Home sweet home: Denny Hamlin wins at Richmond, Chase field is set
Richmond International Raceway once again proved to be home sweet home for Denny Hamlin in Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400.
Hamlin, who grew up in nearby Chesterfield, Virginia, won there for the third time in his Sprint Cup career and also for the third time this season.
The race went into overtime and was extended seven laps after Regan Smith wrecked with one lap left in the scheduled 400-lap event.
Hamlin, who started from the pole, led 189 laps, second only to Martin Truex Jr. leading 193 laps. Hamlin took over the lead for the final time on Lap 322 and held on for the remaining 85 laps.
“We really got it tuned in there in the last half of the race,” Hamlin told NBCSN. “The restarts, everything just kind of worked out well for us all day. ... Hopefully, we’re going on another Chase run.”
The win was the 29th of Hamlin’s Sprint Cup career and second in the last five races (he also won at Watkins Glen).
It was also the third consecutive win for Joe Gibbs Racing at Richmond, its 12th in the series at Richmond. JGR also leads all organizations going into the Chase with wins in 11 of the first 26 races.
Kyle Larson roared from behind to finish second, followed by Truex, Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick.
Saturday’s race was the final race to make the upcoming 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup.
The biggest drama of the night came on Lap 363 when seven drivers – Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman, Dylan Lupton, David Ragan, Chris Buescher, Carl Edwards and A.J. Allmendinger – were involved in a wreck that brought out a race-stopping red flag. Newman blamed Stewart.
How Hamlin won: Hamlin held the early lead, then let Martin Truex Jr. take the point. But it was clear Hamlin had a strong car and paced himself until he regained the lead and then didn’t let go from that point.
Who else had a good race: Martin Truex Jr. almost won his second straight race. But even with finishing third, he showed great promise heading into the Chase. … Kasey Kahne needed a win to make the Chase but just fell short and was eliminated. … If there had been another couple laps, Kyle Larson may have caught Hamlin. Still, his second-place finish bodes well for himself and Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Jamie McMurray in the Chase.
Who had a bad race: Ryan Blaney had high hopes of making the Chase, but those hopes ended on Lap 11 when he wrecked, suffering heavy damage to the rear of his Wood Brothers Ford. … Paul Menard’s night ended after a single-car wreck on Lap 265. … Matt Kenseth’s night also ended early on Lap 335. Brad Keselowski missed a shift and then drifted up the track, running into Kenseth’s car.
Notable: After just three cautions in the first 200 laps, there were 13 more in the second half of the race for a total of 16 yellow flags, breaking the old RIR single race record of 15. ... After changing the front tire changer and front tire carrier on Kevin Harvick’s team -- they came from teammate Danica Patrick’s crew -- Harvick had strong pit stops all night. His final stop was 10.8 seconds.
Quote of the race: “It’s just disappointing that you have someone old like that that’s retiring, or should be retired the way he drives. It’s just ridiculous. I only hit him in Turn 1 when he cut across my nose. So, I don’t think there was any reason other than him being bipolar and having anger issues (leading to the second incident between them).” – Ryan Newman on his crash with former teammate Tony Stewart.
What’s next: The Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship begins Sept. 18, at Chicagoland Speedway.