(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Give Austin Dillon the assist for the game-winning shot over Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Denny Hamlin credited his latest victory at Daytona International Speedway to Dillon, who's in Hamlin's basketball league in North Carolina.

Dillon, driving a Chevrolet, gave Hamlin's Toyota a big push on the final lap of the second qualifying race Thursday night. It propelled Hamlin past Earnhardt on the outside and to his eighth win at the famed track.

"I guess allowing him to play in my basketball league paid off, you know," Hamlin said. "I just gather up all these guys. Eventually you just get teammates in different kind of ways."

AP Photo/The Charlotte Observer, Jeff Siner)

Earnhardt, also in a Chevy, seemed to somewhat question Dillon's decision to stick with Hamlin.

"I was hoping Austin might push us a little bit since he drives a Chevy," Earnhardt said. "But I don’t know if I would have done it any different than he did, either."

Hamlin's hoops league includes NASCAR drivers Ryan Blaney, Michael Waltrip, Bubba Wallace and others.

One driver who's not interested in playing in Hamlin's league? Brendan Gaughan, who played college basketball at Georgetown and had the task of beating up Allen Iverson in practice.

"I don't play in Denny's league," Gaughan said. "I have nothing to prove to the NASCAR guys that think they can play basketball. I've got two Big East championship rings. I've been in two Sweet 16s and an (Elite) Eight. I don't have much to prove to the guys that have been in race cars since they were 2 years old."


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