this opportunity and to work with great people like “Wheels,” my crew chief. I am so thankful everyone on this team gave me this opportunity – all of our sponsors, ProCore, Dumont Jet, Anest Iwata spray equipment, Toyota for backing me this year, everybody at Leavine Family Racing. I want to try not to get emotional, but it’s been a tough week, and I want to stick around and I want to win. That’s all I want to do is win in the Cup Series, and we were close. It’s so hard to be that close, but it’s neat to race door-to-door with Denny Hamlin, someone who I’ve been a fan of since I was a kid.  It’s amazing. Great day, but this one is going to hurt for sure.”

Brad Keselowski finished third after leading 91 laps. Kyle Busch finished fourth after starting 31st and going a lap down in the first 100 laps.

“It ended a lot better than it started,” Busch said of his race. “It’s certainly better than some other situations for sure. This M&Ms team just never gave up and kept working on it. Obviously, Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and the guys do a really good job of being able to work on the car and constantly improve it and constantly make it better. We’re just flat out getting killed by our teammates right now, so we’ve got to get better.”

Chase Elliott rounded out the top-five.

Hamlin led 67 laps early in the race before his car sustained damage in a lap-80 crash involving Jimmie Johnson and Austin Dillon. Hamlin also went a lap down when he made an unscheduled pit stop for a loose wheel on lap 185. He got back on the lead lap when Clint Bowyer spun and brought out a caution on lap 243.

Kyle Larson and Kurt Busch were stage winners in the first half of the race, with Larson winning the first 125-lap stage and Kurt Busch the second.

Larson and Hamlin were the only two lap leaders in the first stage. They traded the lead back-and-forth early, before Hamlin’s damage.

Elliott, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. each led laps in the second stage before Kurt Busch took the lead by staying out when most of the previous frontrunners pitted during the lap-243 caution. Kurt Busch remained up front long enough to win stage two.

As he took the lead, Harvick headed to the garage for a transmission change.

Kyle Busch was back on the lead lap by the time the second stage ended. He took the lead by staying out during the lap-243 yellow flag, and again, when stage two ended.

Keselowski overtook Kyle Busch for the lead on lap 262, but after lap 350, the two drivers traded the lead back-and-forth for a few laps before Kyle Busch retook command of the top spot.

Kyle Busch lost the lead to Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Erik Jones just before the eighth and final caution on lap 373 for a wreck involving Front Row Racing teammates David Ragan and Michael McDowell.

Meanwhile, DiBenedetto moved into second on the lap-389 restart and began his domination of the last quarter of the race seven laps later.

Larson finished sixth, Bowyer was seventh, Daniel Suarez eighth, Kurt Busch ninth, and Ryan Blaney rounded out the top-10.

Below, is the finishing order of the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway:

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Posted by on August 18, 2019. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,Monster Energy NASCAR Cup,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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