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Denny Hamlin Kicks Off 2024 Cup Season with Busch Light Clash Victory

The 43-year-old driver became the first driver to win the Busch Light Clash from the pole multiple times, with his victory in Saturday's running of the pre-season exhibition event.


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“Is this Denny Hamlin’s year?”

It’s tempting at the start of every season to ask the question, as the Chesterfield, Virginia native always emerges as a title favorite when the oddsmakers speak before the start of the season.

But, to begin the new season with a victory in the Busch Light Clash… that’s already making a pretty strong case for the driver of the No. 11 Toyota Camry XSE before anybody has even scored a point.

It wasn’t a strong-armed win for Hamlin, though, not by any stretch of the imagination. The 43-year-old driver wasn’t really in contention to score the victory throughout much of the night but was able to get back in the game with a caution inside the final 10 laps of the event, which erased a two-plus second lead for his teammate, Ty Gibbs.

That restart, which happened with 10 green-flag laps left in the event, saw Hamlin sneak to the inside of the No. 54 at the exit of the second turn, getting side-by-side with Gibbs, and eventually clearing him for the lead.

At the same time, that restart allowed Hamlin to shake Logano, after the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series champion got shoved out of the groove by Gibbs, the driver to which he’d been pursuant for much of the race’s second half.

“A lot of it was just what happened in front of me with the 54 and 22, and you just never know what was going to happen there, but I got a really good run off of Turn 2 and just got position and was able to hang on from there,” said Hamlin post-race. “It’s so chaotic, the restarts, with everyone just bumping and banging, but feels great to win here in LA.”

Gibbs, who led a race-high 84 laps in Saturday’s contest in Los Angeles, was poised to score a top-five finish until contact from Kyle Larson sent the No. 54 Toyota Camry XSE spinning around in the second turn — getting further contact from William Byron.

MORE: 2024 NASCAR Cup Series Busch Light Clash Race Results

The second-year pilot for Joe Gibbs Racing would go on to finish in 18th place, one lap off the pace of his teammate, the eventual race-winner.

However, with the two biggest challengers in Gibbs and Logano out of immediate contention for the victory, Hamlin only had to survive a challenge from Kyle Busch, who now hasn’t finished worse than third in three starts at the LA Coliseum.

Ryan Blaney, the defending champion of the NASCAR Cup Series, rebounded to finish in third place, after having to take a points provisional to get into the 23-driver field of the Busch Light Clash.

Joey Logano finished in fourth, while Kyle Larson completed the top five. Logano, who ran inside the top three for much of the event wasn’t pleased with the youngster behind the wheel of the No. 54 post-race, with the two exchanging words after the event.

Alex Bowman had a quiet evening and came home in sixth place, while Chase Briscoe, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex, Jr., and William Byron completed the top-10.

With the Busch Light Clash complete from the LA Memorial Coliseum, the next stop for the NASCAR Cup Series will be Daytona International Speedway for Speedweeks.

-- Photo Credit: Nigel Kinrade, LAT, Courtesy of Toyota Racing

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