Denny Hamlin: It Was Just A Matter Of Timeby Hunter Thomas April 3, 2022 1 comment
RICHMOND, Va. – It was just a matter of time before Joe Gibbs Racing was going to earn its first win of 2022, and on Sunday at Richmond Raceway, Denny Hamlin chased down the leaders and delivered with a win in the Toyota Owners 400.
Heading into Richmond, Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota hadn’t even captured a top-10 finish this season, and in fact, of the first six races, only two were top-15 efforts. Everyone was wondering when a Joe Gibbs Racing driver was going to reach Victory Lane because as an organization, they had only earned two top-five finishes in 2022; however, Richmond is the organization’s best track, and on Sunday, all teams performed well.
“It was just a matter of time,” Hamlin said. “We weren’t just going to hang back where we were, but everyone worked so hard on my JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) Toyota Camry team.”
Hamlin continued and said, “You just have a tough season and things aren’t going well. It seems like everything is not going your way and the law of averages say things are going to work out and we’ll get our performance better and today’s the day where it all matched up.”
Hamlin’s effort resulted in a win, but the effort wasn’t the smoothest. He started the 400-lap race in 13th and throughout the day, he didn’t finish inside of the top-10 in Stages 1 and 2. With five laps to go, Hamlin made the winning pass on William Byron who faded due to having the oldest tires in the field. The victory marked the 47th of his career and the fourth at his home track.
“I love it,” Hamlin said. “I love this track and the techniques that it takes to get around here. I watched some of the greatest short track racers in the world at Southside Speedway and Langley. I’ve learned so much from those guys watching from the stands. When I finally got the opportunity to apply it for myself, I did.”
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick had Hamlin in his sights, but he couldn’t get close enough to challenge for the win. Harvick’s runner-up finish is the first top-five effort of the season for his No. 4 Mobile 1 Triple Action Formula Ford. Harvick had a strong day. He started the race in seventh, and he scored Playoff points in all three stages.
“Had a shot there at the end,” Harvick said. “I wanted to be close enough with the white to just take a swipe at him. Yeah, the lap cars there kind of got in the way and I lost a little bit of ground. Still a great day for us. Just hopefully a little momentum in a positive direction.”
Despite falling from the lead, Bryon held on for a third-place finish. The driver of the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet had a solid day, finishing second in Stage 1 and leading 122 laps throughout the day.
“Thought we probably did the best job we could. It didn’t quite work out,” Byron said. “I thought there at the end they told me I was just racing the 19. I’m like ok I got him, but then the 4 and the 11 were on a totally different planet. That’s just part of it. There wasn’t anything I could do about them, so it was probably four or five to go and Brandon (Lines) was coaching me on keeping the tires underneath it and having good exits and entries”
Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson finished fourth and fifth respectively. Rounding out the top-10 was Christopher Bell, Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon.
There were 13 lead changes among seven drivers. Blaney led a race high of 128 laps.
Of the five cautions, only two were for multicar accidents.
The NASCAR Cup Series will race under the lights at Virginia’s Martinsville Speedway on Saturday, April 9. The Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400 will broadcast live on FS1 and MRN at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Photo Credit: Hunter Thomas/TheFourthTurn.com