Stage 1. Stage 2. Checkered flag.
Denny Hamlin captured them all Sunday with a victory at the Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He held off late charges from Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney in a race that was delayed by lightning multiple times to earn his third win of the season.
He was also victorious at the Daytona 500 in February and Toyota 500 in May.
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Denny Hamlin won the Dixie Vodka 400 on the NASCAR Cup Series. He is the 20th driver in Cup Series history to reach 40 career wins. Of those drivers, he joined Junior Johnson and Mark Martin as the only ones to reach that mark without a Cup Series championship. https://t.co/LGXpnG689I
Sunday's race was notable for more than Hamlin's win as it was the first that featured fans in the stands since the season was delayed for the COVID-19 pandemic. Nick Schwartz of USA Today's For The Win noted NASCAR opened the gates for 1,000 fans, most of whom were military members from the nearby Homestead Air Reserve Base and U.S. Southern Command in Doral.
Hamlin started on pole position after winning a random draw and took full advantage out of the gates.
Elliott and Blaney dueled for the lead in the early going, and Joey Logano sustained some damage when he ran into the back of Quin Houff on pit road, but Stage 1 largely belonged to Hamlin.
He seized the lead from Blaney and earned his 12th stage point of the year, which put him one point behind Logano for the most playoff points. It was also notable that he made such an impact in the first stage since it was his first race with crew chief Chris Gabehart back since the latter was suspended for four races after a piece of tungsten fell off Hamlin's car in the pace lap of May's Coca-Cola 600.
Elliott and Blaney took turns with the lead in the early going of Stage 2, which marked a drastic change from Blaney's usual performances at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Entering the race, the best finish of his career at the track was 11th place.
However, Hamlin took the lead again following a series of green-flag pit stops and extended it with a dominant performance throughout the rest of the stage. He even lapped cars such as Jimmie Johnson, Cole Custer and Ryan Newman and notched another playoff point with ease.
The only real drama of the second stage came when Blaney bumped Tyler Reddick, but the latter maintained his position.
A number of drivers weren't as fortunate at the start of Stage 3 as Kurt Busch and Austin Dillon were each penalized for an uncontrolled tire violation. There was also a caution when Logano dealt with more trouble in a disappointing showing:
It wasn't smooth sailing for Hamlin anymore, either. Blaney and Elliott both made charges during a heated stretch with 74 laps remaining. Hamlin went around the former on the side to keep the lead for the moment, but the latter moved past him during a pit cycle in the final 50 laps.
Logano came into play one more time as Elliott struggled to lap him before Hamlin received something of a bump to take the lead for good.
That was all the No. 11 car needed before he finished his third and final stage in front of the rest of the pack.
He will look to replicate his performance and carry his momentum over to the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama for the Geico 500 next Sunday.