As underdog Matt DiBenedetto was leading in the waning laps at Bristol, fans were anticipating a first time winner that would be the “people’s champion.” But with 12 laps remaining, Denny Hamlin was able to drive past DiBenedetto and hold him off for the win.
“To see it slip away was oh my gosh, I can’t even,” said DiBenedetto, who finished a career-best second. “The pain was like being stabbed 100 times in the chest. … But it’s a sign of things to come. I’m not done yet.”
DiBenedetto, who learned earlier in the week that he wouldn’t be returning to the No. 95 next year, received the loudest cheers of the day.
For Hamlin, the win was his fourth of the season and 35th Cup victory overall.
“I’m so sorry to Matt DiBenedetto and (crew chief) Mike Wheeler,” said Hamlin right after climbing from the car. “I hate it. I know a win would mean a lot to that team, but I had to give 110% to my who team, and I’m just sorry.”
Brad Keselowski finished third, Kyle Busch was fourth and Chase Elliott was fifth.
With two races remaining before the playoffs start, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, Keselowski, Elliott, Kurt Busch and Alex Bowman are locked in on wins. Drivers currently locked in on points are Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson, William Byron, Aric Almirola, Erik Jones, Ryan Newman and Daniel Suarez. Clint Bowyer is two points behind Suarez in the standings.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs return to Kansas Speedway on Oct. 20 with the Hollywood Casino 400.