NASCAR: Hamlin wins second race in two days
By Hank Kurz Jr.
RICHMOND, Va. ó Make it two wins in two nights for Denny Hamlin at his home track.
Hamlin grabbed the lead for the first time 44 laps into the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Richmond International Raceway on Friday night and dominated the rest of the 250-lap race.
He lost the lead briefly when he pitted under a green flag, again when Aric Almirola got underneath him after the first restart and then grabbed it back six laps later for good.
The victory is the 11th of Hamlinís career in the Nationwide Series and came one night after he passed Kyle Busch on the last lap to win his charity race at the track.
After arriving at Richmond 17th in points in the Sprint Cup Series and hoping to jump start his season, Hamlin said he hopes the momentum of two victories means the start of something.
ěItís one big snowball thatís rolling and rolling,î he said. ěHopefully it keeps going.î
Unlike the charity race, in which Hamlin needed all 75 laps to rally from starting at the back of the field, he was 11th on the starting grid and enjoyed huge leads most of the night.
But like Busch, who ran out of gas before the finish Thursday, Hamlin was cutting it close, prompting crew chief Adam Stevens to implore him to save fuel as he sought his first victory.
ěItís hard to tell a driver, ëSlow down! Slow down!íî Hamlin said. ěItís completely out of our mentality, but he had a plan. He knew we were right there on the number. I had a feeling we were going to make it. I felt pretty confident, but man, itís great to win again at Richmond.î
He led 199 of the 251 laps and made it look too easy every time he had the chance.
When Kelly Biresí spun into the Turn 4 wall for the first caution on lap 124, Hamlin was leading by 8 seconds. And when he opened a lead of nearly 6 seconds over Ricky Stenhouse Jr. with under 30 laps to go, Hamlin was able to try to save fuel to make it to the checkered flag.
Stenhouse, however, brought out the second caution when he ran out of gas himself on lap 243, and when Almirola also ran out of gas behind him, Hamlin opted to pit to be safe.
On the restart on lap 250, he had Paul Menard behind him, followed by points leader Justin Allgaier. Hamlin easily outran Menard on the first lap under green and was already cruising when a crash in the fourth turn brought out another caution, clinching Hamlinís victory.
With only three cars on the lead lap, Menard said he was ějust going to dive-bomb it into Oneî trying to pass Hamlin on the final lap, but the caution took that option away.
“He just had a better restart than me, basically,” Menard said.
It the Chesterfield nativeís second at the track 15 miles from his hometown.
Menard was second, followed by Allgaier, Elliott Sadler and Brad Keselowski. The five were the only cars still on the lead lap at the finish, in part because Almirola, who crossed the finish line fifth, was penalized for speeding on pit road.