It took him more than seven hours to get it, but Denny Hamlin became the NASCAR Cup Series’ first three-race winner of the 2020 season when he drove to a dominating victory in Sunday’s Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Driver Denny Hamlin celebrates with the checkered flag after winning the NASCAR Cup series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Jun 14, 2020; Homestead, Florida, USA; Wilfredo Lee/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Network
Hamlin won the first two stages and led the most laps by far in getting the victory in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. The victory was his third at the 1.5-mile Homestead oval. It was his 40th in 518 Cup starts.
He secured it by passing Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott with 30 laps to go.
The seven-hour aspect of the win came as a result of a number of delays for lightning.
Elliott finished second, .89 seconds back.
Ryan Blaney of Team Penske finished third.
Fourth was rookie Tyler Reddick of Richard Childress Racing.
Fifth was Aric Almirola of Stewart-Haas Racing.
NASCAR allowed up to 1,000 spectators, all members of the military or first responders, to sit in the grandstands. That made the race the first sporting event in America to be watched live by spectators since March because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Fans had to undergo health screenings before entering and, NASCAR said, required to wear face masks and socially distance by six feet at all times.
The start of the race was delayed by just over an hour after a light rain began to fall just as the command to start engines was to have been made. After five laps, the yellow flag waved for lightning within eight miles of the tracks. Shortly after that, the red flag was shown.
At about 6:20, teams again fired the engines. But before the cars cold leave the pits, NASCAR reported another lightning strike within eight miles of the speedway and the rule that says races cannot be restarted until 30 minutes of the last string was invoked. At 7:10, the race went green. On Lap 33, more lightning and another red flag.
The race restarted yet again at 8:15.
Sunday’s was the 12th race of the season and eighth since the pandemic-forced two-plus-month hiatus.