Connect with us


Denny Hamlin Embraces the Villain Role at Bristol

Bristol. It’s nicknamed “Thunder Valley” for a reason. In the early 2000s, the Bristol night race was not only the hottest ticket in NASCAR but in sports. One hundred and fifty thousand fans crammed into the grandstands around the half-mile oval like a can of sardines. Over the years, the popularity of the sport declined and had an obvious impact on Bristol. But over the past few years, the popularity of the sport is slowly starting to go back up, and it shows. This past weekend, it was another fun Bristol Night Race. Leaving Bristol, it was one driver embracing his villain role in the sport of NASCAR as he had the sweet taste of victory to go with it all.

A Dominating Performance from Hamlin:

Coming into Bristol, the big story was Tyler Reddick’s win at Kansas. The 23XI Racing driver punched his ticket into the Round of 12 last Sunday without having to worry about the chaos of Bristol. On Friday, Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, Christopher Bell and Denny Hamlin qualified on the front row. It was obvious that both Bell and Hamlin were going to be tough to beat. Right from the get-go on Saturday evening, Bell was very fast. Bell would win both stages. After the first caution, Hamlin would have a pit road speeding penalty, which forced him to the rear of the field. Hamlin would finish in 19th in the first stage. Eventually, Hamlin would rebound to finish in fourth for the second stage. After a late race pit stop would put Bell back into traffic, the race was now in the hands of Hamlin.

On a restart with 130 laps to go, Hamlin would not look back. Hamlin’s closest competitor, Kyle Larson, would have a few shots at Hamlin as he would get caught in lap traffic. But to no avail, Hamlin’s car was too strong for Larson. Denny Hamlin would go on to win the Bristol Night Race for a third time in his career, this being his third win of the season and the 51st of his career. Bell would lead the most laps of the night with 187 laps led, and Hamlin led the second most with 142 laps led. This is the win that Hamlin needed to gain momentum for this championship run. But Hamlin winning Bristol is not the big story of the night, that belongs to the drivers who were eliminated from the Round of 16.

Who’s in and Who’s out of the Playoffs:

Coming into Bristol, the big story in the playoff standings was Martin Truex Jr. The four drivers who were below the cutline entering Bristol were Martin Truex Jr., Bubba Wallace, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Michael McDowell. Last week at Kansas, Truex suffered a flat tire on lap four, and hit the turn three wall, resulting in a DNF. Entering Kansas, Truex was 25 points above the cutline. Entering Bristol, Truex was seven points below the cutline. Truex didn’t have to have a good day at Bristol but needed a solid enough day to transfer through to the Round of 12. Even with a 19th-place finish, Truex transferred through to the Round of 12. Bubba Wallace entered Bristol 19 points below the cutline which was a result of a rough day from Kansas. With a well-fought 14th-place finish, Wallace made the transfer to the Round of 12.

But how did Wallace and Truex make it into the Round of 12 with finishes outside the Top-10? Kevin Harvick was seven points above the cutline entering Bristol with a chance to make it to the next round. Harvick, who is retiring after this season, had a miserable night in Bristol finishing five laps down. This poor performance resulted in Harvick failing to transfer to the next round. The 2022 Cup Series Champion, Joey Logano, was 13 points above the cutline entering Bristol. That all changed on lap 262 after a multi-car crash involving Logano, which resulted in a DNF for the defending champion. Logano, Harvick, Stenhouse, and McDowell are the first four drivers to be eliminated in the NASCAR Playoffs. But as the Round of 16 wraps up, the Round of 12 is immediately underway starting this coming weekend.

What to Expect from Texas:

For years, Texas has been frowned upon by fans and drivers as the worst track that NASCAR has on their schedule. Last season, it was no exception. There were multiple tire failures throughout the race resulting in several DNFs for playoff drivers. Before the race got to halfway, there were already seven caution flags. By the end of the day, there were 16 cautions throughout the Texas playoff race last season. For that reason, NASCAR has reduced the length of this race from 500 miles to 400 miles for this coming weekend. If there’s one driver to keep an eye on in Texas, it would be Kyle Larson. Larson knows how to get the job done in Texas. In 2021, Larson won both Texas races. It would not be a shocker to see the #5 up front to punch his ticket into the Round of 8.

Current Playoff Standings:

1st: William Byron: +25 points above the cutline.

2nd: Martin Truex Jr: +25 points above the cutline.

3rd: Denny Hamlin: +21 points above the cutline.

4th: Kyle Larson: +12 points above the cutline.

5th: Chris Buescher: +10 points above the cutline.

6thKyle Busch: +8 points above the cutline.

7th: Christopher Bell: +5 points above the cutline.

8thTyler Reddick: +3 points above the cutline.

9th: Ross Chastain: -3 points below the cutline.

10: Brad Keselowski: -3 points below the cutline.

11th: Ryan Blaney: -6 points below the cutline.

12th: Bubba Wallace: -14 points below the cutline.


Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Featured Articles

Featured Writers

More in Features