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Hamlin holds off Larson for second Monster Mile win

Betsy PriceHeadlines, Sports

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Denny Hamlin, left hoists his second Monster Mile trophy Sunday in Dover.

Denny Hamlin won his second career Monster Trophy when he dominated the final stage on his way to a victory in the Würth 400 NASCAR Cup Series race at Dover Motor Speedway Sunday.

Driving the No. 11 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, Hamlin notched his third win of the year and 54th of his career, tying him on NASCAR’s all-time wins list with NASCAR Hall of Famer Lee Petty.

“This whole Joe Gibbs Racing team – thank you to them,” said Hamlin after waving the checkered flag on the front stretch. “It certainly feels good to win here at Dover.

“I couldn’t hold Lee Petty’s helmet. I’ve been blessed with a great team. I’m the lucky one who gets to drive it.”

Kyle Larson finished second, while defending race winner Martin Truex Jr. was third, pole winner Kyle Busch was fourth and Chase Elliott placed fifth.

Truex won Stage One but lost the lead midway through the second stage and then suffered slight front-end damage.

“They all pounced on us and we lost control of the race,” said Truex, who led 69 laps. “Then I got the nose damage. Feel like we let one get away today. You can’t lose control of these races mid-stage like that. The track changes, you get behind. Overall, a good day. Just keep working on it.”

Monster strategy

Larson closed to within two-tenths of a second in the final 10 laps but couldn’t get even with the race winner.

“This car was really good on short runs,” said Larson, who led 39 laps. “I could pace it and get closer to him. It’s so easy as the leader at a place like this to shut the air off behind you. Nothing could generate enough speed to get close enough to do anything.

“Still a great day. Got another stage win. Good points day. We would have loved to get a win. We’ll try to get better.”

Hamlin was sixth after Stage One and third after Stage Two but won the battle off pit road from there. All of Hamlin’s race-high 136 laps led came in the final stage.

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“I felt like my car was so much better on the short runs,” Hamlin said. “[Kyle] certainly made it much more interesting than I wanted. Kyle Larson is a hard guy to beat.

“We’re in the groove right now for sure. You feel like you want to celebrate these because you just never know if it’s your last or anything like that. I’m just so focused this season on getting a lot of wins, trying to move that tally up as high as I can.”

Among other notables, defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Ryan Blaney was seventh, past Dover winner Alex Bowman was eighth, and 11-time Dover champion Jimmie Johnson finished 28th, five laps down.

Hamlin averaged 119.433 mph around the high-banked, one-mile oval, completing the 400 laps/miles in 3 hours, 20 minutes, 57 seconds. Five caution periods consumed 42 laps, with nine drivers leading at least one lap and 17 finishing on the lead lap.

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