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NASCAR Sunday at Homestead: Hamlin wins Cup, Briscoe wins Xfinity

NASCAR Sunday at Homestead: Hamlin wins Cup, Briscoe wins Xfinity

Have you got enough racing yet? With these two race reports here this completes a run of five NASCAR races in five days! (GRW)

NASCAR Cup Series Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway: A third win this year for Hamlin

Homestead, FL, June 14/20 (GRW): Florida’s usual seasonable weather – rain and lightning – delayed the start of this race. The race, which was supposed to start before 4:00 pm, never really got going for real until after eight o’clock making it a night race under the lights. Denny Hamlin won here at Homestead – his third career win here and his third win of the season. He held off Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney who had been challenging him in the final stages of the race, to take the win.

The race, which saw only two ‘normal’ cautions in its 267 laps, ran the final 92 laps under green – producing a final cycle of green-flag pit stops. Elliott came out of this round of stops ahead of Hamlin and Blaney on lap 221 – and he held on for the next 17 laps. But, as the laps counted down, Hamlin closed up and, after some side-by-side racing, he prevailed. Now he was able to move out into a small but comfortable lead over Elliott and Blaney. But, when the checker flew he was less than a second ahead of his challenger.

The rookie Tyler Reddick was fourth while Christopher Bell, another Cup rookie, was eighth. This was the first time a rookie had finished in the top ten here since David Regan finished in tenth place in 2007.

PHOTO NCS NCS HMS Rain 061420Teams begin to cover their cars during a weather delay for the Dixie Vodka 400 (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

The start of the race was delayed by light rain and then lightning in the area. The protocol nowadays seems to be if lightning is seen in the nearby area, everything is shut down for at least 30 minutes to protect the workers – e.g. TV camera men and other track workers and spectators. This disruptive weather continued, halting procedures for over two hours. The cars finally got going again just after the 7:00 pm and they were able to complete the ‘competition caution’ which came at the 20 lap mark. But only a few laps later lightning was spotted again and the race went red again. Finally, just after 8:00 pm, the race got underway as a proper night race.

This was the first NASCAR race since the pandemic shutdown which had officially permitted any spectators. About 1000 military personnel and friends had been invited – and they were sitting in the front stretch grandstands well spaced out. Given that these guests were not self-designated race fans, as the race went on into the evening hours most of them bailed before the race finish.

Joey Logano had started from the front row and he led most of the laps until the second red flag on lap 33. When the race finally went green again the cars all pitted for fresh tires. During this round of pit stops, Logano collided with Kevin Harvick – both sustaining what looked like minor damage – but after that, neither of them was a factor in the race, Harvick finishing in 26th place, one lap down and Logano in 27th , two laps down.

When the first Stage was completed on lap 80, Hamlin was the Stage winner ahead of Blaney, Reddick and Elliott. On the restart Elliott got past Hamlin into the lead but Blaney passed him for the lead three laps later and he led the next 30 laps until Hamlin regained the lead coming out of a round of green-flag pit stops. He continued to lead, winning the second Stage at lap 160 over Reddick, Elliott and Blaney.

Now the race settled down for the long 107-lap third Stage. There was one more caution when Logano tangled with Ryan Newman – neither of them on the lead lap – on lap 172 – prompting another round of pit stops. Hamlin continued to hold the lead – ahead of Elliott, Reddick and Blaney – after this final yellow.

This continued with Blaney and Reddick getting past Hamlin momentarily – but it was Elliott who was Hamlin’s strongest challenger now. Coming off a final round of green-flag pit stops, he got past into the lead on lap 221 and led for the next 17 laps – but inevitably, Hamlin reeled him in and regained his priority on lap 238. After that Elliot and Blaney were in close pursuit but they could not catch Hamlin – who went on to win the race.

"Our car was just really good," Hamlin said. "This is the car kinda based off what we had here in the Fall last year going for the [2019] championship. We had a strong car all day, obviously, with the laps led and able to get around Chase there at the end. I didn’t know. It seemed like the end of these races seems to be Chase’s best suit, but I knew that if I was just patient and ran the pace I wanted and the pace I was comfortable with we were going to be hard to beat in the long run."

"Just need to get through lapped traffic better," Elliott said. "I thought our Camaro really was good enough to win and I thought we executed a really nice race and kept it off the wall almost the whole race – kinda got it there [into the wall] at the end. But I’m proud of the effort and we’re bringing fast cars right now."

