Hamlin Sweeps Darlington
“To pull off the sweep on Mother’s Day Weekend – I gotta say Happy Mother’s Day to my mom, Mary Lou,” Hamlin said. “Just a great weekend for us. We had a top-two car all day. The pit crew got me out first and that was key.”
“I can’t tell you how excited I am about us winning right now because I know what our team is capable of when we get to Chase time. We are running last year’s cars for the most part, and we’re just kind of easing our way into it. We didn’t expect this success, but we felt like we could contend for race wins and maybe get one here or there in the first 12.”
The weekend sweep was the first at Darlington since Mark Martin accomplished the feat in 1993.
Polesitter Jamie McMurray, who finished third in the Nationwide race, led 71 laps and finished second for his fourth top-10 with Ganassi at Darlington.
“We had a good car, but Bono (crew chief Kevin Manion) called a good race,” said McMurray. “Qualifying first, getting to have that pit stall, it made a huge difference.”
“Darlington has just always been a really good track for me. I always liked this place.”
Kurt Busch recorded his first top-10 in five Darlington races with Penske Racing with a third-place finish.
“We really fought hard,” Busch said. “It was a good run for us here at Darlington. I haven’t had a solid run like tonight since Ricky Craven and I battled it out for that win (2003). It feels good to get our Miller Lite Dodge back up front. It came down to a strategy where I thought two tires would be the way to go at the end.”
Jeff Gordon led the most laps, with 110, but lost track position when he missed pit road on his last stop. He came down pit road on the following lap, but the caution flew and he was forced to wave around to the 13th position for the restart. He rallied back to finish fourth.
“That is what happens when you make a mistake,” Gordon said. “You have to make it up to your guys who worked so hard all weekend long to give you a race car like that.”
Defending series champion Jimmie Johnson endured a tough night that ended in a violent crash with AJ Allmendinger on Lap 181.
Allmendinger lost his brakes as he raced through turn three and slid down on the track apron before spinning back on the track, directly in the path of Johnson. They made hard contact with severe damage to both cars, although neither driver was injured.
“The brake rotor exploded,” Allmendinger said. “I was just trying to aim for the bottom and try to miss everybody. I’m sorry to Jimmie. It wasn’t his fault, but I had no brakes and couldn’t do anything about it.”
Johnson was handed a 36th-place finish and now trails leader Kevin Harvick in the standings by 110 points.
“All I know is at the last minute I saw a green bumper and it was a hard hit,” Johnson said. “Unfortunately, we had all kinds of issues tonight. Got caught up in all kinds of little small things.”
The remaining top-10 finishers were Juan Montoya, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Jeff Burton, Ryan Newman and Brian Vickers.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 18th.
Top-12 Chase contenders after 11 of 36: 1. Harvick-1622, 2. Johnson-1512, 3. Kyle Busch-1509, 4. J. Gordon- 1475, 5. Kenseth-1472, 6. Hamlin-1458, 7. Biffle-1431, 8. Kurt Busch-1420, 9. Burton- 1394, 10. Martin-1357, 11. Edwards 1345, 12. Earnhardt- 1318
Hamlin gets Darlington Nationwide win
DARLINGTON, S.C. - Denny Hamlin captured his first win of the weekend in Friday night’s NASCAR Nationwide Series Royal Purple 200 to remain undefeated in the three races he’s started from the pole in at Darlington Raceway.
After skipping the 2009 event and failing to qualify in 2008, Hamlin backed up his wins from the pole in 2006 and 2007 with another commanding victory.
Hamlin led 111 of the 147 laps and held off his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch for his 10th career win. The victory was also the first for crew chief Kevin Kidd since taking over for Dave Rodgers, who is now Busch’s crew chief.
Jamie McMurray, Kasey Kahne, Jason Leffler, Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Brian Vickers and Paul Menard were the remaining top-10 finishers.
Harvick and Childress close to new deal
Richard Childress said ongoing negotiations between he and driver Kevin Harvick have resulted in what could be a deal to keep Harvick in the RCR fold, at least for the foreseeable future.
We’ve been talking,” Childress said. “Hopefully we’ll have something together here in a week or so. ... It’s good for RCR and Kevin and all of us that we can put this back together.”
Childress said he expects something to be finalized before the end of the month.
A contract extension would heal the apparent rift that grew between Harvick and Childress in recent months. Last fall, Harvick said “I’m ready to turn the page” when asked about his relationship with the team.
According to Childress, the team’s improving competitiveness was a major factor in Harvick’s decision to stay where he’s been since he was named to replace Dale Earnhardt in 2001. During that time, Harvick has won 12 races in NASCAR’s premiere series – including two weeks ago at Talladega – and leads the point standings.
“Probably, because we’ve been performing better,” continued Childress.
Shell recently announced plans to end its association with RCR at the end of the season, moving on to Penske Racing as Kurt Busch’s sponsor. Childress said a replacement sponsorship deal is reportedly part of the negotiation.
Weekend racing: It’s on to Dover’s Monster Mile for all three of NASCAR’s major series.
Friday, May 14, Camping World Trucks, race 6 of 25, starting time: 8 p.m. ET; TV: Speed.
Saturday, May 15, Nationwide Series, race 11 of 36, starting time: 2 p.m. ET; TV: ABC.
Sunday, May 16, Cup Series Autism 400, race 12 of 36; starting time: 1 p.m. ET; TV: Fox.
Racing trivia question: Which Cup team does Jeff Burton drive for?
Last week’s question: Where is Brad Keselowski’s hometown? Answer. Rochester Hills, Mich.
You may contact the Racing Reporter at: hodgesnews@ earthlink.net.