2010-04-01 / Sports

Hamlin Muscles To Martinsville

By Gerald Hodges THE RACING REPORTER

Denny Hamlin Denny Hamlin MARTINSVILLE, Va.— Denny Hamlin powered his way to victory lane in Monday’s rain-postponed Sprint Cup Goodys 500.

“I can’t believe it,” said Hamlin. “I thought it was the end for us. It was hard coming back with those other 10 guys staying out there”.

“I had to bully my way through there at the end, but everyone was just running over each other.”

Hamlin appeared to have the dominant car, but a late pit stop for four fresh tires almost proved disastrous. With 10 laps remaining in the 500-lap race, Hamlin was the leader in his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. He and teammate Kyle Busch pitted for fresh tires after a caution. When green-flag racing resumed on Lap 495, Hamlin was eighth.

Jeff Gordon was the new leader and appeared on the way to his first win in the last 34 races, but another caution came out before the field was given the white flag. This meant a green-white-checkered restart.

Gordon got a good jump on the field, but he went up the track, allowing Matt Kenseth to get under him and take the lead.

But Gordon wasn’t finished. He booted Kenseth into the outside wall, but Hamlin, who had restarted fourth, was able to get under Gordon for the lead and victory.

Kyle Busch was involved in a wreck near the end, but Joey Logano, the other JGR driver, finished second.

“It’s a shame that last yellow came out about a hundred feet before we took the white flag,” said Gordon. “On the last restart, I didn’t get a great start, but I got a decent one. I saw the 17 car (Matt Kenseth) was way behind me and when I drove into Turn 1, he got into the back of me so hard, he knocked me up the track.

“But I made sure he wasn’t going to win the race.”

Jimmie Johnson didn’t lead a lap, but he came away from Martinsville with the points lead.

Polesitter and previous points leader Kevin Harvick wound up 35th after experiencing mechanical problems.

Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Martin Truex Jr., Brian Vickers, Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Greg Biffle were the remaining top-10 finishers.

Top-12 Chase leaders after 6 of 36: 1. Johnson-898, 2. Biffle-884, 3. Kenseth-882, 4. Harvick-837, 5. Burton-765, 6. Kurt Busch-776, 7. J. Gordon 773, 8. Stewart-770, 9. Bowyer-747, 10. Earnhardt- 739, 11. Menard-735, 12. Vickers 734

Harvick trucks 1-2 at Martinsville

Saturday’s Kroger 250 Truck race was a breeze for winner Kevin Harvick.

The same can’t be said for Harvick’s teammate, Ron Hornaday Jr., who started deep in the field at Martinsville Speedway and survived a late-race brush with Johnny Sauter to gain a much-needed runner-up finish.

Harvick, who owns his No. 2 Chevrolet and the No. 33 Hornaday drives, led 187 of 250 laps in winning his second truck series race of the season in as many starts and the eighth of his career. He started from the pole after rain washed out Friday’s qualifying. Brian Ickler ran third, with points leader Timothy Peters fourth and Johnny Benson fifth.

Aric Almirola, Matt Crafton, Max Papis, Mario Gosselin, and Ricky Carmichael were the remaining top-10 finishers.

Top-10 points leaders after 3 of 25: 1. Peters-501, 2. Almirola-442, 3. Bodine-413, 4. Harvick-390, 5. Crafton-388, 6. White-371, 7. Carmichael- 360, 8. Malsam-357, 9. Dillon- 334, 10. Starr-333

NASCAR updates

Denny Hamlin will undergo surgery on Tuesday to repair the ACL in his left knee, which he injured in January.

“When we first reviewed the situation we thought Denny couldn’t do any further damage to his knee if he waited to have surgery, but as the season progressed we determined that the best plan of action was to go ahead and have it repaired,” said J.D. Gibbs, president of Joe Gibbs Racing. “Hopefully this will take care of the situation and he should get stronger each week.”

Hamlin is not expected to miss any race dates, and will be back in the No. 11 car at Phoenix on April 10.

Robby Gordon’s future racing plans are in limbo.

A few weeks ago, Gordon was planning on putting another driver in his No. 7 Robby Gordon Motorsports Toyota while he competed in the MonsterJam truck competition. But the truck didn’t get done in time.

“The truck isn’t quite ready,” Gordon said. “It probably won’t be done until after Phoenix (in April). We’ll miss the monster finals in Vegas this weekend.”

Gordon, whose team has an affiliation with BAM Racing that has brought some sponsorship this year, said at the beginning of the season that he probably wouldn’t run in every race. But now he said it is likely he will compete in every event at least until May. After that the future of the No. 7 car is uncertain.

He is also supposed to run this year’s Indianapolis 500.

“I’ve got a commitment, but just because you have a commitment from people doesn’t mean it’s going to happen,” Gordon said. “We’ll see what happens here in the next couple of weeks.”

According to Forbes Magazine, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is NASCAR’s highest-paid driver for a second straight year with earnings of $30 million in 2009. Earnhardt has had little racing success the past two years, with only one win at the track. He finished a disappointing 25th in the Sprint Cup standings last year, but was voted NASCAR’s most popular driver for a seventh straight year. No. 2 Jeff Gordon: Earnings: $27 million, No. 3 Jimmie Johnson: Earnings: $23 million, No. 4 Tony Stewart: earnings: $19 million, No. 5 Carl Edwards: Earnings: $14 million No. 6 Kevin Harvick: earnings: $13 million, No. 7 (tie) Kyle Busch: earnings: $12 million, No. 7 (tie) Kasey Kahne: earnings: $12 million, No. 9 (tie) Matt Kenseth: earnings: $11 million, No. 9 (tie) Mark Martin: earnings: $11 million

Dale Earnhardt Jr. says his profanity-laced rant at Bristol Motor Speedway stemmed from frustration from a speeding penalty. Earnhardt had just cracked the top five in Sunday’s race when NASCAR flagged him for speeding on pit road. He vented over his radio for several minutes, and snapped at crew chief Lance Mc- Grew’s attempt to calm him down. The penalty dropped Earnhardt to 26th, but he rallied to finish seventh. He moved up five spots in the standings to eighth. Earnhardt says the speeding penalty infuriated him because he had worked so hard to crack the top five.

Weekend racing: It’s Easter weekend and there will not be any racing next Sunday, April 4. The Trucks and Nationwide teams will be at the 1.333-mile Nashville Speedway for Friday and Saturday races.

Fri., Apr. 2, Camping World Trucks Nashville 200, starting time: 7:30 p.m. (ET); TV: Speed Channel.

Sat., Apr. 3, Nationwide Series Nashville 300, starting time: 3:30 p.m. (ET); TV: ESPN.

Racing trivia question: What year did Kasey Kahne begin in the Nationwide Series?

Last week’s question: How old is Dale Earnhardt Jr.? Answer. He was born Oct. 10, 1974, which makes him 36.

You may contact the Racing Reporter at: hodgesnews@ earthlink.net

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