Hamlin bullies way to Sprint Cup win
MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Denny Hamlin and crew chief Mike Ford were in a tough spot yesterday, leading a race with a dominant car and eight laps to go when a caution forced a decision.
If they headed for pit road, the cars right behind them would stay on the track, gambling they could win a short sprint to the finish on old tires. And if they stayed on the track, the rest would pit, get fresh tires and surely run them down.
They picked pit road, and Hamlin made it work in a remarkable finish in a Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway, rallying from ninth place by almost recklessly bull-rushing his way through the field during a pair of two-lap sprints.
Hamlin passed Ryan Newman, Matt Kenseth and leader Jeff Gordon following the final restart to earn his third career victory here.
"That's hard to do. I had to bully my way through there towards the end, but everybody was just running into everyone," Hamlin said of his surge from the outside of the second row.
First, he hugged the inside into the first turn. Then plowed his way into fourth before teammate Kyle Busch spun out, bringing out a very timely caution.
Ahead of him, Gordon was poised to cross the start-finish line and take the white flag, which almost certainly would have allowed him to win the race with the lead Hamlin handed him. But when the yellow flew before Gordon got to the line, a two-lap sprint was required.
"We had the thing wrapped up," Gordon said.
Hamlin pushed Newman out of the way on the restart, then watched as Kenseth and Gordon dueled. Both eventually slid up the track on older tires, allowing Hamlin to dart underneath for the victory.
Joey Logano was second, followed by Gordon, Newman and Martin Truex Jr. in a race postponed Sunday because of rain.
POWER WINS AGAIN
Will Power won the rain-delayed Honda Grand Prix at St. Petersburg, Fla., his second IndyCar victory in as many races this season.
Power and Justin Wilson ran away from the field late, but Wilson could never make a great run at the lead in the final laps. Power prevailed by nearly a full second yesterday, with Ryan Briscoe third and Helio Castroneves fourth.
Power was the polesitter after qualifying Saturday. The race was postponed Sunday because of rain.