Denny Hamlin Prevails In Epic, Record-Breaking Food City 500 At Bristol

Denny Hamlin Prevails In Epic, Record-Breaking Food City 500 At Bristol

by March 17, 2024 1 comment

BRISTOL, Tenn. – In a race that saw 54 lead changes and a dominant performance by Joe Gibbs Racing, Denny Hamlin outran teammate, Martin Truex Jr. to win the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Conserving tires was the name of the game on Sunday, and the strategy played right into Hamlin’s wheelhouse. The Virginia native came up through the sport having to save tire wear when he competed in Late Model Stock Cars.

“That’s what I grew up here doing in the short tracks in the Mid Atlantic, South Boston, Martinsville,” said Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Express Oil Change Toyota. “Once it became a tire management race, I really liked our chances. Obviously, the veteran in Martin, he knew how to do it as well.”

In the closing laps of Sunday’s race, Hamlin and Truex battled each other through extremely heavy traffic, and the task was even more challenging as tire falloff was nearing the end of a run. In the end, Hamlin held on to win his fourth NASCAR Cup Series race at Bristol.

“We just had a great car, great team,” Hamlin said. “The pit crew just did a phenomenal job all day. Can’t say enough about them. First time Express Oil Change on the car. Appreciate all the Mavis folks as well. FedEx, Coca-Cola, the whole group. Man, it feels so good to win in Bristol.”

Truex is having a decent year; however, his Food City 500 performance marked his first top-five of the season. Historically, the driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota has struggled at Bristol. In fact, Sunday’s runner-up was hist first top-five at the track since 2012. Truex led 54 laps, but in the end, he just didn’t have the grip and speed to surpass Hamlin.

“Yeah, I guess this tire management thing fit into my wheelhouse here at Bristol,” Truex said. “Man, the difference was just coming out of the pits so far behind Denny. I had to use mine up more on the last run. The last four, five laps of the race, was cord.”

Brad Keselowski finished third in the RFK Racing No. 6 King’s Hawaiian Ford. He ran up front all race long, finishing fourth in Stage 1 and second in Stage 2. At one point, Keselowski had a hard impact to his right front on pit road, but he didn’t miss a beat. Keselowski thought that Sunday’s tire wear race was ‘refreshing’.

“It was interesting,” Keselowski said. “Like a little short track race. You go to any of these local short tracks, that’s how you have to race. Have take care of your stuff. It’s refreshing. It’s different. I like that, that it takes something different every week. That’s what makes Cup so hard. You go in every week, some weeks you drive ’em till you burn ’em down, this week you got to take care of ’em.”

Hendrick Motorsports’ Alex Bowman and Kyle Larson rounded out the top-five. John Hunter Nemechek finished sixth, followed by Chris Buescher, Chase Elliott, Ty Gibbs and Christopher Bell.

Gibbs swept Stages 1 and 2, but he struggled with tire wear in the final stage.

There was a Bristol high of 54 lead changes, the most at any short track in the NASCAR Cup Series. Sixteen drivers paced the field with Hamlin, leading a race high of 163 laps.

Despite the extreme tire wear, there were only nine cautions for 98 laps. The biggest crash came on Lap 33, when Tyler Reddick slowed at the front of the pack and bounced around, sliding down the frontstretch. Twelve drivers were involved in the accident.

Larson and Truex are tied for the lead in the point standings, with the advantage going to Larson.

The NASCAR Cup Series will visit Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Tex. on Sunday, March 24. Live coverage of the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix will broadcast on FOX at 3:30 p.m. ET.

Photo Credit: Mitchell White/

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