Hamlin Prevails at Talladega
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on May 4, 2014 | 4:43 P.M. EST
This is Hamlin's first victory and sixth top-10 finish in 17 races at Talladega Superspeedway. It is his first points race win at a restrictor plate track (he has four non-points race wins at Daytona). (Photo: Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin scored his first win of the season in Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Hamlin was ahead of the field and declared the winner of the race when caution flew for a multi-car accident on the final lap of the race.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver had the top spot when the caution flew for a Carl Edwards-Ryan Newman crash with five laps to go. He held the lead on a restart with two laps to go and took the white flag just after another crash erupted. With a large piece of debris sitting on track at the start-finish line, NASCAR displayed caution and the race was over.
The win moved Hamlin to 12th in the Sprint Cup Series point standings and gave him a probable spot in the Chase.
“We really just want to win races regardless of the implications this means for the Chase,” Hamlin said. “It feels food to be back in Victory Lane.”
Although he won the season-opening Sprint Unlimited at Daytona, Hamlin had not won a points paying event at a restrictor plate track until Sunday.
“I’m just proud of our day today,” Hamlin said. “We’ve come a long way. We couldn’t finish 22nd at the superspeedway races for a long time.
“It feels good to come to this type of racetrack and know you can win.”
Greg Biffle finished second with Clint Bowyer, Brian Vickers and AJ Allmendinger the top five.
"It's frustrating because the simple fact is that we both felt we had the opportunity to pounce," Bowyer said of the finish he’d hoped for teaming up with Biffle to catch the leader. "But NASCAR did the right thing. You can't put people in danger."
Paul Menard, Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Kyle Larson and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. rounded out the first ten finishers.
The race was punctuated by a number of large crashes that saw the likes of Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano, Kurt Busch and last year’s Aaron’s 499 winner David Ragan involved.
"Brad made a pretty bold move early, a mind-boggling move, in going in front of Danica and spun out in front of the field and got away with it," said Kenseth of Keselowski, who was six laps down after being involved in an earlier incident with Danica Patrick when he triggered a 12-car pile-up. "This time we weren't so lucky. He was driving really, really, really aggressively to try to get back up there. I'm not sure what the strategy was.
"If it was the other way around and it was anybody else except for him, we'd all be getting lectured."
Jeff Gordon leads Kenseth by three and Kyle Busch by four in the series standings with ten races in the books.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series now heads to Kansas Speedway next Saturday night for the 5-Hour Energy 400.
How Hamlin Won: Hamlin got to the front of the field and was in front of Biffle after taking the white flag. When NASCAR decided to throw the caution for debris on the track in the aftermath of a multi-car accident on the front stretch, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver was declared the winner of the race.
What Else Happened: The majority of the race featured three and sometimes four-wise racing, reminiscent of the season-opening restrictor plate race in Daytona. However, nearly half the field was involved in one of the several accidents that periodically broke out throughout the afternoon.
Who Else had a Good Day: AJ Allmendinger continued his resurgence with the JTG Daugherty team finishing fifth…..Paul Menard started from outside the front row and notched a sixth-place finish…..rookie Kyle Larson piloted the Chip Ganassi Racing entry to a top-10 performance.
Who had a Bad Day: Brad Keselowski got in an early tangle with Danica Patrick when they made contact racing for position down the front stretch. While he saved the car from severe damage, he fell many laps down and was six in the hole when he bobbled while racing in the middle of the pack and triggered a 12 car accident…..Among those involved in that melee were Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart, who were both competitive during the afternoon until their departure…..Matt Kenseth was also caught up in the wreck, marking the second straight week he and Keselowski were involved in an incident after last Saturday’s Richmond skirmish in the closing laps and after the checkered flag flew.
Quote of the Day: "Brad made a pretty bold move early. ... Mind-boggling move. And got away with it." – Matt Kenseth on an early race incident between Keselowski and Patrick.
Other Notables: Toyota drivers finished in three of the first five positions…..Landon Cassill ran with the leaders and gave the upstart Hillman Racing team an 11th-place finish and his career best…..pole sitter Brian Scott was credited with a 42nd-place finish after being involved in an early crash.