More cheers than boos for Denny Hamlin at Dover after third NASCAR victory: 'I love winning'

Shane Connuck, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Auto Racing

Denny Hamlin waved his checkered flag to a mix of cheers and boos.

It wasn’t necessarily a chorus of dismay from the spectators in the grandstands at Dover Motor Speedway, as has been the case for the NASCAR Cup Series veteran in recent memory. Sure, Hamlin will always have his haters, but the booing contingent couldn’t help but be overshadowed following Sunday’s race.

Hamlin, who repeated his “I beat your favorite driver” line after winning the non-points-paying clash, has always had a penchant for the spotlight. He revealed on his podcast that he “retired” that particular phrase after his dad told him he sounded too cocky.

Here was Hamlin on Sunday, celebrating his third win of the season. He had a natural smile on his face as he stood on pit road before the crowd, outside his car.

“Just a great team,” Hamlin said. “This whole Mavis Tires and Brakes team did a great job. All the guys on the wall right here, they’re the ones that make it happen. Thank you to them. (Crew chief) Chris Gabehart, the whole team for just giving me great cars.

“Man, I love winning.”

Hamlin, who turns 44 in November, tied NASCAR Hall of Famer Lee Petty with the 54th win of his career.

It wasn’t a dominant afternoon on Sunday, but Hamlin got to the lead with some strong moves on pit road before the final stage and commanded the race from there. Hamlin held off a charging Kyle Larson over the final laps.

Hamlin is the only driver in the Cup Series who has led in all 11 races. He ties Charlotte native William Byron atop the series lead with three wins.


“I couldn’t hold Lee Petty’s helmet,” Hamlin said. “I’ve been blessed with a great race team. This whole FedEx team, Mavis team, Sport Clips, everyone that supports this 11 car, they’re the ones that make it happen.

“I’m the lucky one that gets to drive it.”

Anything Kyle Larson could’ve done differently?

After Martin Truex Jr. looked strong early, winning Stage 1 and pacing the field at his home track, Kyle Larson made his way to the race lead and won the second stage.

Larson, who only has one win but leads the Cup Series in points’ standings, lost the lead to Hamlin during several pit cycles. He kept the deficit within a split-second as the final laps wound down.

But Hamlin was too fast.

“Not in the last 10 (laps),” Larson said. “(Hamlin) was kind of able to out-race me into one. His car was really good on the short runs. I could pace it, get closer to him at the end of the runs. It’s so easy to air block. Not that he was doing anything dirty or anything like that. It’s so easy as the leader, especially at a place like this, to shut off the air on the guys behind you.”

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