Back to News

April 29, 2024

Three Up, Three Down: Drivers in focus leaving Dover

Denny Hamlin emerged from a Sunday afternoon of twists and turns at Dover Motor Speedway with his third Cup Series win of the season. He fended off series points leader Kyle Larson down the stretch and kept teammate Martin Truex Jr., last year’s Dover winner, at bay, leaving him third in the final order.

RELATED: Race results | At-track photos: Dover

Hamlin now sits tied with Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron for the most Cup Series wins this year. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver also moved into a dead heat with NASCAR Hall of Famer Lee Petty on the all-time win list with his 54th Cup Series triumph.

A handful of hopefuls savored banner days in Sunday’s Würth 400, while other favorites left the Monster Mile with disappointment. Here are six drivers — three each with trends heading in different directions — who experienced big shifts in fortune Sunday at Dover.


1. Noah Gragson, No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford

Noah Gragson speaks with reporters post-race at Dover Motor Speedway
Alex Daus |

Started: 5th

Finished: 6th

What happened: Gragson made the most of his 50th Cup Series start, coming up just one position short of collecting his second consecutive top-five finish. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver didn’t lead laps — as he did in last week’s third-place result, a career-best, at Talladega — but Sunday’s outcome gave him a significant six-spot improvement to 21st in the Cup Series points standings.

What’s next: The Cup Series shifts to Kansas Speedway for next Sunday’s AdventHealth 400 (3 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM). His last time out at the Kansas City track, Gragson was on the receiving end of a Ross Chastain punch to the face in a post-race confrontation. The rest of his Cup Series portfolio there is less dramatic (an average finish of 21.7 in three starts), but Gragson has Kansas wins in both the Xfinity Series (2022) and the Craftsman Truck Series (2018).

2. Kyle Busch, No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet

Kyle Busch greets fans in driver introductions at Dover Motor Speedway
James Gilbert | Getty Images

Started: 1st

Finished: 4th

What happened: Busch and the No. 8 group put together one of their most complete race weekends of the season, adding a second top-five finish to match the team’s photo-finish third at Atlanta back in February. Busch came away from Dover with his most laps led in a race this year (34) and his most points earned (42). Like Gragson, Busch savored a six-position jump-up in the Cup Series standings; that increase moved him into 11th place and on steadier ground above the way-early provisional dividing line for the playoffs.

What’s next: The Sunflower State has been a mixed lot for Busch in his Cup Series career, which went 14 Kansas starts before he notched his first top-five finish there. In the time since, he’s posted two victories — including his most recent in 2021. In two starts there with RCR, his best finish is seventh place during last September’s 400-miler.

3. Daniel Hemric, No. 31 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet

The No. 31 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet of Daniel Hemric in practice at Dover Motor Speedway
Logan Riely | Getty Images

Started: 14th

Finished: 9th

What happened: Hemric benefited when a caution flag flew with 79 laps remaining, before the No. 31 Chevy team had made a scheduled green-flag pit stop. That trapped 16 cars that had already pitted a lap down, and each of those teams took the wave-around under yellow and lined up behind sixth-place Hemric and the other front-runners for the restart. From there, the 33-year-old driver held his ground for his second consecutive top-10 finish, equaling his season-best result from a week ago at Talladega.

What’s next: Hemric has only raced twice at Kansas in his Cup Series career, but his most recent start there was a memorable one. Back in 2019 during his stint with Richard Childress Racing, Hemric scored his only Cup Series pole position. More of that solid starting-spot vibes could come in handy next weekend; his average start this season is a suboptimal 28.4.


1. William Byron, No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

The No. 24 Chevy of William Byron shows damage at Dover Motor Speedway
Logan Riely | Getty Images

Started: 3rd

Finished: 33rd

What happened: Byron led 36 laps in the early going and was among the top five well into Stage 2. His Lap 182 pit stop, however, was part of the team’s undoing when the No. 24 Chevy fell off the jack before the left-front tire was fastened. The lengthy stop knocked Byron from second place to 18th after the pit cycle, and that midpack position was where he was running when a final-stage restart went awry. Contact in the melee that also involved Christopher Bell and Bubba Wallace handed him his first DNF of the season.

What’s next: Byron dipped two spots in the Cup Series standings, but his stature as a playoff qualifier hasn’t wavered as a three-time winner so far this season. The 26-year-old driver has won at a superspeedway (Daytona), a road course (Circuit of The Americas) and a short track (Martinsville) this year. The only void left to fill is an intermediate-sized track such as Kansas, where he won the pole for last year’s springtime event.

2. Christopher Bell, No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

Christopher Bell walks the grid in practice at Dover Motor Speedway
James Gilbert | Getty Images

Started: 33rd

Finished: 34th

What happened: An ominous weekend that opened with a crash in Saturday’s practice and a starting spot at the back of the pack ended up no better with a premature exit for Bell at Dover. Bell’s No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was tangled up in the same Turn 2 fracas that snared Byron, and the team was out 72 laps shy of the full 400-lap distance. Bell, a winner earlier this year at Phoenix, fell four spots to 17th in the Cup Series standings.

What’s next: Bell could use a rebound and some smooth road ahead at Kansas after two consecutive DNFs with crashes at Talladega and Dover. He’s led laps in his last four Kansas starts, a span that includes two pole positions there for his No. 20 group.

3. Brad Keselowski, No. 6 RFK Racing Ford

Brad Keselowski's No. 6 Ford slides through the turns at Dover Motor Speedway
Logan Riely | Getty Images

Started: 24th

Finished: 30th

What happened: Keselowski was on the Three Up side of this spectrum last week, when he contended for the victory in the final lap at Talladega Superspeedway. This weekend at Dover, the RFK Racing driver and co-owner went for a long spin at the end of Stage 1, then limped his No. 6 Ford to pit road in the 224th lap after slugging the outside wall in Stage 2. It marked Keselowski’s fourth finish of 30th or worse in 11 races this season.

What’s next: Keselowski is a two-time Kansas winner, prevailing there in 2011 and 2019 during his days with Team Penske. His three-year winless drought in the Cup Series now stretches to 109 races, but he ran a promising second place at the circuit’s most recent 1.5-mile track two weeks ago at Texas.