Like Joey Logano in 2015, Denny Hamlin claimed his first win since the Daytona 500 with a victory in the Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International.
Hamlin led the final 10 laps and outran Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski in a shootout after a restart with four laps to go.
It appeared a replay of the Daytona 500 finish between Hamlin and Truex might unfold. But excitement happened behind. As they exited the final turn, Keselowski got into Truex and spun him into the inside wall as Hamlin went on unscathed for the win.
“I overshot the corner (at Sonoma) and I didn’t want to do it this time and so I probably under drove and allowed those guys to get closer than I should have,” Hamlin told NBC Sports.
It’s Hamlin’s first road course win of his Sprint Cup career after coming within one turn of winning at Sonoma Raceway in June. Hamlin overshot the final turn after passing Tony Stewart for the lead. Stewart slammed Hamlin and claimed the win.
Hamlin’s enthusiastic burnout destroyed the tires on his No. 11 Toyota, forcing Hamlin, who woke up with back spasms Sunday morning, to gingerly exit the car and walk to victory lane.
“I really doubted being in the race car today, I’ll be honest with you,” Hamlin said, as he waited for his car to be pushed to victory lane. Hamlin stuck through the pain for his 28th Sprint Cup win.
“Should have won both road course races, which we never would have predicted at the beginning of the year,” Hamlin said. “This is a good sign, I’ve finally won at all the (different style) race tracks. It’s a great accomplishment for us.”
The top five was Hamlin, Joey Logano, Keselowski, AJ Allmendinger and Tony Stewart.
MORE: Point standings after Watkins Glen
HOW DENNY HAMLIN WON: Hamlin led the final 10 laps and held off the threat of Martin Truex Jr., who spun in the final turn from contact with Brad Keselowski.
WHO HAD A GOOD DAY: Joey Logano led seven laps before being called for speeding on pit road. Despite suffering front end damage, Logano used multiple late-race cautions to get back to second place … Tony Stewart fell back in the pack early after missing the bus stop, but also used late race cautions to earn a top five in his last start at the road course where he had five wins … Trevor Bayne finished ninth for his best-career finish in two WGI starts and his fifth top 10 of the season …
WHO HAD A BAD DAY: A crash on a Lap 53 restart included Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Austin Dillon and Greg Biffle. … The race went green with 34 to go. The lap wasn’t over before a crash unfolded with pole-sitter Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, David Ragan and Alex Kennedy. Edwards finished 15th … Kennedy brought out the caution again with 14 laps to go after breaking down on the frontstretch … On a restart with seven laps to go, David Ragan, Kevin Harvick, Chris Buescher and Matt DiBenedetto wrecked at the exit of the bus stop and brought out the second red flag, which lasted 16 minutes and 44 seconds … Half a straightaway from the finish, AJ Allmendinger made contact with and wrecked Kyle Larson near the pit road entrance. Instead of a top five, Larson finished 29th.
NOTABLE: Jimmie Johnson earned his fourth DNF in the last nine races … Kevin Harvick’s DNF was his second of the year (Daytona II) … Danica Patrick led 11 laps just prior to the halfway point. She had led 10 laps in the previous 21 races.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Of course it’s going to be crazy, it’s Watkins Glen. This is an awesome track and feelings are going to get hurt.” – Joey Logano, who finished second in the Cheez-It 355.
NEXT: Bass Pro Shops / NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Aug. 20 at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN