Denny Hamlin spoiled Matt DiBenedetto’s shot at his first career victory — just days after DiBenedetto learned he’d been fired — with a late pass Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee.
Hamlin was the first Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing driver to start from the pole this season but his race was a roller-coaster that began when his car was damaged when he bounced off of Jimmie Johnson. Hamlin later had a loose wheel, fell down a lap and seemed out of contention for his second career victory at Bristol.
At the same time, DiBenedetto was working his way toward the front and put his Toyota out front for a race-high 93 laps. Leavine Family Racing told him earlier this week he won’t be back for a second season, and a win Saturday night would have been the ultimate redemption.
It would have put DiBenedetto into the playoffs and shown he’s truly a victim of the logjam of talent at Joe Gibbs Racing. Leavine is a Gibbs partner, and Gibbs needs DiBenedetto’s seat next year to promote Christopher Bell from the Xfinity Series.
Hamlin and DiBenedetto raced side by side for several laps before Hamlin completed the decisive late pass and sealed his fourth victory of the season.
Photo: Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images
Image 1 1
DiBenedetto was a career-best second and Hamlin was empathetic for the driver and crew chief Mike Wheeler, who won a Daytona 500 with Hamlin.
“I’m so sorry to Matt DiBenedetto, Mike Wheeler. I hate it. I know what a win would mean to that team,” Hamlin said as he exited his car. “But I’ve got to give 110 percent.”
DiBenedetto was near tears next to his car.
“I wanted it so bad,” DiBenedetto said. “I’m sad. Congrats to Denny, raced hard and I’ve been a fan of his since I was a kid. To be racing door-to-door with him at Bristol in front of a great group of fans — I’m trying not to get emotional but it’s been a tough week and I just want to stick around and want to keep doing this for a long time to come.”
Kings’ Fox quits Team USA
De’Aaron Fox of the Sacramento Kings withdrew from USA Basketball’s national team, meaning the Americans have 13 candidates for the 12-man World Cup roster.
Fox told USA Basketball of his choice a few hours before the team was to fly to Australia for final preparations for this month’s tournament in China.
Fox played a team-low six minutes in the Americans’ 90-81 win over Spain on Friday night in a pre-World Cup exhibition in Anaheim. He had two points and one assist, and the U.S. outscored Spain by 10 points in his brief stints on the floor.
College football: The Florida Gators and Miami Hurricanes scheduled a home-and-home series for the 2024 and 2025 seasons, more than 20 years since the two schools last met during back-to-back regular seasons.
The Gators will host the Hurricanes in the Swamp in 2024 before heading to South Florida in 2025.
Horse racing: Higher Power won the $1 million Pacific Classic by 5 ¼ lengths at Del Mar, leading a trio of long-shot finishers.
Ridden by Flavien Prat, Higher Power ran 1 ¼ miles in 2:02.43. Sent off at 9-1 odds, the 4-year-old brown colt paid $21.20, $9.40 and $7.40. Draft Pick returned $17.40 and $10 at 13-1 odds. Mongolian Groom paid $7.20 to show at 18-1 odds. Seeking the Soul, the 2-1 favorite, finished seventh.
• Horologist upset 1-5 favorite Jaywalk, last year’s juvenile filly champion, in the $162,500 Monmouth Oaks.
Obituary: Italian Felice Gimondi, one of only seven cyclists to have won all three Grand Tours, has died after suffering a heart attack while swimming in Sicily. He was 76.
Gimondi won the Tour de France in 1965 as a 22-year-old in his first year as a professional. He went on to win the Giro d’Italia in 1967, 1969 and 1976, and the Spanish Vuelta in 1968.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/Denny-Hamlin-wins-at-Bristol-to-spoil-Matt-14341102.php.