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NASCAR at Bristol 2019 Results: Denny Hamlin Edges Matt DiBenedetto for Win

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorAugust 18, 2019

BRISTOL, TENNESSEE - AUGUST 17: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota, leads a pack of cars during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 17, 2019 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

Denny Hamlin started Saturday night in first and ended that way as he took down the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race in Bristol, Tennessee for his fourth win of the Monster Energy Cup Series season on Saturday evening.

NASCAR @NASCAR

Denny delivers again! Retweet to congratulate @dennyhamlin on his fourth victory of the 2019 season! #ItsBristolBaby https://t.co/LVuuDLzykF

Hamlin, who won the pole position after Friday's qualifying run, is now second in the playoff standings with just two races remaining between now and the Cup Championship Playoffs, which begin on Sept. 15.

Hamlin and second-place finisher Matt DiBenedetto were the stories on Saturday evening. 

The 38-year-old victor is white-hot heading into the playoffs, finishing top five in each of his last six races and winning two of them. He earned his latest victory after slowly closing the gap between him and then-race leader DiBenedetto before passing him with 12 laps remaining:

NASCAR on NBC @NASCARonNBC

For the lead, it's Denny Hamlin! https://t.co/J3GI0th5rQ

The two enjoyed a sizable edge on the field by the race's end, with third-place finisher Brad Keselowski ending his night nearly six full seconds behind DiBenedetto.

Hamlin now has 13 top-five finishes in 24 Monster Energy Cup races this season, three more than he had all of last year. He's only looking up at Kyle Busch in the standings.

DiBenedetto's performance came in the aftermath of a difficult week for the 28-year-old, who received news that his tenure with the Leavine Family Racing team would end after one year.

That effectively leaves DiBenedetto as a free agent heading into the 2020 season, and he embraced his underdog role pre-race when he came out to the Rocky theme:

NASCAR on NBC @NASCARonNBC

Matt "The Italian Stallion" DiBenedetto! @MattDRacing went out to the "Rocky" theme, and it was amazing. https://t.co/yVzPLuIRwI

However, DiBenedetto made a strong case to find a new home thanks to his strong performance, during which he led all drivers with 93 laps.

The ending didn't go as hoped, and DiBenedetto provided some insight to the crew, per Performance Racing Network:

PRN @PRNlive

Matt DiBenedetto comes home P2: "I don't even know what to say, I'm so sad we didn't win but proud of the effort...I got tight from the damage of getting into Newman and that immediately flipped the switch. This opportunity, I'm so thankful for this opportunity"

After the race, an emotional DiBenedetto showed class in defeat, congratulating Hamlin and noting how badly he wants to stick on the Monster Energy Cup Series circuit elsewhere.

NASCAR @NASCAR

"I'm here to win." An emotional @mattdracing speaks after finishing second at Bristol. https://t.co/semJNMviuj

Hamlin returned the favor, with DiBenedetto being the first person mentioned in his postrace interview:

NASCAR on NBC @NASCARonNBC

The first thing on @DennyHamlin's mind as he climbed out of the race car after a win? "I'm so sorry for @MattDRacing." https://t.co/8wX1h9Hyfe

Although he didn't win, DiBenedetto gained a legion of fans rooting for him. Jeff Gluck of The Athletic noted the Bristol crowd's post-race reaction:

Jeff Gluck @jeff_gluck

They just showed Matt on the video board and the stadium erupted in cheers.

The Bojangles' Southern 500 is next on the docket, set to take place on Sunday, Sept. 1 at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina.

NBCSN will televise the event, which begins at 6 p.m. ET.