(NASCAR.com) For the second time in as many seasons, Denny Hamlin broke Matt DiBenedetto’s heart, before NASCAR removed the pathos from the situation with a post-race ruling.
At the end of a third overtime at Talladega Superspeedway, Hamlin beat DiBenedetto to the finish line to win by .023 seconds — roughly two feet — in Sunday’s YellaWood 500 NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at the 2.66-mile track.
But NASCAR erased the close call by penalizing DiBenedetto for forcing William Byron below the yellow line separating the racing surface from the apron in Turn 4 on the final lap. That made a runner-up of Erik Jones and dropped DiBenedetto to 21st at the finish.
With a comfortable playoff point cushion, Hamlin started from the pole but spent the vast majority of the race riding in the back. However, the driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota took advantage of high attrition, a fast car and a fresh set of tires to pull out his seventh victory of the season, his second at Talladega and the 44th of his career, tying him with NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott for 18th all-time.
Playoff driver Chase Elliott initially was penalized for passing below the yellow line on the final lap, but NASCAR reviewed the video and rescinded the penalty after determining Elliott was forced below the boundary. NASCAR also reviewed Hamlin’s trip to the apron in the final corner but determined that he had had been forced to go there to avoid a wreck.
After the penalties, Ty Dillon was credited with third place, Byron with fourth and Elliott with fifth, as multi-car wrecks made mincemeat of the fortunes of the majority of playoff drivers.
For more on the race, follow this link.