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June 9, 2024

Denny Hamlin out early with engine trouble, falls from points lead at Sonoma

Denny Hamlin made an early exit at Sonoma Raceway on Sunday when his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota suffered an apparent engine failure after just two laps.

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Hamlin’s No. 11 entry trailed thick, white smoke as he crossed the road course’s start/finish line to complete his second lap in the Toyota/Save Mart 350. As the race’s first retiree, he was credited with last place in the 38-car field, which knocked him from the lead in the Cup Series standings.

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Hamlin, who started 25th in the 110-lap race, had registered five consecutive top-five finishes before Sunday’s early retirement. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver, who entered Sunday as the series leader with a 21-point advantage over Kyle Larson, said he had no indication of a motor problem until the engine expired.

“No, I didn’t notice anything,” Hamlin said. “Just trying to get up to speed, but no, that was out of the blue, for sure, down the straightaway.”

Hamlin’s worst finish of the season dropped him two spots in the standings to third, 26 points behind race-winner Larson and 12 points behind second-place Chase Elliott, Larson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate.