Denny Hamlin Takes 3rd Win of the Year at Homestead-Miami Speedway

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Homestead-Miami Speedway, Homestead, FL — June 14, 2020

The NASCAR Series stops in Miami this weekend, it must be November and the Championship will be determined. Nope! That location will be Phoenix this year. Succumbing to pressure to move the championship venue around, Homestead-Miami Speedway, after 18 years, lost NASCAR’s culminating event of the year.

The Dixie Vodka 400 was originally scheduled for March 22, a more moderate time of the year in South Florida. But, the COVID pandemic erased that schedule. As NASCAR scrambles to reassemble this year’s race calendar and get in every planned event, Homestead-Miami Speedway’s race fell into the summer season.

Usually, the race is about the Championship 4 battling for the title. Other drivers on the track generally steer clear, not wanting to be the one to take out a contender. Today, it’s anyone’s race. Kyle Busch won last year’s 400, he starts 4th today. Denny Hamlin drew the pole position and Joey Logano will start next to him on the front row.

Stages are 80/80/107 laps to make up the 400.5 miles around the 1.5-mile oval. Just as drivers took the command to start their engines, a pop-up shower wet down Turn 4. For the first time since the virus lockdown began fans were in attendance. Families from nearby Homestead Air Force Base dotted the stands as 1,000 guests were invited to attend. They were content to ride out the shower to see some live racing action.

Fans in the stands at Homestead-Miami Speedway / NASCAR Photo

Austin and Whitney Dillon gave birth to their son, Ace Dillon, early Sunday morning. Austin flew in from North Carolina and was able to make it to the track on-time to sit with everyone else as jet dryers blew the water off the racetrack.

New Father, Austin Dillon, pre-race at Homestead-Miami / NASCAR Photo

Stage 1

After about an hour-long rain delay, drivers took the green flag and Joey Logano drove into Turn 1 with the lead. His teammate Brad Keselowski found his rear bumper and the two began to pull away. Four laps in the yellow flag waved for lightning in the area. On Lap 6 the red flag was displayed and drivers again exited their cars.

Crews cover cars on pit road during red flag delay / NASCAR Photo

Drivers were called back to their cars, climbed in, and buckled up. Then another lightning strike sent them back to their trailers. After a two-hour red flag, the race finally restarted and it was Logano back to the lead.

Ryan Newman cut down a tire and spun bringing out the caution on Lap 20. NASCAR notified crews that they would consider that yellow flag period as the competition caution and the entire field came to pit road for new tires. The abrasive surface of Homestead-Miami Speedway eats tires and will likely be a factor in today’s race.

After the caution, Logano still led. His pursuers were Chase Elliott and Tyler Reddick. Both drove past before lightning again brought the race to a halt with the red flag again displayed on Lap 34.

Back to Green

The delay this time was only 39 minutes. When the red flag was lifted and the field came around under caution, everyone again pitted for fresh tires. Elliott still led and was now in a battle with Ryan Blaney for the lead. As the fight for positions settled down the top 5 were Blaney, Elliott, Hamlin, Reddick, and Keselowski.

As the race track transitions from day to night the racing surface cools and the handling on some cars begins to be a problem. Crews will have to work hard to adjust to the changing conditions. Nearing the end of Stage 1 some drivers not seen previously work their way into the top 10. Early leader Jowy Logano dropped out of the top 15.

The race to the green and white checkered flag came down to Ryan Blaney and Denny Hamlin. Blaney complaining of his car going loose and Hamlin stalking him in every turn. With Blaney rim-riding around the top of the track inches from the wall, he held off Hamlin until there were 5 laps to go. Hamlin finally made the pass and stretched out his advantage to take the Stage win.

Stage 1 Results

Position Car Driver
1 11 Denny Hamlin
2 12 Ryan Blaney*
3 8 Tyler Reddick
4 9 Chase Elliott
5 10 Aric Almirola*
6 2 Brad Keselowski*
7 88 Alex Bowman
8 24 William Byron
9 14 Clint Bowyer*
10 17 Chris Buescher*

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Logano finished the stage in the 20th position.

Stage 2

Hamlin and Elliott lead the field back to green and run side-by-side for a lap until Elliott prevails. Blaney’s crew was able to fix his ill-handling car and he drove back to the front passing Elliott easily.

Blaney has led more laps than any other driver without a win so far this year. After coming agonizingly close at Daytona, will he be able to get his first win of the year after several strong runs have come up short?

Ryan Blaney #12 Ford Mustang at Homestead-Miami Speedway / NASCAR Photo

Just like Stage 1, the longer the green flag run the stronger Hamlin’s car gets. He was closing on Blaney as green flag pit stops commenced at the halfway point of Stage 2. After all the drivers had made pit stops, Hamlin was in the lead with almost a two-second advantage over Blaney.

Races become official when they reach the end of the 2nd Stage or half of the scheduled laps are completed. Thankfully, the race reached its midpoint. Another weather issue is likely to end the event, already five and a half hours after the anticipated start time.

