Hamlin Claims Checkered Flag in Dixie Vodka 400
Despite a valiant effort by Mother Nature to ruin the fun of the first NASCAR race to have any fans in the grandstands in more than three months, in the end, the circuit won out over the weather Sunday. Down in the South Beach area at Homestead-Miami Speedway, there was plenty of green flag racing when the cars were on the track, leading to an entertaining 267 laps. In the end, once the lightning had vanished, the rain had stopped and the smoke had cleared, the 40-win club on the NASCAR Cup circuit added its 20th member.
Denny Hamlin took the checkered flag at the Dixie Vodka 400 on Sunday night, earning his third victory of the season in the process. He took the lead for good with 30 laps to go and held off Chase Elliott by .895 seconds to earn the victory. Ryan Blaney finished third while Tyler Reddick and Aric Almirola rounded out the top five. The race was delayed for two hours on lap five thanks to lightning and rain, then took another 40-minute break during the opening stage of the race thanks to more lightning.
There were only six cautions in the race totaling 27 laps in the race with two of those cautions coming at the end of stages 1 and 2. The final 92 laps were run under green, making for an entertaining contest down the stretch. All told, 37 of the 38 cars that started the race were still running at the end. J.J. Yeley was the lone vehicle to head to the garage early as he ran 211 laps before his fuel pump gave out. Reed Sorenson and B.J. McLeod withdrew from the race before it began. Of the 37 cars that finished, 15 were on the lead lap at the checkered flag while 11 more finished one lap down when all was said and done.
There were a total of 17 lead changes among seven drivers in the race. Hamlin led a race-high 137 of the 267 laps in the race. Blaney led 70 laps, Elliott and Joey Logano each held the advantage for 27 laps. Tyler Reddick (three), Kyle Busch (two) and Brad Keselowski (one) were the other drivers to lead in the race. Hamlin was clicking again with the return of Chad Gabehart, his crew chief, back in the fold. Gabehart took a four-race suspension after a piece of tungsten flew off his car during warmup laps at the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte last month. As it turned out, Hamlin became the first racer to win both stages of the race and take the checkered flag since Martin Truex Jr. pulled off the feat at Martinsville on October 27, 2019.
Hamlin, Blaney, Reddick, Elliott. Almirola, Alex Bowman and William Byron were all in the top 10 of each of the top two stages. The quartet of Hamlin, Blaney, Reddick and Elliott comprised the top four drivers in both stages. Among the seven drivers that were in the top ten of both stages, only Bowman finished out of the top 10 at the checkered flag, logging an 18th-place finish.
From a betting perspective, there were some solid hits off the props that we kicked around last week before the race was run. We backed Blaney to finish in the top five (+300) and to be the top finisher in Group B (+285) in the race, which both hit as he logged a third-place showing for his fifth finish in the top-four in his last six runs. Hamlin also helped deliver a winner on the Toyota being the manufacturer of the winning car at Homestead (+150) in the race. On the flip side of that coin, there were a couple of tough hits, including Clint Bowyer, who failed to finish in the top 10 with an 11th-place showing. Points leader Kevin Harvick was also a disappointment, running a season-worst 26th and finishing as the ninth-best Ford on the day.
Coming out of the race, Harvick still leads the point standings but saw his lead trimmed to eight points over Elliott. Logano (29 points back) stands third while Keselowski (51 points behind) and Blaney (52 points back) round out the top five. The next race is the GEICO 500, scheduled for Father’s Day, June 21, at Talladega Speedway in Talladega, Alabama. NASCAR has announced that up to 5,000 fans will be allowed to attend in the grandstands for that race. Green flag time is currently scheduled for 3 pm ET and will be televised on FOX.