Hamlin Survives Frantic Final Race Moments with First Talladega Superspeedway Victory
TALLADEGA, Ala. - Joe Gibbs Racing's Denny Hamlin survived frantic final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) moments and pulled out his first Talladega Superspeedway victory under caution in front of Roush Fenway Racing second-place driver Greg Biffle.
Three late caution periods that fell during the final 12 of the 188-lap adventure. Jimmie Johnson's Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 spun in Turn 4 and created an eight-car incident on Lap 176 before Carl Edwards brought out the seventh caution when a tire on his No. 99 car lost pressure, caused the car to spin into the wall and ricochet off to start a four-car wreck on Lap 184.
The race restarted with two laps to go. After the field took the white flag, Justin Allgaier's No. 51 spun deep in the pack and shed its front bumper on the fronstretch. Hamlin had led the field to the entrance of Turn 3 when the caution flag flew.
The race ended under caution and Hamlin earned the victory by NASCAR rule as the race leader had already taken the white flag.
Hamlin's first victory of the season, which came from the 34th starting position, gives him two top-five and three top-10 finishes through nine starts this season along with 24 victories in 300 NSCS starts since 2005.
His performance provided a solid follow up to his second-place finish to Dale Earnhardt Jr., in this season's Daytona 500, which also ended under a yellow flag.
"We really just want to win races. Regardless of the implications this has for the Chase, it feels good to be back in Victory Lane.
"My pit crew's done an awesome job. They've picked me up no less than 10 spots every single week and they did it again today. Strategically, we saw things were getting a little heavy in the middle part of the race. Those guys got in a wreck, we were able to avoid that and just play our cards right.
"I'm proud of this whole team. We've come a long way. We couldn't finish 22nd in a superspeedway race for the longest time. Now, when we go, we know we have the knowledge and car that can win," said Hamlin, who earned his previous victory in the 2013 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Biffle rebounded from last week's 15th-place showing at Richmond International Race way with his second top-five and third top-10 showing in his past four events.
"That final restart, Clint (Bowyer) gave us a huge, huge push and we had a huge run at the 11 car. I looked in the mirror and saw the smoke behind me and I wasn't really sure whether the caution was gonna come out and I didn't know what to do.
"I thought about making my move on the 11 right then because I had a huge run and I could have, and probably, off of two, I could have passed him again, got beside him and sucked by him. I just didn't want to pass too early. I was gonna be the lone soldier on the outside lane and I was gonna be 15th by the time we got back around to the start-finish line.
"So, I was just waiting. I was backing up off of him quite a bit on the backstretch and I got probably two-and-a-half, three cars away from him and they said, 'Caution is out.' I was setting up to go by him, but just never had the chance.
"I wish I had known we weren't gonna race all the way back, but it was a good day for us. The car was really fast, a lot of speed, and I'm just happy to come out of here with a clean car," Biffle said.
Bowyer placed third, capturing his first top-five and third top-10 finish of the season, his Michael Waltrip Racing teammate Brian Vickers picked up his second top-five and fourth top-10 finish of the season with a fourth-place showing , while JTG Daugherty Racing driver A.J. Allmendinger claimed fifth along with his first top-five finish of the season.
"First, NASCAR did the right thing. When you have cars crashing, sitting there dead in the water at the finish line, you'v got to make that call.
"Bummer situation, though. I didn't like what I saw with Biffle. You knew he was going to pull out and make a move.
"I had my teammate right behind me. When Biffle did pull out to make a move, I thought it was a good chance to get a push from my teammate and try to pounce on those guys while they were side by side and stalled out. It just didn't happen.
"After last weekend when we blew three tires and burnt the car to the ground, this was a weekend to get things turned around," Bowyer said.
Jeff Gordon, whose No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports car was damaged during a 14-car incident in Turn 1 on Lap 138, endured a 39th-place finish but maintained control of the series championship lead. He'll enter the May 10 Kansas Speedway event holding a three-point advantage on defending series champion Matt Kenseth, who was credited with a 37th-place finish after his No. 17 Joe Gibbs Racing car was banged up during the Lap 184 incident.
The series makes its fourth Kentucky Speedway appearance June 28 in the Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts. Tickets start at just $59 and include a prerace concert with country music artist Thomas Rhett. Fans who add a Kroger Fan Zone pass to their order will be able to see Rhett's concert trackside and enjoy infield access throughout the race day.
The Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts will cap a three-race NASCAR weekend that opens with the June 26 Camping World Truck Series UNOH 225 and additionally spotlights the Nationwide Series John R. Elliott HERO Campaign 300 presented by Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.
Tickets, campsite and Kroger Fan Zone passes can be purchased through the respective pages of this website, by calling (859) 578-2300 or visiting the speedway Sparta, Ky., ticket office at 1 Speedway Drive just off Interstate 71 Exit 57 and Kentucky Hwy. 35 N.
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