Denny Hamlin Wins Epic Federated Auto Parts 400; Claims Third Series Victory At Richmondby Camille Jones September 11, 2016 0 comments
RICHMOND, Va. – Denny Hamlin claimed the final victory of the regular season in Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
Hamlin started on the pole for the race and led 189 laps on his way to Victory Lane. The driver of the No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota, a Virginia native, took home his third victory at Richmond International Raceway. With 29 career wins, he moves up to 25th on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series all-time wins list.
“It was great,” Hamlin said. “I’ll tell you, our cars were really running well. Wheels and the whole group just gave me a great car. Really got it tuned in there the last half of the race. Just good restarts, finally everything just kind of worked well for us all day. I didn’t think staying out was the right thing to do, but great call there, and actually I got this from one of our Toyota guests on his birthday day today.”
Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 42 Target Chevrolet, started and finished in the second position on Saturday night. This was Larson’s third top-three finish in a row, after claiming his first-ever NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory at Michigan International Speedway last month.
“It felt like a video game on rookie mode, having fresh tires like that,” Larson said. “That was fun. Our Target car was probably a eighth to tenth car most of the race. I was really good on short runs. I could pass a few cars every restart which really helped us. It seemed like we could never get the race going there at the end of the race, which helped us. Fun, fun last restart, get all the way to second. I thought I could get to fourth, but second was a little bit better, so that was great. I had a blast there during the last couple laps.”
Last weekend’s winner, Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the No. 78 Tanger Outlets Toyota, claimed the last podium position with a third-place finish at Richmond International Raceway. Truex, Jr. led 193 laps over the course of the 407 total laps. Following the race, Truex Jr.’s car failed post-race tech in the Laser Inspection Station.
“I think it all started with him (Denny Hamlin) getting out of the pits in front of us and it translated into all those cautions coming out of those short runs,” Truex Jr. said. “It seemed like I would feel like I just got even with him or typically all night I was off a little bit from a few of those guys, for five or six laps on restarts, and then I’d maintain and then I would start to reel them in and I could pass them within 10 laps. Just never got that opportunity. The caution would come out every time before it happened, and then at the end, I don’t know at the end, I think I used my tires up having to get back by the 18 (Kyle Busch) and the 42 (Kyle Larson) that had passed me on restarts. All in all, it was an awesome night for us.”
Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top-five. Kasey Kahne, Jamie McMurray, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano completed the top-10.
With a record-breaking 16 cautions for 89 laps in Saturday night’s event, the final race of the regular season was tough-and-go for many teams trying to battle their way into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
On lap 364, Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman, who had made contact at multiple points in the race, collided entering Turn 3. Stewart dove to the low line ahead of Newman, making hard contact with the hood of Newman’s car. The collision collected multiple cars, including Carl Edwards, David Ragan, Chris Buescher, Brian Scott, AJ Allmendinger and Dylan Lupton. Stewart’s car came to a halt and caught fire along the frontstretch. The pile-up brought out the red flag, freezing the race for 20 minutes and 23 seconds.
“Tony Stewart ran across my nose twice in one lap,” Newman said. “The second one cost him and me. It’s unfortunate. He has got issues. We all know he’s got issues. He proved it again tonight. I was clearly inside of him getting into Turn 1, he cut across my nose, I was on the brakes, on the apron and I hit him coming off of Turn 2, but only because I got loose, I was on the apron. The next thing I know he is driving across my nose on the back straightaway because he’s Tony Stewart and he thinks he owns everything. It’s unfortunate, but shouldn’t expect anything less from him.”
Newman, who was battling for a Chase position, failed to make it into the top-16 in the points standings, and will miss out on the 2016 NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup. Stewart had already locked himself into a position to race for the championship with a win at Sonoma Raceway.
While the leaders were about to take the white flag, the caution was brought out by the No. 7 of Regan Smith, after he made hard contact with the outside wall. The caution set up a Green-White-Checkered finish for the field in NASCAR Overtime. After taking the green flag with two laps remaining, Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 Ford EcoBoost Ford, was spun and made contact with the inside wall before being shuffled to the bottom of the track. The caution was not thrown and the field continued to battle as the race was able to finish under green flag conditions.
With a chance at entering the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup on the line, teams battled for every position they could in the extended race. Twelve drivers had already claimed their spots in the Chase through wins over the regular season, including: Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Martin Truex, Jr., Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano, Kyle Larson, Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch. Racing to get into the Chase, were four drivers: Chris Buescher, who had a win but had to finish top-30 in points; Chase Elliott; Austin Dillon and Jamie McMurray.
The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup begins next weekend at Chicagoland Speedway for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 on Sunday, September 18 at 2:30 p.m. ET. Tune-in to the NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) and the Motor Racing Network (MRN) for coverage of the first race of the Round of 16.
Photo Credit: Barrett Goodson