Denny Hamlin Wins Battle Of NASCAR Cup Tire Managers At Bristol 

Denny Hamlin celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 17, 2024 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo: Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

By Reid Spencer

NASCAR Wire Service

BRISTOL, Tenn. — How appropriate. 

On a day where tire management was the essential element in a NASCAR Cup Series race, three veterans swept the podium positions, with Denny Hamlin winning Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. 

In a race that produced 54 lead changes—a record for Cup Series short tracks—Hamlin lost the lead briefly to Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. in the closing laps but regained it in traffic and beat Truex to the finish line by 1.083 seconds. 

In a return to concrete after three straight spring races on dirt, Hamlin won his second straight race at the 0.533-mile speedway and his fourth overall, second most among active drivers to Kyle Busch’s eight. 

The victory was the 52nd of Hamlin’s career, 13th all-time, and his first this season. 

But the story was the tires and the mysterious way they behaved in a race that saw the track start to eat through to the cords 45 laps into a green-flag run. 

Goodyear brought the same tire that ran without issues in last fall’s Night Race, but on Sunday, the concrete surface did not take rubber. Instead, marbles (small balls of rubber from degraded tires) accumulated high in the corners, making the top of the track untenable. 

There were two variables that might have helped to account for the tire issues. The temperature was roughly 10-15 degrees cooler than it was for last year’s Night Race, which was run on Sept. 16. 

NASCAR also opted for a different resin the bottom lane from the PJ1 traction compound previously in use. 

Whatever the cause, with his short-track background, Hamlin was best equipped to deal with the surprising situation. 

“That’s what I grew up here doing in the short tracks in the Mid Atlantic, South Boston (Va.), Martinsville,” said Hamlin, who grew up in Chesterfield, Va. “Once it became a tire-management race, I really liked our chances.   

“Obviously, the veteran in Martin, he knew how to do it as well. We just had a great car, great team. The pit crew just did a phenomenal job all day. Can’t say enough about them… Man, it feels so good to win in Bristol.” 

Truex passed Hamlin for the lead in traffic on Lap 483 but surrendered the top spot to the race winner one lap later, as the teammates worked around slower cars. Truex’s tires gave up the ghost on the last few circuits, as Hamlin pulled away. 

“Apparently, that’s what I needed to have happen here at Bristol to have a shot at winning—I guess this tire management thing fit into my wheelhouse here at Bristol,” Truex said. 

“Man, the difference was just coming out of the pits so far behind Denny (after green-flag pit stops during the final run). I had to use mine up more on the last run. The last four, five laps of the race, was cord.”   

Hamlin led a race-high 163 laps, as the four JGR drivers spent a combined 383 of 500 laps at the front field, with Ty Gibbs leading 137, Truex 54 and Christopher Bell 29. 

Brad Keselowski, a three-time winner at the track, finished third, 7.284 seconds behind Hamlin.  Hendrick Motorsports drivers Alex Bowman and Kyle Larson were fourth and fifth, respectively, as only five drivers finished on the lead lap. 

The last time five or fewer drivers finished on the lead lap was the June 6, 2004 race at Dover. 

John Hunter Nemechek, Chris Buescher, Chase Elliott, Gibbs and Bell came home sixth through 10th, respectively. 

Larson and Truex leave Bristol tied for the series lead, passing defending series champion Ryan Blaney, who finished 16th

NASCAR Cup Series Race – Food City 500 

Bristol Motor Speedway 

Bristol, Tennessee 

Sunday, March 17, 2024 

                1. (3)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 500. 

                2. (11)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 500. 

                3. (17)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 500. 

                4. (29)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 500. 

                5. (10)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 500. 

                6. (26)  John Hunter Nemechek, Toyota, 499. 

                7. (34)  Chris Buescher, Ford, 499. 

                8. (5)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 499. 

                9. (19)  Ty Gibbs, Toyota, 499. 

                10. (12)  Christopher Bell, Toyota, 499. 

                11. (7)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 499. 

                12. (2)  Josh Berry #, Ford, 499. 

                13. (6)  Chase Briscoe, Ford, 498. 

                14. (25)  Ryan Preece, Ford, 498. 

                15. (36)  Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 498. 

                16. (1)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, 498. 

                17. (32)  Justin Haley, Ford, 498. 

                18. (28)  Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 498. 

                19. (33)  Kaz Grala #, Ford, 498. 

                20. (15)  Erik Jones, Toyota, 498. 

                21. (18)  Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 498. 

                22. (4)  Joey Logano, Ford, 498. 

                23. (30)  AJ Allmendinger(i), Chevrolet, 498. 

                24. (31)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 498. 

                25. (14)  Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, 498. 

                26. (24)  Todd Gilliland, Ford, 497. 

                27. (35)  Carson Hocevar #, Chevrolet, 497. 

                28. (20)  Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 496. 

                29. (9)  Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 496. 

                30. (23)  Tyler Reddick, Toyota, 495. 

                31. (21)  Austin Cindric, Ford, 495. 

                32. (13)  Harrison Burton, Ford, 495. 

                33. (27)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 495. 

                34. (22)  Noah Gragson, Ford, 494. 

                35. (8)  William Byron, Chevrolet, 492. 

                36. (16)  Zane Smith #, Chevrolet, Engine, 192. 

Average Speed of Race Winner:  79.678 mph. 

Time of Race:  3 Hrs, 20 Mins, 41 Secs. Margin of Victory:  1.083 Seconds. 

Caution Flags:  9 for 98 laps. 

Lead Changes:  54 among 16 drivers. 

