Charles Krupa/Associated Press
Denny Hamlin earned his first Monster Energy Cup Series win of the season Sunday in the Overton’s 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire.
Hamlin held off a late charge by Kyle Larson, who finished 0.509 seconds off the leader.
With the victory, Hamlin guaranteed himself a place in the Monster Energy Cup playoffs.
Hamlin only led 54 of the race’s 301 laps, and much of that time was spent fending off Larson. With roughly 20 laps to go, Hamlin owned a relatively healthy two-second lead on Larson. Inside the final 10 laps, however, the No. 42 car had cut that lead in half, trailing Hamlin by less than a second.
Fox: NASCAR summed up the general feeling of Hamlin’s fans who were watching at home:
FOX: NASCAR @NASCARONFOX
15 laps to go at @NHMS. Every @dennyhamlin fan right now…
#NASCAR https://t.co/Kvh0GBixHC https://t.co/80qopebykm
If the Overton’s 301 were a couple of laps longer, Larson may have prevailed. Instead, Hamlin had the tires and enough gas in the tank to cross the finish line in first place.
NASCAR on NBC shared a replay of the final two laps:
NASCAR on NBC @NASCARonNBC
What a finish at NHMS! @CocaColaRacing family’s Denny Hamlin held off Kyle Larson to win and punch his ticket into the playoffs! https://t.co/1NvDi85aYk
Hamlin’s massive burnout illustrated how much the win meant:
Burnout of the year? 👏 @dennyhamlin https://t.co/XrxsnhzjdN
Joe Gibbs Racing @JoeGibbsRacing
🏁@DennyHamlin breaks the winless streak and delivers a win at Loudon!!! Great job @FedEx Racing team!! #NASCAR #ToyotaNation https://t.co/Rro1a7VUoM
As a result of the Overton’s 301, Hamlin climbed to fifth in the Monster Energy Cup standings. With 589 points, he’s 50 points behind Kevin Harvick in fourth place.
With the curtain closed on the Overton’s 301, only seven races remain before the start of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup playoffs, which begin with the Tales of the Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois, on Sept. 17.
That leaves some time for the drivers on the outside looking into the top 16 to either notch a victory or accumulate enough points to secure a playoff berth.
If the playoffs started right now, Erik Jones would be the first driver out. He’s only one point behind 16th-placed Ryan Newman, though, which is an easy gap to close over the next two months.
Daniel Suarez, on the other hand, has a lot more work to do in order to qualify for the playoffs. With 404 points, anything short of a win between now and the Federated Auto Parts 400 on Sept. 9 may not be enough for Suarez to earn a playoff bid.