I’m sorry, Denny Hamlin, but on Saturday night, most of the NASCAR world was rooting against you.
(Note: Not including people with money on Hamlin, or those with No. 11 tattoos or immediate members of the Hamlin family.)
Heck, after hearing his comments after getting out of the car, I’m not completely sold that Hamlin himself wasn’t rooting for Matt DiBenedetto to win.
Hamlin did the right thing, he owes it to his fans and team to go all-out for the win. But DiBenedetto put up one of the great underdog efforts in recent memory. Told he wasn’t returning to his team earlier in the week, DiBenedetto led inside the final 15 laps, but damage incurred from a bump from Ryan Newman, which we all probably should’ve seen coming.
Alas, it wasn’t meant to be for DiBenedetto, but hopefully it’s just the first chapter of a long story for his career. I could’ve written quite a stats recap off a DiBenedetto win, but there’s still no shortage of great notes from the weekend.
I like the cut of their Gibbs
It’s the fourth win of the season for Hamlin, matching his teammates Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. for the series lead. That’s 12 wins in 24 races, and it doesn’t take an advanced math degree to know that’s half of the races.
It also makes Joe Gibbs Racing just the third organization in Cup series history to win at least 12 of the first 24 races of the season. Let’s break down the winners of the teams to have done so, to see what company they’re keeping.
Since those are the only three teams with 12 wins this early in the season, it’s fairly easy to figure out this trio of JGR drivers are also the first set of teammates with at least four wins apiece this early into a season.
And it’s actually just the second time in series history that three teammates have collected at least four wins in the same season. In 2014, Hendrick Motorsports did it with Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Only one spot DiBetter
DiBenedetto couldn’t pick up his first career victory at Bristol, but he would’ve joined a list of drivers to get their first win at that track that includes future champions Dale Earnhardt, Rusty Wallace and Kurt Busch. He was able to pick up the first top-two finish for Leavine Family Racing.
It’s the second time a team has gotten its first top-two finish this season; Spire Motorsports did so at Daytona, thanks to Justin Haley’s rain-shortened victory.
From 2014 to 2018, no team got its first top-two finish, and in the prior four seasons it happened only twice, by Front Row and Furniture Row.
To find the last time it happened more than once in a season before 2019, you have to go back a decade, to 2009, when four teams pulled it off — Stewart-Haas Racing, Phoenix Racing, the new incarnation of Richard Petty Motorsports and JTG Daugherty Racing.
Worst to first
Thanks to a qualifying snafu, also known as failing pre-qualifying inspection four times, Tyler Reddick was forced to start at the back for Friday night’s Xfinity Series race at Bristol.
Through the multitude of wrecks and the variety of attrition that plagued drivers, Reddick got the victory despite the 38th-place starting spot. Can’t get any lower than that in the current 38-car max starting field in the series.
But, that wasn’t always the case as 40-plus car fields were once the norm in the series. Still, it’s just the seventh time in the series history, which dates back to 1982 for record-keeping purposes, that a driver has won despite starting 38th or worse.
But Reddick isn’t the only driver to do so at Bristol. Kevin Harvick won from 38th at Bristol in April 2005.