2010-04-22 / Sports

Hamlin Wins Texas Shootout

By Gerald Hodges THE RACING REPORTER

FT. WORTH, Texas – Denny Hamlin took advantage of a nine-car pileup with 17 laps to go to win Monday’s rain-postponed Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

“I never doubted the outcome,” said Hamlin. “We were in this for the long run and the team did a great job there at the end.”

Hamlin’s win was the second one in the last three races, both victories coming in races that were postponed by rain before being run on the first day of the week.

Hamlin never led until that final run, set up after a spectacular nine-car crash involving Jeff Gordon, who had led 124 laps, and polesitter Tony Stewart.

After a brief red-flag period while officials cleaned debris from the track, racing resumed with 13 laps to go.

Hamlin passed Jeff Burton the leader with 11 to go. After a brief battle with Kyle Busch, Hamlin pulled away and beat Jimmie Johnson to the finish line by about 100 feet.

The big crash came on lap 317 of the 334-lap race after Tony Stewart got loose coming out of Turn 2. He slowed and was bumped from the rear by Carl Edwards. The left front of Stewart’s No. 14 bumped into the rear of the No. 24 driven by Jeff Gordon.

“It was my fault,” said Stewart. “I got up into the turn and got squirrely and came down. It wasn’t Jeff’s (Gordon) fault, it was mine.”

Stewart finished 32nd and dropped from ninth to 14th in points.

Jeff Gordon led 124 laps, the most of any driver and had the dominant car, but wound up with a DNF.

“When you get a late caution every lap counts,” said Gordon. “I saw Tony get loose and I tried to get under him, but we got together.”

Gordon finished 31st and remains fourth in points.

The other cars that involved in the Lap 317 crash included Joey Logano, Juan Montoya, A J Allmendinger, Jamie McMurray, Clent Bowyer, and Paul Menard.

Top-10 finishers: 1. Hamlin, 2. Johnson, 3. Kyle Busch, 4. Kurt Busch, 5. Kasey Kahne, 6. Mark Martin, 7. Kevin Harvick, 8. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 9. Martin Truex, 10. Greg Biffle

Top-12 Chase contenders after 8 of 36: 1. Johnson-1248, 2. Kenseth-1140, 3. Biffle- 1120, 4. Harvick-1107, 5. J. Gordon-1028, 6. Kyle Busch- 1020, 7. Earnhardt-1013, 8. Burton-1005, 9. Kurt Busch- 999, 10. Martin-994, 11. Hamlin 973, 12. Edwards-942

Kasey Kahne will be leaving Richard Petty Motorsports at the end of this season for Hendrick Motorsports, but exactly which car he will be driving is yet to be determined, as Hendrick already has four teams, the maximum allowed by NASCAR.

Stewart-Haas Racing – which features drivers Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman – gets chassis and engines from Hendrick and could be a possibility for Kahne, who currently drives for Richard Petty Motorsports.

“If this opportunity was going to happen, I knew having some unanswered questions would be part of the scenario at this stage,” Kahne said in a news release. “Hendrick Motorsports has a commitment to Mark Martin that they want to fulfill, and that’s important. It’s part of what attracts me to the team.”

Kahne is in the final year of his contract at RPM. His sponsor, Budweiser, also is in the last year of its contract with RPM. A Budweiser executive said last Tuesday the company has not decided on its 2011 plans.

The 30-year-old Kahne, who entered the Cup series in 2004 with Evernham Motorsports, has 11 career victories and is a two-time Chase For The Sprint Cup participant. He is 26th in the 2010 standings.

Kahne still must put energy toward determining his 2011 plans. A spokesman for JR Motorsports, another Hendrick affiliate, said that there are no current plans to go Cup racing next year, and a Stewart- Haas Racing spokesman said there are no definitive plans to add a third team.

Meanwhile there is much speculation about what the fallout will be at RPM. A team can survive if there’s a pile of cash in the bank and its cars are winning. RPM has neither of these.

Richard Petty Motorsports financial tank is about empty and all of its cars are sputtering. It needs to find a way to get some fuel back back in, which isn’t too easy when your number one driver is pulling out.

Pretty soon, they will be coasting to the infield with the fuel light burning a bright red and no amount of after-hour back slapping, or press conferences is going to help.

While Kahne has been fortunate to land with good teams, most drivers that aspire to race at the Cup level are not so lucky.

To get started in racing, a young driver had better come into the deal with a great deal of available capital, no matter what form of racing is being considered.

With that said, one has to reason that many young, upand coming drivers must have rich dads, and in at least some cases that is correct.

This past weekend, driver John Wes Townley became part of the story of the Nationwide Series race in Phoenix. After a practice crash, team owner Richard Childress removed him from the No. 21 Chevrolet in favor of the more experienced Clint Bowyer.

The 20-year-old Townley has raced in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the Nationwide Series since 2008. And despite the fact that he has never recorded a top-10 finish in either of those series he has driven for a team tied with Roush Fenway Racing and Richard Childress Racing.

So, how with virtually no racing resume to speak of did Townley land such high profile rides?

The simple answer to that question is money. His father, Tony Townley, is a cofounder and the chief financial officer of the Zaxby’s restaurant chain, hence the reason why his son’s cars are always sponsored by that company.

Townley’s history in NASCAR is a story of one crash after another. If he has any racing talent it is difficult to see. The only thing he brings to the table, literally and figuratively, is money, not just chicken feed.

A number of other modern day stars and non-stars alike have similar stories. Could this be all we as fans have to look forward to in future race drivers?

Rusty Wallace’s son, Stephen, got his break in racing through obvious means. Along the way he has left a trail of destroyed equipment. Crashes have become all too common for this young driver.

Brendan Gaughan’s father operates the South Point Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, which is coincidently the sponsor of his RWI ride. Gaughan has won eight truck series races and has competed in all three of NASCAR’s top levels.

Sprint Cup driver Paul Menard’s father owns a chain of home improvement stores, and has sponsored him throughout his racing career.

Racing could well become an exclusive playground of only the wealthy in the very near future.

Are drivers with no experience but a pocket full of money going to be crashing their way up the ranks until they reach the highest levels? Trends seem to indicate that may well be the case.

Weekend racing: The Cup and Nationwide teams are at Talladega Superspeedway, the longest track on NASCAR’s circuit (2.66- miles). The Truck teams do not race again until May 2.

Saturday, Apr. 24, Nationwide Series Aaron’s 312; starting time: 2:30 p.m. ET; TV: ABC.

Sunday, April 25, Spring Cup Aaron’s 499; Starting time: 1 p.m. ET; TV: Fox.

Racing trivia question: Who is the oldest driver to ever win a Cup race? Hint: It happened March 20, 1993, at Atlanta.

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

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