We had NASCAR Cup Series Playoff racing in the desert on Sunday night and afterward there were some clear winners and losers. Let’s dig right into it.
First and foremost, the biggest winner is obviously Denny Hamlin. The driver of the No. 11 Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing took home the victory at the South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Now that Hamlin has officially punched his ticket to the Round of 8, he will be able to sleep a little bit easier at night. He won’t have to stress about winning one of the next two wild card races. Those include trips to Talladega Superspeedway and then to Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.
“I am so happy, so happy to not have to worry about the next two weeks,” Hamlin told NBC Sports after the race. “But I’m a professional, so I’m gonna work just as hard each and every week to win.”
The win for Hamlin is also big because it was his second of the Cup Series Playoffs. He went the entire regular season without getting a win and has now reeled off two here in the postseason. He flat-out dominated the second half of Sunday night’s race.
Chase Elliott is another driver who can be considered a winner after Sunday’s race. Elliott was driving strong for the entire race. And even though he was never able to challenge Hamlin for the lead, he came away finishing second on the night. It was a nice moment for Hendrick Motorsports on an otherwise forgettable night of racing.
Coming in third place was Kyle Busch, and that makes him a winner here as well. He will earn 18 stage points, giving him a nice 35-point cushion above the cut-off-line going into the next race at Talladega.
NASCAR Losers from the South Point 400
Just like with there being some clear winners from Sunday night, there are some clear losers as well.
One of those is going to be Christopher Bell, the driver of the No. 20 Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing. He saw his teammate, Denny Hamlin, punch in his ticket to the Round of 8, but the night didn’t go so great for him. With his 24th-place finish, he now ranks last in the Round of 12 and has a 25-point hole to try and climb out of.
Other than Bell, the entire group of Hendrick Motorsports crew chiefs can be considered losers on Sunday night. They made a call to leave all four Hendrick Motorsports cars on the track following a Joey Gase wreck on Lap 93. That call led to a rough rest of the way for the Hendrick team other than Chase Elliott. Kyle Larson had the best finish (10th), followed by William Byron (18th) and Alex Bowman (22nd). Byron and Bowman had some issues with flat tires but as a whole, the group was simply unable to make a comeback after losing track position following the wreck.