LONG POND, Pa. (AP) — Denny Hamlin returned to victory lane Sunday at Pocono Raceway a year after his first-place finish was thrown out, giving him a track-record seven wins and 50 overall in his Cup career.
Hamlin also gave Toyota its 600th NASCAR victory.
Hamlin passed Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon — for the second straight year — for most wins at the tri-oval track. Hamlin and his former Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch had their 1-2 finishes stripped a year ago by NASCAR for aerodynamics violations.
That made Hamlin the first disqualified Cup winner since April 17, 1960, when Emanuel Zervakis’ victory at Wilson Speedway in North Carolina was thrown out because of an oversized fuel tank.
“That was a bitter disappointment for us last year,” team owner Joe Gibbs said. “Hopefully today, that’s not going to be the case and we get through inspection.”
Hamlin does know the way to victory lane in the No. 11 Toyota.
Hamlin and Kyle Larson bumped and battled over the final laps before the three-time Daytona 500 winner pulled away on the final restart and won with the caution flag out, leading a sold-out crowd — Pocono’s largest since 2010 — to shower Hamlin with boos.
“I love it,” Hamlin said. “They can boo my rock out of here in a few years.”
Pocono paints rocks outside the garage to honor of some of NASCAR’s greats, such as Jimmie Johnson and Richard Petty. Hamlin swept two races at Pocono in his rookie season in 2006, and added wins in 2009, 2010, 2019 and 2020.
He won his 50th race in 635 career Cup starts in a career that dates to 2004, driving only for Gibbs.
“He has been so loyal to us,” Gibbs said. “We went through one half of a year with Denny racing in Xfinity. We were struggling with our Cup car and we put him in there. It’s been going on 18 years.”
Tyler Reddick was second and Martin Truex Jr., who won last week at New Hampshire, was third. Kevin Harvick and Ty Gibbs rounded out the top five.
Larson faded to 21st and blasted Hamlin for making contact late in the race that sent the No. 5 Chevrolet up the track and cost him a shot at racing for the win.
“I’ve never had to apologize to him about anything, anything, I’ve ever done on the racetrack,” Larson said. “I can count four or five times where he had to reach out to me. At some point, you’ve got to start racing people a certain way to get the respect back.”
Austin Dillon chucked his helmet at former teammate Tyler Reddick’s car after the two were involved in a wreck. Dillon’s Ford slammed into the wall and its passenger side crumpled. Dillon threw his helmet as he walked off the track.
“I was just trying to hit him,” Dillon said. “They’re going probably 65. If I had started at the front of the car, I might have got him at the door.”
CAUGHT IN THE UNDERTOW
Joey Logano’s rough race ended with a bumpy ride to pit road. Logano, who won the first stage, later hit the wall, blew four tires and finished 35th. The Team Penske driver criticized NASCAR for the jittery ride to the pits in his Ford and said the tow truck caused additional damage to the car.
“You get this long, horrible ride back. It’s rough,” Logano said. “Your head’s bouncing around in there. It’s stupid. It’s just really dumb that we can’t just put four tires on a truck. I saw a whole bunch of them earlier today. … It’s not fun for anybody. The poor guy driving the tow truck. The poor driver getting his head knocked around for 2 miles and the poor team that’s got to fix the underbodies of these things after they’re dragged around.”
SHE WEARS THE FIRESUIT
Logano took a jab at Kevin Harvick after a run-in at the 2010 Pocono race, saying, “It’s probably not his fault, you know, his wife wears the firesuit in the family.”
The quip has lived on in NASCAR circles but the feud between the two Cup champions has long since dissipated. Harvick, in his final NASCAR season, sold T-shirts this year for charity that read “I wear the firesuit in this family.” Harvick gave a $12,000 check from money raised from the sale to Logano for his charity foundation. Harvick’s young daughter wore a firesuit on Sunday with the slogan across the front.
NASCAR heads to Richmond. Larson won the race in April while Harvick is the defending winner of last summer’s race.
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