BRISTOL, Tenn. (WJHL) – Denny Hamlin overcame an early-race penalty to win the Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway and advance to the next round of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.
Kyle Larson came in second followed by Christopher Bell in third, Chris Buescher in fourth, and Ty Gibbs in fifth.
Hamlin’s win, his third of the season, earned him a spot in the Round of 12. He will be joined by Larson and Tyler Reddick, who had already earned automatic bids, as well as William Byron, Christopher Bell, Brad Keselowski, Chris Buescher, Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney, Ross Chastain, Martin Truex Jr., and Bubba Wallace.
Four drivers were eliminated from championship contention: reigning champion Joey Logano, retiring driver Kevin Harvick, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Michael McDowell.
Logano finished second to last after falling victim to a crash in the third stage that forced him to take his car behind the wall.
After the race, Hamlin was met with boos by the Bristol crowd.
“Hey,” Hamlin said to the crowd. “I beat your favorite driver.”
When asked who was referring to, he said, “All of them.”
Hamlin started the race in second place and maintained that position until he was hit with a pit road speeding penalty early in the race. The error caused him to drop far back in the pack.
By Stage 3, the driver of the No. 11 FedEx Toyota had driven his way back to the top of the field, starting the stage in second place behind Ty Gibbs and in front of Kyle Larson.
Larson challenged Hamlin at one point but was unable to pass him.
Hamlin went on to take the lead from Gibbs with about 140 laps to go and never looked back.
Bell Dominates Early
Pole-winner Christopher Bell swept the first two stages.
Bell and Hamlin pulled away from the field early in Stage 1 and reached the back of the pack within 20 laps.
The first caution of the race came out on Lap 70 when A.J. Allmendinger made contact with the front stretch wall and was then hit by Austin Cindric. Both cars stayed in the race.
Several cars stayed out while both Bell and Hamlin pitted. Once racing resumed, Corey LaJoie found himself in the lead with Bubba Wallace in second. Bell fell to ninth.
Hamlin was hit with a pit road speeding penalty and dropped back into the field.
Light rain prompted a second caution with about 20 laps left in the first stage, but not before Bell worked his way up to second behind LaJoie.
After the green flag dropped with 12 laps left, LaJoie held off Bell for several laps until Bell ultimately retook the lead with six to go.
In Stage 2, Bell relinquished the lead to Kyle Larson for about 20 laps while battling lapped traffic.
However, Bell retook the lead with about 50 laps to go and pulled away with an over two-second lead over Larson.
Bell’s lead decreased late in the stage while navigating lapped traffic but he was able to hold on.
UP NEXT: The Cup Series heads to Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, Sept. 24.