Hamlin A Smooth Operator

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With the rain delay rescheduling his knee surgery until Wednesday, Denny Hamlin went out and cut through the field on a wild green-white-checkered finish to win Monday’s Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

After leading the most laps with 172, Hamlin found himself having to charge from 10th to first in the final six laps after the team opted to pit for four tires during a caution that was brought out by Jeff Burton.

A green-white-checkered finish was set up after Kyle Busch slammed the wall while racing Marcos Ambrose and Paul Menard three-wide in Turn 3. When the field went back to green, Hamlin was able to muscle his way from fourth to first to capture his ninth career win and third at Martinsville.

"I told Mike (Ford - crew chief) during practice on Saturday there was no doubts we were going to win this race," Hamlin said. "I didn't think it was going to be this hard or that dramatic at the end. Nonetheless, it's a good feeling."

Hamlin's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Joey Logano, who restarted fifth, finished second for his first top 10 in three starts at Martinsville.

Jeff Gordon was the leader for the last two restarts, but finished third after contact while racing hard with Matt Kenseth. Gordon, who wound up leading four times for 92 laps, moved up four positions in the standings to seventh with the finish.

"We had an awesome car all weekend," Gordon said. "I was very happy with it. When they dropped the green, there was no surprise to me how good we were. But, the track conditions changed on us and we lost some track position. When we lost that track position, we played catch up the rest of the day."

Ryan Newman also moved up four positions in the standings to 22nd after he brought home his No. 39 Chevrolet in fourth.

"The No. 24 (Jeff Gordon) drifted high and washed me up the race track and then the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin) was drilling me in the bumper," Newman said about the last restart. "To get a top-four after all of that I think it was a good day for us."

Martin Truex Jr. finished fifth for his first top five at Martinsville and Brian Vickers rounded out the top six.

Clint Bowyer and Carl Edwards finished seventh and eighth, respectively.

Jimmie Johnson, who did not lead a lap for the first time in the last nine Martinsville races, came home ninth. With the finish Johnson moved into the series points lead.

"We were trying some stuff through the company, especially on the 48 car today," Johnson said. "We thought we would get it sorted out in practice and just came up a little short. Didn't get enough time with our new ideas. Good race experience with it today and we know what we were trying here today will help us at other tracks down the road."

Greg Biffle, who rebounded from a spin to finish 10th, now sits second in the standings - 14 points behind Johnson.

Marcos Ambrose recovered from two spins on the track to finish 11th and Brad Keselowski completed the first 12 finishers.

Matt Kenseth who was third on the final restart, dropped to 18th in the finishing order after the contact with Gordon on the final lap.

“I guess it looked like it was my fault. I did go in there and I did get into Jeff [Gordon] a little bit, really not that hard; and I got under him and everything was fine and he just took a left as hard as he could take one and ran me down all the way into the marbles," Kenseth said. "I’ve got all the marbles on my rear tires and I slowed up to try to get in the corner real slow and I kind of got hit from behind and I got hit in the side and started wheel-hopping. I couldn’t hang onto it when I got to [Turn] 3.

"It’s nothing Jeff wouldn’t have done or hasn’t done to me, except he’s wrecked me all the way out, so it was just an aggressive race for the end."

Burton also had misfortune when he had a right-front go down in the closing laps after leading five times for 140 laps. He finished 20th.

It was also a tough day for pole-sitter Kevin Harvick, who led 57 laps before winding up in the garage with brake issues on his No. 29 Chevrolet.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series now takes a week off before returning to action at Phoenix International Raceway on April 10.

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