NASCAR Cup Series: Denny Hamlin not the big winner at Dover

Denny Hamlin held off Kyle Larson to secure his third win of the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season at Dover Motor Speedway.
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, Dover Motor Speedway, NASCAR
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, Dover Motor Speedway, NASCAR / Logan Riely/GettyImages

Joe Gibbs Racing's Denny Hamlin held off Hendrick Motorsports' Kyle Larson and earned his 54th career NASCAR Cup Series won on Sunday afternoon at Dover Motor Speedway, tying him with Lee Petty for 12th place on the all-time wins list.

Hamlin's Wurth 400 win was the second of his career at the four-turn, 1.0-mile (1.609-kilometer) high-banked "Monster Mile" oval in Dover, Delaware, and it was his third of the season.

Just two drivers have won multiple races so far this season, and now both have won three. Hamlin also won at Bristol Motor Speedway and Richmond Raceway while Hendrick Motorsports' William Byron has collected wins at Daytona International Speedway, Circuit of the Americas, and Martinsville Speedway.

So Hamlin entered Sunday's 400-lap race already locked into the playoffs. The playoff format is technically not a "win and in" format, since there can be more than 16 different winners throughout the 26-race regular season.

The playoff spots officially go to the regular season champion and the 15 drivers who rank highest in wins. Because no more than 13 drivers can win twice, Hamlin and Byron are locked in.

Denny Hamlin not the big winner at Dover

In the event that there are more winners than playoff spots, the tiebreaker to determine which single-race winners get into the 16-driver postseason field and which don't is points. So two drivers in particular were happy that no new winner emerged on Sunday: Joe Gibbs Racing's Christopher Bell and Trackhouse Racing Team's Daniel Suarez.

Neither one of those two drivers is in the top 16 in the point standings, with Bell sitting in 17th place and Suarez sitting in 18th. Bell won at Phoenix Raceway in March while Suarez won at Atlanta Motor Speedway in February.

Bell has fallen in the standings due to the fact that he has finished in 34th place or worse in three of the four most recent races, and his only other result during that stretch is 17th. Suarez has just a single top 10 finish in the nine races that have been contested since his win.

The other three single-race winners this year include Hendrick Motorsports teammates Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott, as well as 23XI Racing's Tyler Reddick.

They won at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway, and Talladega Superspeedway, and they sit in first, third and fifth place in the point standings, respectively, so none of them appear to be at risk of dropping out of the playoff picture if there end up being more than 16 winners.

Because of where Bell and Suarez sit in the point standings, the cut line is currently between the 14th and 15th place drivers on points. RFK Racing's Chris Buescher is the final driver above that cut line, and he is just two points ahead of 23XI Racing's Bubba Wallace for the final spot.

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The season's 12th race is the AdventHealth 400, which is set to be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1 from Kansas Speedway beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, May 5. If you have yet to start a free trial of FuboTV, do so today and don't miss it!