By Amanda Vincent, NASCAR reporter
- Hamlin takes the victory
- Dominates by leading 199 laps
- Menard, Allgaier finish 2nd and 3rd
Hamlin wins Nationwide race in dominating fashion at Richmond
Denny Hamlin may have bobbled in qualifying on Friday afternoon but everything went perfect for him in the Bubba Burger 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Richmond International Raceway later in the evening. The win was the first for crew chief Adam Stevens.
It’s hard to tell a driver, ‘slow down.
“I’m so proud to give Adam his first win,” Hamlin said.
Stevens made a call to roll the dice late in the race and leave Hamlin out on the race track as most of the drivers pitted for fuel in the final 50 laps. With about 25 laps to go, Stevens cued Hamlin on the radio and told him to save fuel.
“It’s hard to tell a driver, ‘slow down,’” Hamlin admitted.
That may usually be the case, but , it wasn’t too difficult of a favor to ask of his driver since Hamlin had a lead of nearly 10 seconds at the time.
The call by Stevens to conserve fuel and stay out prompted a few others to do the same, including Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Aric Almirola. With everyone else pitting, that left only Hamlin, Stenhouse Jr. and Almirola on the lead lap at that point in time.
The call to stay out didn’t work out so well for Stenhouse Jr. and Almirola. Stenhouse Jr. ended up running out of gas with eight laps to go to bring out only the second caution of the race. While riding around under caution, Almirola ran out of fuel.
To make his situation worse, Almirola was caught speeding off pit road in an attempt to keep from going a lap down.
With the late race caution, Hamlin ended up pitting after all for tires and fuel, but so did the rest of the handful of cars on the lead lap, aside from the ones that took the wave around to get back on the lead lap, so Hamlin was able to restart in the lead for a two-lap shootout to the finish with then second-place driver Paul Menard.
“Denny just got a better restart than me,” Menard said.
Hamlin was able to hold off Menard to claim the win after a dominating performance that saw Hamlin lead 199 laps. Menard wound up second.
“Denny’s impressive here,” Stevens said.
Hamlin took the lead from Carl Edwards on lap 44 after Edwards started on the pole and led the first 43 laps. Hamlin dominated from there on out, expanding his lead to almost 10 seconds at times during long green flag runs. Once he took the lead from Edwards, the only time Hamlin wasn’t up front was when Almirola assumed the lead on lap 132 and held the top spot for a short time.
As Hamlin dominated, Edwards slid back. He eventually fell off the lead lap due to an ill-handling racecar. His crew eventually got the car right but with the lack of cautions, Edwards was never able to get back on the lead lap to battle Hamlin for the win. He wound up 25th.
Justin Allgaier was the highest-finishing driver earning Nationwide Series points with his third-place finish. The top-three showing gave Allgaier sole possession of the points lead. He shared that lead with Stenhouse Jr. heading in to Friday night’s race, but as a result of running out of fuel late in the race, Stenhouse Jr. ended up finishing 21st and fell to sixth in points.
“Ricky was probably going to be the points leader until he ran out of fuel,” Allgaier said.
Ricky was probably going to be the points leader until he ran out of fuel.
Elliott Sadler overcame a history of poor Richmond finishes to finish fourth after getting some advice on where to run on the race track from team owner Kevin Harvick.
“I’ve never run that good here,” Sadler said. He went on to explain the Harvick called him earlier in the week to tell him where he needed to run on Friday night to remedy the problem.
Brad Keselowski went a couple of laps down early in the race after having to make an unscheduled pit stop on lap 80 when he cut down a tire. The lack of cautions in the race worked to his favor, though, as the rest of the field ended up also pitting under green a little while later, giving Keselowski one of his laps back. When the first caution of the race finally came out on lap 124, he got back on the lead lap and ended up finishing fifth.
Friday’s race only had three cautions, uncharacteristic for Nationwide Series racing at Richmond. The first didn’t come out until the halfway point of the race. The second one didn’t come until eight laps to go, and the third yellow came out after Hamlin had already taken the white flag for the final lap of the race.
“I’ve never seen a race here with no cautions like we had,” Allgaier said.