Denny Hamlin overcomes tire issues, wins at Bristol

Denny Hamlin became the season’s fifth different winner in five races by surviving a strange tire-wear battle at Bristol Motor Speedway Sunday, taking the victory in the Food City 500 in Bristol, Tenn.

In a 500-lap race marred by heavy rubber wear – there was fear of teams needing more than their nine sets of tires – Hamlin made a green-flag pit stop during the race’s longest run and topped Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. by 1.083 seconds for his 52nd career win.

Hamlin also won last September’s race at BMS.

With only five cars on the lead lap, Brad Keselowski, Alex Bowman and Kyle Larson finished the top five.

Ty Gibbs appeared to have the car to beat, led 137 laps and won the first two stages, but his JGR Toyota hit the wall with about 70 laps left.

It was the 210th win for the JGR organization and second this season.

In BMS’ return to its concrete surface in the spring for the first time since 2020, pole winner Ryan Blaney and fellow front-row starter Josh Berry swapped the lead in the first 20 laps before Blaney’s No. 12 Ford slipped a few spots and Hamlin moved to the top spot.

Blaney regained the point, but Gibbs, last year’s Rookie of the Year, powered past the Team Penske driver with six laps to go and eventually claimed the first stage win of his career.

But before that happened, Hamlin and eight-time Bristol winner Kyle Busch had flat tires with a few laps left in the segment, forcing the race’s fourth caution on Lap 123.

Teams soon discovered that rubber was a problematic issue, as multiple tires showed excessive damage and sheer shredding when removed from their cars.

When the second stage’s 125-lap dash started, the segment took an experimental tone as drivers tried to find the right balance between high speed and tire preservation, with the average lap time falling off by a second.

In an 11-lap sprint, Christopher Bell went door-to-door with Joey Logano, and the No. 54 roared by Logano’s Ford on the high side with two laps to go en route to his second stage victory.