Lap Leaders:   R. Blaney 1-2;J. Berry # 3-20;D. Hamlin 21-25;C. Elliott 26;T. Reddick 27-30;B. Wallace 31-40;J. Berry # 41-47;B. Wallace 48-52;D. Hamlin 53-60;C. Elliott 61-64;R. Blaney 65-68;K. Busch 69-73;R. Blaney 74;D. Hamlin 75-82;R. Blaney 83-88;D. Hamlin 89-119;T. Gibbs 120-130;R. Blaney 131;K. Larson 132-140;T. Gibbs 141-145;M. Truex Jr. 146-149;T. Gibbs 150-153;K. Larson 154-156;T. Gibbs 157-158;D. Hamlin 159-162;K. Larson 163-165;D. Hamlin 166;K. Larson 167-170;T. Gibbs 171-181;M. Truex Jr. 182;C. Buescher 183-199;C. Bell 200-223;M. Truex Jr. 224-235;C. LaJoie 236-239;C. Bell 240-243;J. Logano 244-248;T. Gibbs 249-256;M. Truex Jr. 257;T. Gibbs 258-284;M. Truex Jr. 285-317;D. Hamlin 318-322;T. Gibbs 323-364;D. Hamlin 365-372;M. Truex Jr. 373;D. Hamlin 374-379;C. Bell 380;D. Hamlin 381-398;T. Gibbs 399-425;D. Hamlin 426-447;M. Truex Jr. 448;B. Keselowski 449;A. Bowman 450-452;D. Hamlin 453-482;M. Truex Jr. 483;D. Hamlin 484-500. 

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Denny Hamlin 13 times for 163 laps; Ty Gibbs 9 times for 137 laps; Martin Truex Jr. 8 times for 54 laps; Christopher Bell 3 times for 29 laps; Josh Berry # 2 times for 25 laps; Kyle Larson 4 times for 19 laps; Chris Buescher 1 time for 17 laps; Bubba Wallace 2 times for 15 laps; Ryan Blaney 5 times for 14 laps; Joey Logano 1 time for 5 laps; Kyle Busch 1 time for 5 laps; Chase Elliott 2 times for 5 laps; Corey LaJoie 1 time for 4 laps; Tyler Reddick 1 time for 4 laps; Alex Bowman 1 time for 3 laps; Brad Keselowski 1 time for 1 lap. 

Stage #1 Top Ten: 54,5,17,6,42,12,19,20,41,4 

Stage #2 Top Ten: 54,6,22,42,20,19,11,5,23,41 


  1. Geez, first time doing this???.

    They were on their 8th set of tires at just over 250 laps, according to the announcers. They were allocated 9 sets for the race (fact check welcome) 🤗 . What the hell were they thinking? NASCAR released an additional set of tires around midway through the race.

    Did you see some of those tires come off the cars???? Down to the cord across the width of the tire.

    Announcers were intrigued, knowing the cars were out of tires, and it was a matter of watching the cars fall out due to running out of tires.

    It was obvious early on that there was going to be a problem since cars that got to the front couldn’t hold it for more than a few laps and went backwards as the tires went away. Record number of lead changes.

    The track just never got rubbered in and munched the tires.

  2. It was all about having tires wear quicker according to nascar, to make more lead changes, and make teams have to figure out more on the fly, during the race. According to Nascar, the drivers wanted this as well. So Nascar stated. Fact check on that would be appreciated.
    So they tested at Bristol last year, and Goodyear brought the new tire compound to the Fall race. Supposedly the falloff in last year’s Fall race was greater than last year’s Spring race, but without major issues. So, according to Nascar and Goodyear, the same compound was brought in for this year’s Spring race. So they claim. The only difference was that last Fall the track had the PBJ applied to the inner groove, and this Spring they used a resin on the track on the inner grooves, versus the pbj. Goodyear claims that track surfaces on average were 15 degrees cooler on average yesterday vs last fall. But I say, they have raced for years on that track, with wild track temperature swings, without an issue of not being able to have the groove move up. Go figure.
    So to the untrained eye (me) it was obvious during qualifying on Saturday that something was up. Qualifying was a huge crap shoot and particularly on the second lap, they could not hold onto the cars. First laps quicker by far. I’m not a scientist but on Saturday I suspected that a run across the resin was detrimental to the compound of the rubber. Somehow affecting the integrity of this compound. And quickly. Surely something was up, and on Sunday, one might suspect that that was why the track wasn’t taking rubber outside that inner groove. And it never did.
    I dont know about you guys, but all that back slapping that Nascar is doing to each other over the “record 54 lead changes” to me, is just plain BS. That was racing in the second stage when no one wanted to lead? The leader was controlling the pace of the whole race? When lead positions were swapped because the leader was afraid he was going too fast and burning up his stuff? Let someone else lead? Thats racing? Reminded me of the Daytona fuel save ride around recently. We know how that was received by fans.
    Yeah, I’ll be beat up cause I’ll get that the older guard knew how to save their stuff, so that made it a race. Maybe. But in my mind the 54 had them all covered yesterday. Would have been nice to see what he could have done with out Nascar’s tinkering. Not to mention how many drivers and cars they put in harms way yesterday with that foolishness.
    If Nascar and Goodyear come back and say, yeah, we did not think that whole resin through far enough, It’s on us. That would be one thing if in fact, the resin turns out to be the cause of that fiasco.
    But I’m not betting you will ever hear that officially. Nobody thought to test with the resin?

  3. Anybody notice how empty the stands were? I think that was probably the best cup race I’ve seen with this new car. Put it back in the driver’s hands

  4. Fast Eddie says

    Seems like a “not so bright” move by NASCAR and Goodyear for all kinds of tire testing and the fall race with the PJ1 on the track, then to use something completely different (and possibly untested) on the track for this race. There already were enough variables with weather and track temperature.

  5. That was an awesome tire test session.

    When’s the race??

  6. Hamlin, Truex and Keslowski all have one thing in common, they know how to save their stuff.

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