2010-09-16 / Sports

Hamlin Wins At Home Track

By Gerald Hodges
The Racing Reporter

Denny Hamlin Denny Hamlin RICHMOND, Va. – Denny Hamlin won again at Richmond, which he calls his “home track.”

“It’s good,” he said. “I definitely feel like we spent the last two weeks trying to gauge where we are going to be and we brought what we had in the shop and said we are going to try to start our Chase early and that way, when we got to Loudon, N.H., we would be in the swing of our momentum, not trying to falsely start it, and I feel like we have done that.

“We could have had two wins in a row going into the Chase, but last week is in the past and right now I just feel really confident in the team.”

The Virginia native from Chesterfield fought off numerous challenges from Jimmy Johnson, Clint Bowyer and Kyle Busch to win the last event before NASCAR’s 10-race version of a playoff begins next Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

The victory was Hamlin’s second at his home-state track and his series-leading sixth of the season, which gives him the top seed for the playoff races.

Kyle Busch tried hard to get around his teammate in the closing laps, but could never make the pass, and had to settle for the number two spot.

“I felt like the 11 (Hamlin) was just a step ahead of us tonight and they deserved to win,” said Busch. “They gave us our air pressure that we started running about mid race, and we really started clicking off and going forward. It was good.”

“We can’t be disappointed in a second tonight. We wanted to win, and we fought hard with Denny, but racing teammates clean like that, and you know, not laying a bumper at all, just making sure that the Gibbs cars had a good, solid night, so that we have everything on our side heading into the Chase here next weekend.”

Johnson finished third and will start the Chase as the number two driver in points.

“We had a solid race, ran in a safe spot behind the lead battle,” said Johnson. “Just a solid night. On pit road, on the track, through practice, qualifying, I mean, everything throughout the weekend was nice for us. Could have used a little bit more speed at the end, but if we are running in the top three, week-in and week-out, opportunities will come.

“That was really the first goal we had for the 48 team after some of the tough luck and poor races that we had through the summer months. We are doing the right thing.”

Rounding out the top-10 finishers Saturday night were Joey Logano, Marcos Ambrose, Clint Bowyer, Juan Pablo Montoya, A J Allmendinger, Kevin Harvick, and Carl Edwards.

Jeff Gordon finished 12th and will start eighth in the Chase.

“We have a shot and we had a great regular season, and I know we are missing the bonus points, but I still think we have an awesome team that can do an awful lot in these last 10 races,” said Gordon.

“Being up in the points, you know, like we have been allowed us to think ahead a little bit more and put a good game plan together. I feel like we have been doing that. So hopefully that all shows when we get to New Hampshire and get this Chase started. But yeah, I’m looking forward to getting it all started and seeing what we can do.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. never ran with the leaders. He finished six laps down, in 34th place, and is 19th in points.

The 12 drivers who qualified for the playoffs had their points reset after Richmond. Each of the 12 drivers get 5,000 points plus 10 bonus points for each win this season. Hamlin’s six wins put him atop the list with 5060 points. Jimmie Johnson, who finished third Saturday night, is seeded second with five wins, for 5050 points. Kyle Busch, runner-up Saturday night, will be seeded fourth. Regular-season points leader Kevin Harvick, who was ninth Saturday night, will be seeded third.

2010 Chase Drivers: 1. Hamlin-5060, 2. Johnson- 5050, 3. Harvick-5030, 4. Kyle Busch-5030, 5. Kurt Busch- 5020, 6. Stewart-5010, 7. Biffle 5010, 8. J. Gordon-5000, 9. Edwards-5000, 10. Burton- 5000, 11. Kenseth-5000, 12. Bowyer-5000

Happy Harvick gets Nationwide win

Polesitter Kevin Harvick held off Nationwide Series points leader Brad Keselowski during a 40-lap run to the finish to win Friday night’s Nationwide race at Richmond International Raceway.

“This is the future of our company, so we put a lot of effort into this program, knowing that all the other cars were going to go away, and knowing that we had to be good with this car,” said Harvick. “It’s easy when you get started in the right direction to keep it going that way.”

Harvick crossed the finish line .256 seconds ahead of Keselowski, who extended his championship lead to 373 points, over Carl Edwards, who ran 10th.

“I was just glad that we were able to work on the car and make it better,” Keselowski said. “That’s been one of our larger struggles all year with this particular chassis. So I’m glad that we were able to do that – just a real good show for the new car on the short tracks.”

Trevor Bayne finished third, tying his career best. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. came home fourth, followed by Reed Sorenson, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard, Kyle Busch and Edwards completed the top 10.

A miscue in the pits cost Busch a chance for a record 11th win this season. Under caution on lap 205, the quickfill nozzle on one of Busch’s fuel cans broke off and remained attached to the car as Busch left pit road, resulting in a one-lap penalty.

Top-10 points leaders after 27 of 35: 1. Keselowski- 4302, 2. Edwards-3929, 3. Kyle Busch-3719, 4. Allgaier-3572, 5. Menard-3451, 6. Harvick- 3268, 7. Bayne-3111, 8. S. Wallace 3030, 9. Leffler-2987, 10. Gaughan-2896

Weekend racing: The Sprint Cup cars and Camping World Trucks travel to Loudon, N.H. It will be the first race on the 10-race Chase for the Cup teams. The Nationwide teams do not race again until Sept. 25.

Sat., Sept. 18, Camping World Trucks New Hampshire 200, race 19 of 25: Starting time: 2:30 p.m. ET; TV: Speed.

Sun., Sept. 19, Sprint Cup Sylvania 300, race 27 of 36: starting time: 1 p.m. ET; TV: ESPN.

Last week’s answer: Elliott Sadler’s hometown is Emporia, Virginia.

Racing trivia question: Which Cup team will Kevin Harvick drive for next season?

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

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