NASCAR: Hamlin denied weekend sweep by Busch
By Jenna Fryer
RICHMOND, Va. — Kyle Busch denied teammate Denny Hamlin a weekend sweep at his home track Saturday night by stretching his final tank of gas 107 laps to win at Richmond.
Busch won the spring race at Richmond for the third consecutive year, needing only to make it to the checkered flag before his gas tank ran dry. Lurking behind him was Hamlin, ready to pounce for a victory that might have snapped his early season slump.
Hamlin had already won his charity race, held Thursday night at RIR, and followed it with Friday night’s win in the Nationwide Series race. But Busch’s car was just a tick better in the Sprint Cup Series race, and Busch led the Joe Gibbs Racing sweep.
“It was important for me to have a smooth race and not have anything go wrong,” Hamlin said. “Just got beat by my teammate. He drove a great race. I thought he would burn his stuff up. Our cars were dead equal.
“It’s tough when you share notebooks,” Hamlin said. “Every trick in the book, you know they’ve got it, too.”
Busch, though, credited Hamlin for the victory. The two have dominated at the track, combining to win the last five races here. The last non-Gibbs driver to win at Richmond was Jimmie Johnson in September, 2008.
“I learned from Denny last fall, and I’m not going to say what I learned,” Busch said. “He might know, but we did a good job at doing what we needed to do.”
Kasey Kahne, fresh off surgery to repair a torn ligament in his knee, finished a season-best third to give Toyota the top three spots.
“We weren’t quite good enough as the Gibbs cars, they were really good tonight,” Kahne said. “But it’s still a good run. The guys did a good job and it’s nice to get a top-five.”
The leaders seemed to have an easy go of it, with most of the fireworks coming far behind them in the field.
Ryan Newman and Juan Pablo Montoya were involved in two different on-track incidents. The first caused Montoya, the pole-sitter, to brush the wall. His stop to repair the damage dropped him three laps off the pace. He later ran into the back of Newman when Newman was running eighth, and Newman vowed his payback would come after the race.
There was no confrontation, though. Montoya hopped on a waiting golf cart and headed out of the track, while Newman walked to the NASCAR hauler to complain about Montoya’s driving. What kind of action did he want from NASCAR?
“Just fair, I guess. I don’t know that you can have that,” he said. “To retaliate the way he did just didn’t show much class.”
There’s been some history between the two, including contact that led to a fiery crash for Montoya in his 2006 Cup debut at Homestead. Newman got a dig in when asked if he thought Montoya’s still mad about that accident.
“Yeah, I don’t know if he could even remember back that far,” he said.
Meanwhile, Kurt Busch completely lost his composure on his team radio several times during the race. Frustrated by an ill-handling car, he was pushed over the edge when he ran into Newman seconds after contact between Newman and Montoya brought out the caution.
And Martin Truex Jr., in position for a top-five finish, threatened over his team radio to fire his entire crew when he was penalized twice on his final pit stop.
All that action made the actual finish fairly uneventful, and both Hamlin and Kahne shared a knowing smirk during the post-race news conference about all the in-race excitement.
“I watch the screen … every time Montoya has damage, you see who did it, they usually end up getting wrecked,” Hamlin said. “You usually know that’s coming.”