Even with fresh tires, Blaney had nothing for Hamlin. Denny pulled away to an easy repeat win in Stage 2. Cup Rookie Tyler Reddick continued his strong run finishing in 2nd.

Five times drivers have swept the first two Stages in 2020. None of the won the race.

Stage 2 Results

Position Car Driver
1 11 Denny Hamlin
2 8 Tyler Reddick
3 9 Chase Elliott
4 12 Ryan Blaney*
5 24 William Byron
6 88 Alex Bowman
7 19 Martin Truex Jr.
8 3 Austin Dillon
9 18 Kyle Busch
10 10 Aric Almirola*

*Ford Mustang Drivers

The Final Stage

The race off pit road went to Hamlin. He will be followed by Elliott, Reddick, Blaney, and William Byron to the Final Stage restart. Logano and Newman got together bringing out the caution shortly after the race went back to green, with only a few laps on their tires all the leaders returned to pit road for a fresh set of Goodyears.

Martin Truex Jr. replaced Byron as the 5th car inline at the restart. With a strong run on the high side, Blaney drove into second behind Hamlin as Elliott and Reddick going at it for 3rd.

It is likely the final pit stop will determine the outcome of the race. With very few on-track incidents so far, the stop will probably be under green. The pit window is 55-60 laps and with the tire fall-off the car’s experience, as soon as one of the leaders pits the others will follow quickly.

With 74 laps to go Blaney and Hamlin began swapping the lead. The two drivers going at each other allowed Elliott back into the fight for the lead.

Harvick had to pit with 60 laps to go after he hit the wall and flattened the right rear tire. Two laps later Chris Buescher was in, also with a flat right rear. With 51 laps to go, 2nd place Chase Elliott was the first of the top 10 to hit pit road. Hamlin, the leader, followed on the next lap along with everyone else except Reddick. He pitted on the next lap.

Being the first to pit paid off for Elliott. After all the drivers cycled through for their pit stops, Elliott was the leader by a second and a half over Hamlin.

With 30 laps to go Hamlin had driven up to the bumper of Elliott and passed him for the lead. But could not pull away as he had done in the first two Stages.

Elliott’s sponsor for the race, Hooters Restaurants, was on the side of Alan Kulwicki’s car the last time their sponsorship visited victory lane 28 years ago. To get their again, Elliott will need to find some magic in the closing laps to keep Hamlin from becoming the first three-time winner this year.

Denny Hamlin / NASCAR Photo

The Finish

Elliott caught Hamlin with 15 laps to go and Blaney was inching closer to the top two. With 10 laps to go Reddick had joined the fray, he passed Blaney for 3rd. Performing the cross over move Blaney slid back by on the next lap. Unfortunately, the pair battling each other took them out of contention for the win.

With five laps to go, Elliott scrapped the wall allowing Blaney to close and Hamlin to pull away. Holding on for his 3rd win of the 2020 season Hamlin became the first driver this year to sweep every Stage for the victory. If only he could have done that last November when he was one of the Championship 4. Look for Hamlin to be in that position this year at Phoenix.

Two rookies finished in the top 10, Tyler Reddick 4th and Christopher Bell in 8th place.

Results of the Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead Miami Speedway

Position Car Driver Behind Laps
1 11 Denny Hamlin 267
2 9 Chase Elliott 0.895 267
3 12 Ryan Blaney 1.447 267
4 8 Tyler Reddick 4.191 267
5 10 Aric Almirola 12.300 267
6 18 Kyle Busch 14.072 267
7 3 Austin Dillon 20.265 267
8 95 Christopher Bell 20.448 267
9 24 William Byron 22.925 267
10 2 Brad Keselowski 23.560 267
11 14 Clint Bowyer 23.920 267
12 19 Martin Truex Jr. 28.603 267
13 43 Bubba Wallace 29.067 267
14 21 Matt DiBenedetto 33.446 267
15 34 Michael McDowell 33.551 267
16 48 Jimmie Johnson -1 266
17 1 Kurt Busch -1 266
18 88 Alex Bowman -1 266
19 38 John Hunter Nemechek -1 266
20 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -1 266
21 20 Erik Jones -1 266
22 41 Cole Custer -1 266
23 17 Chris Buescher -1 266
24 37 Ryan Preece -1 266
25 42 Matt Kenseth -1 266
26 4 Kevin Harvick -1 266
27 22 Joey Logano -2 265
28 13 Ty Dillon -2 265
29 32 Corey LaJoie -3 264
30 6 Ryan Newman -4 263
31 96 Daniel Suarez -4 263
32 15 Brennan Poole -7 260
33 0 Quin Houff -8 259
34 66 Timmy Hill -10 257
35 77 BJ McLeod -11 256
36 51 Joey Gase -12 255
37 53 Josh Bilicki -22 245
38 27 JJ Yeley -56 211