Denny Hamlin got his first NASCAR Sprint Cup victory of the season at Martinsville on Sunday after 500 grueling laps at the famous paper clip shaped 0.526-mile oval. Hamlin started the day in the second position and overcame some late race ...
Denny Hamlin got his first NASCAR Sprint Cup victory of the season at Martinsville on Sunday after 500 grueling laps at the famous paper clip shaped 0.526-mile oval. Hamlin started the day in the second position and overcame some late race difficulties to pass Jeff Burton with 74 laps to go; and he never looked back. Hamlin was able to hold off Burton and a late charging Jeff Gordon to score his first victory in the Cup series at Martinsville Speedway.
"First Virginia win for me," said Hamlin. "Finally. The curse is over, I think. I hope. We've had such bad luck over these first few weeks," while his crew chief Mike Ford added: "I was more worried about a green white checkered finish with the 24 behind us running 2nd than I was with the fuel pickup issue. We had plenty of fuel in at the end of the day so really wasn't a concern here."
Hamlin led the first lap from the front row until polesitter Jeff Gordon nosed by to take the top spot. And 500 laps later when the checkered was shown, it was the same two in the battle for the victory on a cold day with light rain on and off adding an extra challenge for the Cup teams and drivers today.
Hamlin is only the second racer to best the Hendrick Motorsports team in the last eight races on the Virginia short track. Gordon and Jimmie Johnson have taken the top honor six times, Hamlin's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Tony Stewart took the victory in 2004. And he did it on his home track, Hamlin is from nearby Chesterfield.
"I've raced here probably three times in the Late Model Series and they're 300 lapper or 200 lappers they run here each fall. And that's kind of that was our Super Bowl race is to come here at Martinsville. So this has always been a big racetrack to me," Hamlin said. "It feels good. It's just been so close so many times to finally breakthrough here definitely means a lot. Kind of feels like maybe the monkey is off of our back, and just had a lot of support from a lot of great people."
For Gordon, today's win was not to be with Hamlin taking the victory by nearly four-tenths of a second. Gordon had to settle for second as he came on his radio to congratulate Hamlin. A nice touch from the winner of seven races at Martinsville.
"I was trying to figure out why my car had no grip out there the last several laps. Then I got out of the car and I understood why. Man, we were racing in the rain. I knew it was spitting on the windshield, but I had no idea just how bad it was," said Gordon.
Third place finisher Jeff Burton started in 24th position and put together another solid run for the Richard Childress Chevy team. With his win at Bristol, Burton has now taken over the points lead. He has 915 while Kevin Harvick is adrift by 39 points. Former points leader Kyle Busch has seen his early good luck turn sour and now is fifth in the points behind Greg Biffle and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Still it is early in the season and November is a long way down the calendar.
"Every team works hard to be better. We have worked hard. Richard Childress Racing has looked at all the departments trying to be better," stated Burton. "You know, to be honest, I don't think we're running as well right now as we did this point last year. Last year we were really fast, led more maps, then we kind of fell off. We got where we weren't as competitive toward the end of the year."
Johnson was fourth followed by Stewart with Earnhardt Jr in sixth.
Casey Mears, who needed a big turn around, brought home a seventh place finish after starting 39th on the day.
Jamie McMurray also needed a solid run to move back into the top-35 in owner standings and finished eighth after starting fifth.
Carl Edwards finish ninth and Clint Bowyer brought home a tenth place finish. With Bowyer's tenth place finish, he hopped seven places in the driver standings and is now ninth.
The highest finishing Dodge was the No. 42 of Juan Pablo Montoya in 13th position and Montoya has been quietly solid this season, sitting 19th in the driver standings.
Regan Smith had a great run for a rookie, placing 14th as the highest finishing rookie, and Dario Franchitti put together his best run of the season, finishing 22nd after starting 43rd.
Michael McDowell, in his first Sprint Cup Series race finished 26th.
Next week the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Texas Motor Speedway.