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NASCAR Cup Nashville

"A lot of craziness" wreaks havoc on Sunday's Nashville Cup race

At one point while Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race struggled to a finish through a record five overtimes, it appeared anyone could end up the winner – and it came so close to happening.

In regulation, it looked at first like the race was going to come down to a battle of pit strategy between Denny Hamlin (who took four tires on his final stop) and last year’s race winner Ross Chastain (who took two).

The two waged a wild battle for win at Nashville Superspeedway over the final 10 of the originally scheduled 300 laps. Hamlin took the lead with seven laps to go, and Chastain was mounting a return challenge when Austin Cindric spun out after contact with Noah Gragson with one lap to go.

NASCAR threw the caution, setting up the first overtime but it came with a big caveat – most of the drivers running in the top 10 were already close on fuel.

Anyone who dared to pit automatically lost a chance at the win and few were willing to give up the chance.

Hamlin and Martin Truex remained on the track until finally giving up after two overtimes to pit for fuel while Chastain, Kyle Busch and Corey LaJoie were taken out of contention in accidents.

Over the next three overtimes, Kyle Larson and Chase Briscoe looked like they had opportunities to pull out a win, but both ran out of fuel on the track.

Logano, who could run out at any time, did a masterful job holding off Tyler Reddick and then rookie Zane Smith before finally edging Smith for the victory at the conclusion of the fifth overtime – 31 laps beyond the scheduled distance.

“Yeah, just a lot of craziness there at the end,” said Larson. “There were a lot of cars short on fuel and we were one of them. Just a lot of mess.”

Running on empty

Hamlin knew he was pushing his luck, deciding to stay on the track to start the second overtime as his crew chief, Chris Gabehart, told him he didn’t believe Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota could make the two laps.

It did, but then Hamlin had no choice but to pit before the third overtime, which took him out of contention.

“We ran out under caution. He (Gabehart) was monitoring fuel pressure. I let him know what the fuel pressure was. We were fine, just running out of gas and we did under caution,” Hamlin said.

“It was the right call. I was going down pit lane there out of gas. I’m surprised we lasted that (long) honestly. Certainly, stinks being 15 seconds from a win at the end and then 10 seconds from a win, and then to finish 12th.

“It’s just part of it.”

Reddick frustrated

No one appeared harder on themselves after the finish than Tyler Reddick.

Although he, too, was close on fuel, Reddick seemed to have the strongest car capable of catching Logano on the final restart and almost did at one point.

He ended up third, but felt he blew an opportunity for a second win of the year.

“I’m trying my best, but it’s tough. I’m trying to keep it cool at the moment. I’m really upset about how that ended,” an obviously frustrated Reddick said after the race.

“All the good cars ran out of fuel, and we were in position to pass (Logano). He hadn’t been good all day long, and I didn’t get the job done.”

He did not but he was far from the only one.

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