It was the 100th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at the Dover International Speedway. It was also the 50th year that NASCAR’s premiere series had been coming to the Monster Mile. That’s why numbers were on the side of Denny Hamlin.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver was making his 500th career start in Sunday’s Drydene 400. He earned the pole for the opening race of the Round of 12 on Saturday. Everything was aligning for Hamlin to earn his fifth victory of the season.
It started off looking that way too.
Hamlin, led a race-high 219 of the 400 laps but only brought his No. 11 Toyota home in fifth. It was just his third top five finish since the Fall 2010 race but he still leaves disappointed.
Hamlin had a car capable of reaching victory lane. He led 219 of the first 228 laps. He was passed by his teammate Martin Truex Jr. towards the end of the second stage as he had to settle for third.
Still, Hamlin scored 18 stage points on the day, second most. The problem was, he felt he had an engine problem at the start of the final stage which cost him the win.
He fell back a bit to come away with a top five, his second in the last three races. He heads to Talladega next week with a good cushion too on the bubble spot.