Hamlin nears Earnhardt record with fourth Clash win in L.A.

Denny Hamlin found his way back to the front of the NASCAR Cup Series field when it mattered most Saturday night to claim the victory in the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum.

Hamlin started from the pole and led 47 of the first 50 laps at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. But after losing the lead and getting muscled out of the way by the competition, he settled into seventh with his Joe Gibbs Racing Camry and did enough to stay within striking distance.

The race’s final caution with 10 laps to go gave Hamlin his chance. He restarted third behind race leader Ty Gibbs and took advantage of his teammate going wide in Turn 1 with Joey Logano. Once in the lead, Hamlin never looked back and held on when the race went to an overtime finish.


Gibbs was the reason for the final caution. The No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry spun in Turn 4 after contact with Kyle Larson.

“A lot of it was what happened in front of me with the No. 54 (Gibbs) and No. 22 (Logano), and you just never what was going to happen there,” Hamlin said. “But I got a really good run off of Turn 2 and just got position and was able to hang on from there. It’s so chaotic, the restarts, with everyone just bumping and banging, but it feels great to win here in L.A.”

The victory is the first for Hamlin in L.A. but his fourth in a Clash event, just one shy of Dale Earnhardt’s Clash win record. Hamlin had three wins at Daytona International Speedway when it hosted the exhibition race, formerly known as the Budweiser Shootout and Sprint Unlimited.

Kyle Busch finished second to Hamlin. The Richard Childress Racing driver followed Hamlin when the door opened as Gibbs and Logano went wide on the final restart. It’s the second straight podium finish for Busch in The Clash.

Ryan Blaney finished third after driving from the rear of the field after needing to take the provisional to make the race.

Ty Gibbs dominated the middle portion of the Clash but his race soured late. Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR

Logano finished fourth and Larson finished fifth. Alex Bowman finished sixth, Chase Briscoe seventh, Brad Keselowski eighth, Martin Truex Jr. ninth and William Byron 10th.

Gibbs finished 18th after the spin. He led a race-high 84 laps.

There were seven caution flags Saturday night (only green flag laps counted). The race went green through the first 75 laps before the first caution flew just shy of the halfway break for a spin by Todd Gilliland.

There were seven lead changes among four drivers. Logano took the lead on the initial start before Hamlin made his way to the front on lap three. Gibbs dominated the middle portion of the race, followed by one lap led by Keselowski before Logano retook the top spot. Gibbs was in control of the race, leading by over 2s at one point before the final caution flew and Hamlin overtook him.

“It’s a great momentum boost,” Hamlin said. “It doesn’t do much more than that. But I clean off all the trophies every January 1 in the entryway of the house, and now we get to add one pretty quick, so really happy about that.”


Story originally appeared on Racer