NASCAR Cup Series

Triple dip? Denny Hamlin’s Dover win could be building block for Kansas, Darlington success

Triple dip? Denny Hamlin's Dover win could be building block for Kansas, Darlington success

Denny Hamlin’s called-shot win Sunday at Dover Motor Speedway might just be the start of something bigger. Turns out, the driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota may have had some extra incentive when he and crew chief Chris Gabehart established some performance-goal parameters heading into the midpoint of the NASCAR Cup Series’ regular season.

“I mean, Chris Gabehart told me that I needed to win one of the next three weeks, to feel good about where we’re at at the All-Star break,” Hamlin told NASCAR.com after his late surge to victory in Sunday’s Würth 400. “And so I told him I’d get it done, if not win all three.”

All three, you say?

Stopping short of elevating Hamlin’s statement into a decisively bold 3-for-3 guarantee, history suggests that the No. 11 team’s aspirations for a trifecta in the weeks ahead aren’t that far-fetched. Hamlin tops the win list among active drivers for the next two tracks — Kansas Speedway, site of Sunday’s AdventHealth 400 (3 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN Radio, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio); and Darlington Raceway, where the Goodyear 400 will be held Sunday, May 12 (3 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM). The non-points NASCAR All-Star Race will follow May 19, at which point 13 regular-season events will be complete with 13 more to go until the playoffs.

RELATED: Cup Series standings

Confidence is brimming right now for the No. 11 bunch, but with good reason. Here’s how both of those races stack up — for Hamlin and the rest of the Cup Series field:

KANSAS

Hamlin’s history: The No. 11 team came out ahead in last year’s 400-miler at the Kansas City track, where Hamlin converted a last-lap pass on Kyle Larson with some well-publicized contact between the two. Hamlin is a four-time Kansas winner, and he steams into the Cup Series’ next race with five consecutive top-five results there. He’s finished among the top two his last three times out at the 1.5-mile track.

Top challengers? The most significant threat to Hamlin’s bid at Kansas likely stems from the 23XI Racing team that he co-owns with basketball legend Michael Jordan. The organization has won three of the last four there with three different drivers all flying the No. 45 — Kurt Busch (May 2022), Bubba Wallace (Sept. 2022) and Tyler Reddick (Sept. 2023). Outside of the Toyota camp, Larson looms largest, having led the most laps in both Cup Series races at Kansas last year before settling for top fives.

Tyler Reddick, left, and Denny Hamlin celebrate Reddick

DARLINGTON

Hamlin’s history: Hamlin’s four-win portfolio at the track “Too Tough to Tame” could have easily added a fifth in last September’s playoff opener, where he led 177 of the 367 laps before an extra pit stop for a vibration knocked him from contention. He’s led 100-plus laps six times in his Cup Series career at Darlington, where he has also registered six victories in the Xfinity Series.

Top challengers? William Byron, the Cup Series’ other three-time winner this year, is likely to contest for the Darlington laurels as the defending race winner, but also as the top points-earner there since the Next Gen stock car debuted in 2022. Other probable standouts include Larson — the most recent victor at the 1.366-mile oval — and JGR’s Martin Truex Jr., a two-time Darlington winner who has led laps in seven of his last eight starts there.

Denny Hamlin leads Kyle Larson in a 2021 NASCAR Cup Series race at Darlington.

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