NASCAR: Denny Hamlin not the big winner at Richmond

Denny Hamlin secured his second win of the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season on Sunday night at Richmond Raceway.
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, Richmond Raceway, NASCAR
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, Richmond Raceway, NASCAR / Alex Slitz/GettyImages

Following a late caution, a late pit stop, and an overtime restart, Joe Gibbs Racing's Denny Hamlin scored a surprising second win of the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season on Easter Sunday night at his home track of Richmond Raceway.

Hamlin had just won the race at Bristol Motor Speedway two weeks prior, giving him two consecutive short track wins as the series heads to Martinsville Speedway for this coming Sunday afternoon's Cook Out 400.

But even aside from the fact that he has been faced with nothing but criticism and various claims of hypocrisy due to the overwhelmingly popular belief that he jumped the final restart to claim an advantage over teammate Martin Truex Jr., Hamlin was not the biggest winner of the race weekend at Richmond Raceway.

The big winner was really Trackhouse Racing Team's Daniel Suarez.

Because Hamlin already won a race this season, his victory at the four-turn, 0.75-mile (1.207-kilometer) Richmond, Virginia oval means that there are still just five drivers who have found victory lane this season through the season's first seven races.

There is still a possibility that there will be more than 16 different regular season race winners, in which case one (or more) of them will end up being left on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoff picture, despite the (inaccurate) idea that the playoff format is a "win and in" format.

The 16 playoff spots go to the regular season champion and the 15 drivers who rank highest in victories. With 26 regular season races, there can be no more than 13 multi-race winners, meaning that Hamlin's win on Sunday, not his first win of the season at Bristol Motor Speedway two weeks prior, officially locked him into the postseason for the 11th consecutive season.

But Hamlin was never truly at risk of missing the playoffs, even as a single-race winner.

In the event that there are more winners than playoff spots, the tiebreaker to determine which single-race winners get in and which don't becomes points. Through six races, Hamlin was the highest ranking winner in the standings in fourth place.

Through seven races, Suarez is the lowest, and by a considerable margin. The Atlanta Motor Speedway race winner has not placed inside the top 10 in any of the five races following his February victory, and as a result, he finds himself down in 15th place in the point standings.

The next lowest winner is Hendrick Motorsports' William Byron in seventh, and he is locked into the playoffs thanks to the fact that he has won twice. The next lowest single-race winner is Joe Gibbs Racing's Christopher Bell in sixth, a whopping nine spots higher than Suarez.

So if there is one driver other than Hamlin who was happy to see Hamlin win Sunday's race, as opposed to a sixth different winner in seven races, it was the driver of the No. 99 Chevrolet for the Justin Marks and Pitbull-owned team.

NASCAR team makes another driver change for Martinsville race. dark. Next. NASCAR team makes another driver change for Martinsville race

Will a sixth different winner emerge in the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season's eighth race this Sunday afternoon at Martinsville Speedway? The Cook Out 400 is set to be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1 beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET. Begin a free trial of FuboTV today and don't miss it!