Denny Hamlin’s aggressive pass over Kyle Larson earns him another Pocono win

LONG POND, PENNSYLVANIA - JULY 23: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 Mavis Tires & Brakes Toyota, drives during the NASCAR Cup Series 400 at Pocono Raceway on July 23, 2023 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Denny Hamlin has won seven NASCAR Cup Series races at Pocono. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Denny Hamlin earned his second victory of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season on Sunday at Pocono.

Hamlin made the winning pass on a restart with less than 10 laps to go when he dove inside leader Kyle Larson as the two raced through Turn 1. Larson hit the wall on the exit of the turn as Hamlin completed the pass in Turn 2 before Justin Haley crashed to bring out another warning.

Shortly after the warning flag flew, Larson drove into Hamlin’s gate on the front stretch to show his displeasure with the way Hamlin ran him.

Hamlin then easily held on to the lead with three laps to go on the final restart and was ahead of Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. when the warning flag flew on the final lap for Ryan Preece’s disabled car. Preece spun on the penultimate lap, but NASCAR remained cautious. He couldn’t start between Turns 2 and 3 before the leaders closed on the final lap.

Hamlin was loudly booed by many of the fans in attendance after getting out of his car and he defended his pass from Larson amid the noise.

“There was a way,” Hamlin said in his victory interview. “He missed the turn first and obviously his tires on the right side weren’t clean and when he filled up he kept rolling. You have the option in those positions to hold him wide open and hit the fence, or lift him up and run him. But those were choices they made. I didn’t hit any of them.”

Hamlin was using a plural name because the caveat that set up his winning reboot pass came from Alex Bowman’s accident. Bowman spun into Turn 3 from third ahead of Hamlin, and while Hamlin was close to Bowman’s bumper before the #48 car circled, it did not appear via the replay that Hamlin touched Bowman’s car.

The victory is the 50th of Hamlin’s career and his seventh at Pocono. The 2.5-mile triangle track is his best track as he has finished in the top 10 in 22 of his 34 starts there.

Kyle Larson: “I’m pissed”

Larson ended up finishing 20th after falling through the pack in the closing laps – likely due to damage to his car. As you can imagine, he wasn’t thrilled with his friend Hamlin.

“He’s cost me a lot of good finishes throughout my career and I know he says I run a certain way, but I don’t think I’ve ever had to apologize to him for anything,” Larson said. “So, not that I’m sure he’s going to apologize after that, but that’s the way it is.” Anyway, keep going.

Larson went on to explain how the incident on the track affected the relationship between them as well.

“Yeah, it makes things s***** and awkward, whatever,” Larson said. “He is always right. All the buddies know, Denny is always right. I’m sure he was right there too. It’s like that. I’m not gonna let it tarnish a friendship on the right track, but I’m pissed. And I feel like I should be pissed.

Larson was in position for the win after prompting a caution himself on lap 45 of the 160-lap race. Larson’s car backed into the Turn 1 wall shortly after a restart after contact from Christopher Bell entering the corner. Damage was minimal, but Larson lost a ton of track position.

He recovered it during the last green flag pit stop cycle of the race. A two-tire pit stop before Hamlin (two tires) and Truex (four tires) made their final pit stops put Larson ahead of both drivers. He did a fantastic job staying ahead of the Toyotas as the race turned green before Chase Briscoe was spun by Ty Dillon with less than 20 laps to go.

Austin Dillon throws helmet at Tyler Reddick

Austin Dillon may regret his helmet throw at Tyler Reddick on Sunday.

Dillon crashed out of the race on lap 105 when he hit the wall hard at Turn 1. Dillon was in the middle of a three-way situation and moved inside while Tyler Reddick was next. Contact with Reddick then sent Dillon into the wall.

After getting out of his car, Dillon removed his helmet and threw it cautiously at Reddick’s car. After leaving the field care center, Dillon blamed Reddick for the crash, although replays showed Dillon was the one who got off at Reddick while Reddick held his line. Dillon said he “felt like he was holding mine” and claimed he was entitled to hold his own lane.

Dillon then said he had to “start destroying some people” given the Cup Series’ aggressive drive. That was quite the quote from a rider who destroyed Aric Almirola to win the 2018 Daytona 500. 400 results

1. Denny Hamlin

2. Martin Truex Jr.

3. Tyler Red Dick

4. Kevin Harvick

5. Ty Gibbs

6. Christopher Bell

7. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

8. Harrison Burton

9. Erik Jones

10. Chase Elliott

11. Bubba Wallace

12. Aric Almirola

13.Ross Chastain

14.William Byron

15. Todd Gilliland

16. Brad Keselowski

17. AJ Allmendinger

18. Chris Buescher

19. Michael McDowell

20. Kyle Larson

21. Kyle Busch

22. Noah Gragson

23. Austin Cindric

24. Alex Bowman

25. Cole Custer

26. JJ Yeley

27. Corey The Joy

28. Ty Dillon

29. Chasing Briscoe

30. Ryan Blaney

31. Ryan Preece

32. BJ McLeod

33. Justin Haley

34. Austin Dillon

35. Joey Logan

36. Daniel Suarez

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