Motorsport News

When the Race Is Over Before It Even Begins

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If you blinked on Sunday (June 9), you might’ve missed Denny Hamlin running laps at Sonoma Raceway.

Everything seemed fine at the start, but Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota soon detonated an engine after completing just two of the 110 laps.

Hamlin’s entire race — from taking the green flag to the aftermath of his blown engine — clocked in at just over four minutes, and he later joked that they “beat everyone home.”

Hamlin’s “race” — which humorously came in his 666th NASCAR Cup Series start — marked the fewest number of laps he had ever completed in a Cup event, breaking his prior “record” of 14 (out of 160 laps) in an August 2013 event at Pocono Raceway.

The engine failure came as quite a surprise, as it’s uncommon to see an engine let go in a plume of smoke nowadays, let alone just after the race begins. To that point, Hamlin’s race marked the earliest engine DNF since 2021 (more on said race later), and it also marked the second week in a row that a car for Joe Gibbs Racing had a mechanical issue.

But, while rare, it’s not unheard of for a driver to complete just a handful of laps before bowing out. Using all the full-time Cup drivers in the 2024 field, here are the other races where a driver retired from the race after completing just zero, one, two or three laps.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., May 2020 Darlington. 0/293 Laps, Crash

NASCAR became the first major professional sports league to triumphantly return from the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Its first Cup race back ended with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. hitting the inside wall at Darlington Raceway before the first lap was even completed.

As of now, he is the only full-time Cup driver to have a race where he failed to complete lap 1.

Justin Haley, April 2021 Richmond. 1/400 Laps, Engine

Hamlin’s Sonoma failure marked the quickest mechanical DNF since Justin Haley at Richmond Raceway in 2021, where he completed a whopping one lap of the 3/4-mile short track before pulling it behind the wall. Ironically, he was the only DNF of the race; everyone else completed at least 380 of the 400 laps.

Christopher Bell, October 2020 Talladega. 1/200 Laps, Crash

A four-car crash occurred on the very first lap at Talladega Superspeedway, involving Christopher Bell. He drove around to complete one lap, but then pulled into the garage with irreparable damage.

Joey Logano, August 2018 Watkins Glen. 1/90 Laps, Crash

Joey Logano started sixth at Watkins…

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