Hamlin takes rain-delayed Texas win
|By Diego Mejia||Tuesday, April 20th 2010, 02:04 GMT|
Denny Hamlin claimed his second win of the year in a wild rain-delayed event at Texas Motor Speedway.
As in Martinsville, where the Sprint Cup series also raced on a Monday, the Joe Gibbs racer emerged up front following the final restart, which followed a multi-car incident that took out some of the main contenders of the day with 17 laps remaining.
Jeff Gordon, who had led 124 laps and looked to be the favorite to grab victory, made contact with Tony Stewart while charging back up front following a four-tyre change on his last stop during the previous caution.
Stewart's unsettled Chevy was then hit in the back by the Roush Fenway Ford of Carl Edwards, turning it into Gordon's side and igniting chaos as both went against the wall on the frontstretch.
The Hendrick driver and his Stewart-Haas colleague, who had led nearly two-thirds of the race between them, ended their race on the spot, as did Edwards and at least three others, including Juan Pablo Montoya.
Jeff Burton led the field to the final green flag of the day only 12 laps from the end after pitting for fuel only, while Hamlin had taken on two new tyres and restarted from second for the final sprint. The Richard Childress driver immediately struggled against those on fresher rubber, surrendering the lead to Hamlin, also being passed by Kyle Busch.
Behind them Jimmie Johnson, first among those on four new tyres, tried to make his grip advantage work for him in the closing laps, picking up rivals lap by lap.
He had a close moment trying to pass his Hendrick Motorsports team-mate Dale Earnhardt Jr, and the time he lost there probably cost him in the end, as he finished second just over a tenth of a second behind Hamlin, who won for the second time in the last three races, only 19 days after having surgery on his left-knee to repair a torn ligament.
"It was just one of those days where every run we got our car better," said Hamlin after winning for the fourth time in his Cup career on a Monday. "Every run the pit crew did a good job of getting us some spots. It all paid off in the long run. We had one of those days where it showed how strong our race team is.
"Every little piece of it was very strong, from the pit crew to the car to the driver getting better through the course of the race, and our race car kept getting better. So, all those things put together showed right at the end."
Johnson had luck on his side once again, as had it not been for the penultimate caution, he probably would have found himself out of the equation for victory. He was forced to go out of secquence with the leaders due to a damaged left front tyre, a consequence of contact with his team-mate Gordon while batting for second place on lap 241.
The reigning champion went a lap down when he pitted for a deflated left front 31 laps later. As others pitted for the final time under green, he got back on the lead lap, but he was still around nine laps short on fuel when David Reutimann's expiring Toyota forced the sixth caution of the day, which the leaders used to pit once again, bringing Johnson back in to contention.
"We had that left front tyre go down and then we were fortunate enough to catch a caution when we did," said Johnson. "There at the end, the car was just dragging the nose too bad for the first couple of laps. I think we sat too long and the front tyre pressures dropped.
"I lost a few spots. I almost hit the wall down in one and two trying to work the top. Once those front tyre pressures came in and the splitter got off the ground, I started coming but it was like a lap too late."
Kyle Busch would eventually finish third, manhandling a very loose JGR Toyota, ahead of the Penske Dodge of his sibling Kurt, while Kasey Kahne's Richard Petty Motorsports Ford rounded out the top five.
Dale Earnhardt Jr had been a factor at the front of the field for most of the race, but found himself shuffled down to eighth place in the end.
Johnson continues to lead the points ahead of Roush Fenway's Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle.
Pos Driver Car Laps 1. Denny Hamlin Toyota 334 2. Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 334 3. Kyle Busch Toyota 334 4. Kurt Busch Dodge 334 5. Kasey Kahne Ford 334 6. Mark Martin Chevrolet 334 7. Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 334 8. Dale Earnhardt Jr Chevrolet 334 9. Martin Truex Jr Toyota 334 10. Greg Biffle Ford 334 11. Ryan Newman Chevrolet 334 12. Jeff Burton Chevrolet 334 13. A.J. Allmendinger Ford 334 14. Brad Keselowski Dodge 333 15. David Ragan Ford 333 16. Scott Speed Toyota 333 17. Marcos Ambrose Toyota 333 18. Elliott Sadler Ford 333 19. Sam Hornish Jr Dodge 333 20. Matt Kenseth Ford 332 21. Regan Smith Chevrolet 332 22. Max Papis Toyota 332 23. Bobby Labonte Chevrolet 332 24. Travis Kvapil Ford 331 25. Bill Elliott Ford 331 26. Robby Gordon Toyota 329 27. Kevin Conway Ford 329 28. Joey Logano Toyota 329 29. David Gilliland Ford 328 30. Jamie McMurray Chevrolet 319 31. Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 317 32. Tony Stewart Chevrolet 317 33. Carl Edwards Ford 317 34. Juan Montoya Chevrolet 317 35. Paul Menard Ford 317 36. Clint Bowyer Chevrolet 316 37. David Reutimann Toyota 310 38. Brian Vickers Toyota 192 39. Reed Sorenson Toyota 121 40. Joe Nemechek Toyota 75 41. Michael McDowell Toyota 60 42. Mike Bliss Chevrolet 50 43. Dave Blaney Toyota 20