NASCAR Cup Series
NASCAR takeaways: Denny Hamlin tames Dover for third win of season
NASCAR Cup Series

NASCAR takeaways: Denny Hamlin tames Dover for third win of season

Updated Apr. 28, 2024 7:49 p.m. ET

DOVER, Del. — Denny Hamlin knew coming into Dover Motor Speedway that he had a good chance to win, and it certainly appeared that way with a relatively comfortable lead with about 30 laps remaining.

But as Kyle Larson closed in on him in the waning laps, Hamlin had to do all he could to secure the victory, Hamlin's third win of the season in a battle of two of the sport's best drivers.

"I would say it's probably the most competitive that I've been to start a season," Hamlin said.

Hamlin led a race-high 136 laps in capturing the 400-mile event for his 54th career victory, which put him in a tie with Lee Petty for 12th on the all-time Cup list.


"I couldn't hold Lee Petty's helmet," Hamlin said. "I've been blessed with a great race team."

Takeaways from Dover where Hamlin and Larson were followed by defending race winner Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott across the finish line.

Hamlin Aero Blocks To Win

The key to racing in the current era at NASCAR: drivers tend to "aero block" — seeing the line the car behind them will take in order to gain speed and running that line, even if that isn't the best or most comfortable for the leader.

Hamlin feels he isn't the best at defending his position.

"I think there's certainly some that are better at defending their spot than others — I don't put myself very high on that list," Hamlin said. "I've got so many other things. I'm trying to get faster week to week. Certainly defending is an important part of your finish week in, week out. I'm so focused on what I can do to be faster in general.

"I'm probably pretty low on that list, which makes me a little worried when you're going up against Kyle at the end of the race, someone that's not afraid to move around the racetrack."

"I love winning" — Denny Hamlin on capturing the Würth 400 at Dover

Larson knew it would be a challenge to get by.

"It's so easy to air block — not that he was doing anything dirty or anything like that," Larson said. "It's so easy as the leader, especially at a place like this, to shut off the air on the guys behind you."

Frustration For Some

Ryan Preece dropped out of the race early after having intermittent small fires in his car. He radioed to his team that he thought it was the door foam.

"I went the first 70 laps just trying to push through and then it got so bad that I couldn't put my hands on the wheel," Preece said. "I was worried that an oil line or something would melt and then the whole car gets engulfed in fire and I don't want to be trapped in there having that happen, so I pulled off."

He was among those frustrated after the race, with the primary of others were contenders William Byron, Bubba Wallace and Christopher Bell as they got collected in a wreck in the final stage.

"We were rolling on the bottom and something happened up top," Byron said. "The No. 23 [of Wallace] got spun across the track and we were there."

NASCAR Cup Series: Würth 400 highlights

Bell said all he knew was he got turned and Wallace left frustrated having wrecked out of a race for the second consecutive week.

"I'm proud of the effort we put in every week — just unfortunate that we have no results to show for it," Bell said. "We will just go on to Kansas [next week] where hopefully, we are not around any squirrels."

Larson Surprise Prerace

Larson had a surprise for everyone Sunday morning when it was announced that FOX Sports analyst Kevin Harvick will practice and qualify Larson's car for the all-star race.

The practice and qualifying session is set for Friday, May 17, and Larson will focus on Indy 500 practice that day because that is the day they work on qualifying setups.

Kevin Harvick will drive the No. 5 for all-star race practice and qualifying at North Wilkesboro

Harvick, a 60-time Cup winner who retired after last season, won't be allowed to do the heat races May 18 (Larson very well could miss those) nor be allowed to compete in the all-star event on May 19 since he is not a full-time driver.

"I wasn't surprised that he said yes because who wouldn't want to say they got to drive a Hendrick Motorsports Cup car," Larson said. "I wasn't surprised. Just happy. ... I'm excited to have him be a part of our team for a practice session."

The pairing of Harvick and Larson crew chief Cliff Daniels couples two of the most intense NASCAR competitors. Who is more intense?

"I think Harvick softened up with age, so I would say Cliff for sure," Larson said.

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including over 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass.


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