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Hamlin Wins In Wild Finish At Martinsville

| , RacinToday.com Monday, March 29 2010

Denny Hamlin celebrates with home state fans after winning in Martinsville on Monday. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)


Denny Hamlin will head into surgery this week fresh off his first victory of the season.

Hamlin – who it was announced late last week will have an injured knee cut open and repaired later this week – won the rain-delayed Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on Monday.

The Virginia native got the victory when he passed the cars of Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon for the lead on the first lap of a green-white-checkered restart.

Joey Logano finished second and Gordon third.

Hamlin, who led a race-best 171 laps, appeared to have given the victory away when he stopped for new tires during a caution with nine laps to go. When he emerged from the pits, he had gone from first to ninth place and there were just four laps to go.

“I can’t believe it,” Hamlin said. “I thought it was the end. That’s for all the people who doubt us. We’re still going to get this done before the year is over with.”

Gordon took the lead after Hamlin pitted and appeared headed to victory. But  just as the field closed in on the start finish line with two laps to go, another caution came out setting up the final GWC restart.

Hamlin started fourth but blew through a hole created by bumping and banging between Gordon and Kenseth to take the lead. Logano followed him through to give Joe Gibbs Racing a 1-2 finish.

“I had to bully my way through there near the end, but everybody was running like that,” Hamlin said. “I somehow made it work.”

Gordon said he thought he had the race won.

But he said he knew he was in trouble when the yellow came out with him about 100 feet short of the start/finish line on the second-to-last lap.

On the restart, Kenseth, who was behind right behind him, made contact. The two made more contact with each other and Hamlin blew past.

“I drove into Turn 1 and he drove into me so hard,” Gordon said of Kenseth. “I made sure he was not going to win the race after that.”

Kenseth said afterward, “I guess it looked like it was my fault. I did go in there and I did get into Jeff a little bit, really not that hard, and I got under him and everything was fine and he just took a left as hard as he could take one and ran me down all the way into the marbles. I’ve got all the marbles on my rear tires and I slowed up to try to get in the corner real slow and I kind of got hit from behind and I got hit in the side and started wheel-hoppin I couldn’t hang onto it when I got to three.

“It’s nothing Jeff wouldn’t have done or hasn’t done to me, expect he’s wrecked me all the way out, so it was just an aggressive race for the end. We were gonna be side-by-side going into three and four, and the outside lane has actually been an advantage anyway, so it wasn’t gonna be that big of a deal, but, instead, he decided to run me down as low as he could.”

Ryan Newman finished fourth and Martin Truex Jr. was fifth.

Jimmie Johnson, the winner of three of the first five races this season, finished ninth.

Kevin Harvick, the series points leader and polesitter, slowed and headed to the garages on lap 107.

He fell to fourth in points, 61 behind new leader Johnson. Moving up to second in points (14 off the lead) was Greg Biffle while Kenseth is third, 16 points back.

For Hamlin, it will make his date with surgeons a bit easier to take this week.

“This is probably the most gratifying win I’ve had, simply because we came through adversity so many times, whether it be because of pit road (dropping the jack too soon on an early pit stop) or that dash at the end,” said Hamlin, 29. “We just flat out drove through ’em at the end and got the win. I’m not sure we’ve gotten a win like this before.”

| , RacinToday.com Monday, March 29 2010
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