Auto Racing | Cup victory brightens Hamlin's day
Crew chief Mike Ford said that when things aren't going particularly well for his race team, driver Denny Hamlin sometimes makes it seem...
MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Crew chief Mike Ford said that when things aren't going particularly well for his race team, driver Denny Hamlin sometimes makes it seem as if "the world is painted dark."
On a cold, dreary day that looked as if it could have come from that brush, Hamlin provided a silver lining by winning the Goody's Cool Orange 500 at Martinsville Speedway for his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory in the Chesterfield, Va., native's home state.
"Denny is a severe competitor," Ford said. "It's good to have someone in there who you know is performance motivated."
It is much better, though, when things are going well.
"It's hard to be patient," said Hamlin, who has four career Cup victories after his first this season and his first driving a Toyota. "You get so close to winning and things don't work out in your favor. It's tough to maintain your confidence and self-esteem."
Two weeks earlier in Bristol, Tenn., Hamlin was leading on a green-white-checkered restart but his car had a problem with fuel pickup and did not go when he tried to clinch the victory.
"Bristol really frustrated us," Hamlin recalled. "You definitely start to have doubts."
Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson had won eight of the past 10 Martinsville races, and the two led 225 laps Sunday. Dale Earnhardt Jr. led 146 laps. All four Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets finished among the top seven, but it was Hamlin and the Joe Gibbs Racing team getting the victory. Gordon finished second and Jeff Burton was third.
Kasey Kahne of Enumclaw finished 17th and Greg Biffle of Vancouver, Wash., was 20th of 43.
Biffle dropped from second to third in the season standings, 60 points behind leader Burton and 21 behind Kevin Harvick. Kahne slipped from sixth to seventh place.
Hamlin was leading when a yellow flag waved on Lap 215. He said he didn't realize how few laps the leaders had run since a previous pit stop and figured most drivers would come in.
"I saw [Gordon] kind of make a move and when he pulled back up on the track, I looked to see if anybody else was going to pit," Hamlin said.
By the time he realized they were not, he had passed the commitment line and had to come in.
"I am the one who steered it into the pit," he said. "If that had cost us the race, it was going to be on me. Frankly, I didn't want to have to answer those questions at the end of the race. So I just went out there and won it."
When the time came for the final pit stop, Hamlin and Ford decided to take fuel only in an effort to gain position. The move got Hamlin back on the track ahead of Gordon and Earnhardt, and that proved pivotal.
Hamlin was fifth on the restart and, on Lap 427, passed Burton for the lead.
Burton tried to battle back, but said rookie Michael McDowell, driving the No. 00 Toyota in his Cup debut, got in his way.
"That kid in the 00 car, he needs to learn some manners or he is going to get taught," Burton said. "He can choose to do it the way he wants to, the hard way or the easy way."
• Antron Brown become the first competitor in NHRA history to win races in Pro Stock Motorcycle and Top Fuel, beating Larry Dixon in the Top Fuel final in the O'Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals in Baytown, Texas.
Brown, who joined J.R. Todd as NHRA's only black Top Fuel winners, was a 16-time winner in Pro Stock Motorcycle before making the jump to the 7,000-horsepower Top Fuel class this year. Del Worsham (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) won in their categories.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.
The engineers who create gallon-squeezing cars like the Toyota Prius use every available method to comply with the ever-tightening fuel-economy standa...
Post a comment