Hamlin King Of Martinsville
MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Denny Hamlin came to Martinsville Speedway knowing he had to make a move on Jimmie Johnson.
As it turned out, he made the move on Kevin Harvick in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Tums Fast Relief 500 and ended up winning his third-straight race on the .526-mile paperclip in his home state, and in the process gained 35 points on fifth-place finisher Jimmie Johnson.
Harvick gained 15 points with his third-place finish, and trails Johnson by 62 points.
It’s a three-man race for the championship, for sure and for certain.
Hamlin played a waiting game after winning the pole, and had to coax his No. 11 FedEx Toyota into a race-winning car. He sat and watched Harvick and Jeff Burton battle each other for the lead, waiting for his car to come to him.
“I waited and I waited and I waited,” Hamlin said. “I was hoping they would use up their stuff.”
Mark Martin came back from a crash and the loss of brakes to finish a strong second.
“I really have never enjoyed this place, to be honest with you, and that last 100 laps was really fun,” Martin said. “It was a great recovery from two laps down. With 100 laps to go, I was 20th or something. We had a spectacular race car at the end.”
Johnson was occupied over the final 75 laps with a racy Kyle Busch, as the two battled and battled for the fourth position. Finally, Busch was able to get by and finish fourth, with Johnson holding serve in fifth.
“For a long time there, I thought the 29 (Harvick), the 11 (Hamlin) and us were going to finish in sequential order,:” Johnson. “We finished fifth because we didn’t have the car we needed on the long run.”
Joey Logano was sixth at the finish, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was a strong seventh. Chasers Carl Edwards and Burton were eighth and ninth, and Brad Keselowski was 10th.
While there were many cautions during the race, there were none in the final 100 laps.
“You had cars blowing right front tires up by the wall and NASCAR didn’t throw a caution,” Johnson said. “I’m glad they didn’t, even though it would have helped me. They stuck with their philosophy and they wanted the race to finish under green.”
While four of the top five and six of the top 10 were in the Chase, it was a bad day for some others. Clint Bowyer crashed and finished 38th, Greg Biffle had a bunch of different problems and wound up 33rd.
Tony Stewart popped a right front tire with about 15 laps remaining and finished 24th, two laps down. Jeff Gordon was dumped by Kurt Busch after Gordon chipped Busch out of the way entering turn three, tearing up Gordon’s car. He finished 20th, while Busch came home 16th. Matt Kenseth was 15th at the flag.