• Click HERE for the results of the NASCAR Cup Series Dixie Vodka 400.

• The next NASCAR Cup race will be next Sunday, June 21 at Talladega Superspeedway.

PHOTO NXS 2 NXS HMS FinishLine 061420Chase Briscoe crosses the finish line ahead of Brandon Jones to win the Contender Boats 250 ( (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

NASCAR Xfinity Series Contender Boats 250 at Homestead-Miami Speedway: A third win for Briscoe

Homestead, FL, June 14/20 (GRW): Chase Briscoe only led 11 laps in this race at Homestead but he led the final two laps to score – with previous wins at Las Vegas and Darlington – his third win of the season. Brandon Jones finished in second place a mere 0.072 seconds behind him. Ross Chastain was third, A.J. Allmendinger fourth and Noah Gragson, who led 81 laps in the 167-lap race, was fifth.

Allmendinger, who had won at Atlanta, was the best-placed of those eligible for the $100,000 Dash-for-Cash bonus – giving him a nice consolation prize despite not winning here.

Unlike the Cup race later in the day, this race was not hampered by the rain and lightning which came later in the afternoon. With this race’s starting lineup based on an inverted order from the previous day’s race here, it took a few laps for the fastest cars to cycle up to the front. Austin Cindric took the lead on lap 11 and it looked like he might be the car to beat this day. He led off-and-on three more times for a total of 60 of the race’s laps. Later in the race a number of cars suffered tire problems – the others were able to struggle around to the pits but Cindric spun up the track and hit the outside wall bringing out the fifth caution of the race on lap 167 and sending it into overtime. This dropped him out of contention and he ended up in tenth place, a lap down.

Gragson who had run well here the day before but failed to win that race took the lead for the first time on Sunday on lap 68 and he soon looked like the man to beat. By the time Cindric’s spin brought out the fifth caution, he had led 80 laps – more that any other driver – and it had looked like he had only to continue his steady run over final couple of laps to take the win. But Cindric’s caution changed all that by forcing anther restart.

Despite the few laps that remained in the race, all the front runners came into the pits to put on fresher tires – and Briscoe, who had been running second to Gragson, beat him out of the pits. Now, for the final restart, Briscoe chose the lower line with Gragson alongside above him. On this restart, four cars got together on the backstretch bringing out yet another caution and extending the overtime.

Now Gragson had lost a position and it was Briscoe lined up at the front with Brandon Jones above him and Gragson right behind him in the second row. On this the actual final restart, Gragson faded back and he finished in fifth place while Jones almost pipped Briscoe at the finish line.

For Briscoe, this win must have felt good given that he had been robbed of any chance to win the previous day’s race when a ballast issue dropped him six laps down before he got into the race – and then he had some how made up all those six laps to finish on the lead lap –but, given his strong rebound in that race, one had to wonder what he would have done had he been able to start up at the same time as the others. So, his Sunday win must have gone a long way to compensate for Saturday’s disappointment.

The ballast problem Saturday resulted in a four-race suspension for his crew chief and others so, given the short-handed staffing that is normal these days, Tony Stewart’s former crew chief Greg Zipadelli, now an executive with the team, had stepped in. This win was the first Xfinity Series win ever for this Zipadelli – someone who had won so many Cup races with Stewart.

"That was a team win for sure," said Briscoe, who earned his fifth career victory and third of the season. "Yesterday we were so good and then today, I don’t know if it was the heat or what, we just weren’t very good. We were decent on the long run, but the 9 (Noah Gragson) was definitely better. Just a testament to all the guys at Stewart-Haas Racing."

If it was any consolation for a disappointed Gragson, he now has top-five finishes in the last four Xfinity races, and he holds an 18-point edge over Briscoe in the series championship standings. Last year this series had its ‘big three’ drivers of Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer – all of whom have graduated to the Cup Series this year. It now looks like we are seeing a new ‘big three’ forming up in Xfinity again this year – Gragson, Briscoe, and Cindric – but perhaps one or more of the rookie Harrison Burton, Ross Chastain (who finished third today), and Brandon Jones may emerge as top runners as the season goes on.

• Click HERE for the results of the Xfinity Series Contender Boats 250

• The next Xfinity Series race will be on Saturday, June 20 at Talladega Superspeedway.

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