Denny Hamlin went to the lead for the final time with 30 laps left and held off Chase Elliott for his record-tying third NASCAR Cup Series victory at Homestead.
Hamlin raced to his third victory of the season and 40th overall. He opened the season with a victory in the Daytona 500 and won at Darlington last month. And when the night was over, Hamlin — who wears the Michael Jordan “Jumpman” logo on his race suit — made no secret that he’s racing with some extra energy these days.
He led 137 of 267 laps on the 1 1/2-mile track in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 11 Toyota, finishing 0.895 ahead of Elliott.
Ryan Blaney was third in a race oft-delayed by rain and lightning. Tyler Reddick finished fourth.
Fittingly, a very long day was the capper to a very long week for NASCAR — three Cup Series races in eight days, all of them bringing drivers into hot and steamy weather conditions that left many of them exhausted.
Bubba Wallace finished 13th. Jimmie Johnson, the seven-time champion who had the tunnel that leads to the track named in his honor earlier in the weekend and is retiring as a full-time driver after this season, was 16th.
Hamlin won the first two stages and bucked a trend this season, where drivers who do that don’t wind up with the win.
Elliott swept the first two stages at Las Vegas before finishing 26th, Clint Bowyer did it before finishing 22nd at Darlington, Alex Bowman took the first two at Charlotte but ended up 19th, and Elliott did it again and finished 22nd at Bristol.
The last driver to win the first two stages and ultimately win the race was Martin Truex Jr. at Martinsville last Oct. 27. That is, until now.
The weather toyed with the race all day.
A slight shower, one where it only rained over Turns 3 and 4, popped up around the very instant that drivers fired up the engines to get things going. That was followed by the day’s first batch of lightning and the delay caused the race to start 55 minutes later than planned.
Drivers got through three laps — not even five miles — when lightning was spotted near the track and a caution came out that turned into a red-flag stoppage and would last for 2 hours, 8 minutes. And after about 25 more laps once things finally resumed, lightning struck again to prompt another interruption of nearly 39 minutes.
Counting the pre-race delay, that was 3 hours, 42 minutes of sitting around in weather-related stoppages on a day where most of the track was completely dry throughout. It was 8:15 p.m. when the green flag dropped again and drivers — who had been through only 33 laps to that point — started the final 234 times around the Homestead surface.
Chase Briscoe survived two late cautions and a frantic overtime finish to prevail in an Xfinity Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway earlier in the day.
Harrison Burton took the inside line on the way to the lead in the final lap, and held on to win the Xfinity Series race Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Kyle Busch won the NASCAR Trucks Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Saturday night, his 58th career win on the circuit and his eighth victory in his last 10 trucks starts.