DOVER, Del. (AP) — Denny Hamlin held off a hard-charging Kyle Larson over the final, thrilling laps and wiggled through lapped traffic to win the NASCAR Cup race by about a quarter of a second Sunday at Dover Motor Speedway.

Hamlin’s third win of the season tied William Byron for most this season in the series. Hamlin also picked up his 54th career Cup win, all with Joe Gibbs Racing. He’s tied with Lee Petty for 12th on the career Cup list.

“It’s just fantastic,” Hamlin said. “I couldn’t hold Lee Petty’s helmet.”

Larson finished second and nipped at Hamlin’s bumper for most of the final 25 laps and seemed on the brink of passing the Toyota. Larson’s No. 5 Chevrolet just couldn’t close the deal on the mile concrete track. Hamlin took the lead off a restart with about 79 laps left and never let it go, repeatedly closing off Larson at the top of the track.

“I just couldn’t really do anything,” Larson said. “Nothing could generate enough speed to get close enough to do anything.”

Hamlin was soundly booed as he grabbed the checkered flag — boos louder than usual at the track because of a big crowd. He led 136 of the 400 laps.

After rainouts forced Monday races each of the last two years, the sun came out Sunday — and so did the fans. The grandstands were packed and the track came close to its 54,000 capacity. While NASCAR tracks do not release attendance numbers, the crowd was easily the largest at Dover since before the pandemic.

Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott completed the top five.

THE BIG ONE

There was a multi-car wreck with 71 laps left in the race that took out Christopher Bell, Bubba Wallace and William Byron.

Coming off a restart, Zane Smith appeared to get into the left rear of Wallace’s Toyota which sent him into traffic and into Byron and Bell. Wallace was running 11th at the time of the wreck. Bell was 16th and Byron 18th.

ALL-STAR SUB

Kevin Harvick, the 2014 NASCAR champion who retired at the end of last season, will drive the No. 5 Chevrolet in place of Kyle Larson in practice and qualifying for the NASCAR All-Star race.

Larson will stay in Indianapolis on May 17 to practice for the Indianapolis 500 rather than travel to North Wilkesboro Speedway to practice and qualify for the NASCAR All-Star race. He will become the fifth driver in history to attempt to complete “ The Double ” and run 1,100 miles in one day, starting with the Indianapolis 500 in an Indy car and then flying to Charlotte to drive in the Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR’s longest race of the year.

UP NEXT

Kansas Speedway where Denny Hamlin is the defending race winner.

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AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing