Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick took home top honors this weekend at the Monster Mile. The two championship contenders battled it out, splitting the double header in dominant fashion.
Saturday, Hamlin led 115 , winning both Stage 1 and 2. Harvick didn’t lead any laps and finished fourth behind the Joe Gibbs Racing 1-2-3 finishing positions. Toyota teammates Martin Truex, Jr. finished second with Kyle Busch in third, leading 88 and 3 laps respectively. Chase Elliott rounded out the Top 5 leading 27 laps.
For Jimmie Johnson fans, he finished 7th on Saturday and third on Sunday after leading three laps. Daytona will be the final race of the season and the place where the last playoff position will be decided. William Byron holds a tenuous 4 point lead over Johnson heading to Daytona.
On Sunday, Harvick returned the favor to Hamlin by thoroughly dominating that race with 2 Stage wins and 223 laps led. MTJ finished second once again while Hamlin was the victim of a late race loose tire that relegated him to 19th place and no laps led.
When Harvick wasn’t leading, the rest of the laps were mostly split up between Ryan Blaney (37), Aric Almirola (22), Joey Logano (15), and Matt DiBenedetto (11). But that was about as far as anyone got after Harvick hogged all the glory and put a thumping on the field.
In addition to all of that, Harvick has been so dominant, he clinched the regular season title ahead of the final race at Daytona. Three winless drivers have clinched a playoff bid based on their points position: Aric Almirola, Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch.
With Hamlin and Harvick stinking up the joint, what did the rest of the drivers have to look forward to? After crashing out early on Saturday, Kurt Busch rebounded with a 13th place finish. Chase Elliott grabbed a Top 5 on Saturday only to get wrecked on Sunday. Clint Bowyer finished 6th and 16th. Austin Dillon improved his Saturday run of 15th to 9th. Cole Custer looked strong with finishes of 11th and 10th. Hendrick looked faster overall on Sunday going Johnson (3rd), Byron (4th) and Alex Bowman (5th).
The push for the final playoff position will be tight at Daytona and probably no better place to battle that out. Race positions are tight and a driver will have to time their moves out perfectly. Hamlin looked stout at Daytona in February, winning the race and leading 79 laps. Harvick led none and finished 5th. Accidents took out Byron early and Johnson late in the race. Both drivers will need to stay clean on Saturday night or they may hand the final position to someone else. Could Erik Jones claim a top finish and steal the final spot from both Henrick drivers? Will Denny Hamlin sweep Daytona and tie Harvick for most wins? Could Kyle Busch finally get a regular season win and end all speculation?
Tune in Saturday night to find out!
Photo courtesy of NASCARMedia/