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Food City 500: Denny Hamlin Earns Bristol Win in 'Tire-rific' Performance

Denny Hamlin celebrates in Victory Lane at Bristol.
Denny Hamlin used tire management skills from his Late Model days to perfection. (Photo: Meg Oliphant | Getty Images)

BRISTOL, Tenn. - A return to the concrete for the NASCAR Cup Series spring race at Bristol Motor Speedway resulted in a historic day that saw Denny Hamlin win the Food City 500, as others experienced a "tiresome" day.

Hamlin, in his No. 11 Mavis Express Oil Change Toyota, won his second straight race in "Thunder Valley" after he battled his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates in a race dominated by extreme tire wear.

In his 52nd career Cup Series victory, Hamlin led 13 times for 163 laps while earning 44 points, tentatively locking himself into the playoffs on a day that featured 54 lead changes among 16 drivers.

"Experience was a big part of it for sure, I was trying not to get pushed so much by Ty (Gibbs)," Hamlin said. "I knew he was going to push a little too hard. Obviously, I knew Martin (Truex Jr.) was going to be the next guy in line that had the experience to challenge. Really proud of the team. Obviously, a really great job on the pit sequence there. Being able to hang on longer than others was the key to us being able to stop later and have some tires at the end.”

Truex Jr. also showed his experience in dealing with tire wear as the No. 19 Toyota finished second at Bristol, after leading 54 laps at the Tennessee short track that he still has not won at.

"You know, we just came out too far behind him (Hamlin) there on the green flag stop," Truex Jr. said. "I was right on his bumper when he pitted and when I came out, he was a straightaway ahead of us and just used my stuff up too much to try to get there.

"The last five laps, my right rear was corded. It was close. A great run for our Auto-Owners Camry. Great job by everybody on our team all weekend to put us in this position. It was an interesting race, that’s for sure. Just came up a little bit short there.”

The star of the 500-lap race that did not find Victory Lane was the No. 54 Toyota of Gibbs, who swept both Stage 1 and Stage 2 (first career Stage wins) and went on to finish ninth after leading 137 laps.

"That’s just what we had today with our SiriusXM Camry," Gibbs said. "I felt like we were great all day, just that last run, the right rear just came apart. We were just two laps late of coming in. When we had that tire come apart, I think I was like four laps down at one point. Just frustrating but you have to work for it here."

Results from the 2024 Food City 500 are listed below:

2024 Food City 500 Results.

Other Race Facts

Only five cars finished on the lead lap at Bristol for the first time since the 1994 spring race, according to statistician Trey Ryan. The five drivers who completed all 500 laps included Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski, Alex Bowman and Kyle Larson.

There were 54 lead changes during the Food City 500, which was not just the most ever at Bristol Motor Speedway, but it was also the most lead changes at a short track in NASCAR history.

Toyota put on another show of dominance, leading 402 of 500 laps (80%), after leading 298 of 312 laps at Phoenix Raceway last weekend. Despite not leading any laps in the No. 42 Dollar Tree Toyota, Legacy Motor Club's John Hunter Nemechek earned a career-best sixth-place finish.

Larson's No. 5 Chevrolet took the lead and helped Hendrick Motorsports reach 80,000 laps led in the Cup Series, which is the most by any team in the history of the sport.

Tire wear was an issue for every team in the field as NASCAR and Goodyear had to provide each team with an additional set of tires.

GRID Ranking

The 2024 GRID Ranking will be the eighth year of the premier motorsport ranking in the world, and it will be released during the week of April 7.

Before the official ranking releases on the first Sunday of April, drivers in the seven racing series that participate in the ranking (NASCAR, IndyCar, Formula 1, Formula E, World Rally Championship, Repco Supercars, MotoGP) earn GRID Ratings, which help determine their initial seeding when the GRID Ranking releases.

Ryan Blaney still holds a thin margin at the top of the NASCAR GRID Rating over Christopher Bell and Kyle Larson.

Despite winning the 2023 Cup Series title, Blaney did not win last year's GRID Rating as William Byron's six wins helped the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet earn this honor.

The next race on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule will take place at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas on Sunday, March 24. Coverage of the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix will begin at 3:30 E.T. on FOX.


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