Hamlin Claims Talladega With Yellow Flag Victory
Denny Hamlin had the lead when debris forced a caution with less than a lap to go and that gave him the victory in Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway.
The victory was the first of the season for Hamlin and his Joe Gibbs Racing team, and it likely put him in the Chase even though he missed a start earlier in the season because of a sinus infection. It was also Hamlin’s first victory at a restrictor-plate track.
“I’m still a short track guy,” Hamlin said. “Those are my roots, that’s where I love racing the most, but we’ve come a long way. I said that over the radio to Darian (Grubb, crew chief). We couldn’t finish 22nd at a superspeedway race for the longest time and now it seems like when we go we know we’ve got the knowledge and car that can win. It feels good to come to these types of race tracks and know you can win.”
Finishing second was Roush Fenway Racing’s Greg Biffle, who led the most laps in the race.
Third was Clint Bowyer of Michael Waltrip Racing.
Rounding out the top five were Brian Vickers, Bowyer’s teammate, and AJ Allmendinger.
The late caution, the result of a wreck back in the pack just as Hamlin took the white flag, killed off chances for a classic Talladega finish.
“NASCAR made the right call,” Bowyer said of the decision to wave the final yellow.
Twenty-three drivers led the race. There were 48 lead changes. Biffle led 58 of the 188 laps.
Brian Scott started the race from the pole but lost the lead quickly
Danica Patrick would the lead on Lap 7 and hold it for seven laps, marking the second time she has led a lap this season (Daytona was the first) and third time in her Cup career.
But on Lap 14, she moved up from the bottom line and into the car of Brad Keselowski as he was moving past her on the right.
Keselowski slid through the asphalt part of the infield but kept his car off the walls.
Patrick lost her lead during the ensuing yellow-flag pit stops.
Joey Logano was next to lead a large chunk of laps – 22. He would lose it to Kyle Busch during pits stops which took place during a caution that came out on Lap 50.
But on the Lap 55 restart lap, Logano again moved to the lead. A lap later, Greg Biffle moved to the lead.
On lap 59, Jimmie Johnson took the lead from Biffle from the middle line. Over the next couple laps, Johnson and Biffle shuffled back and fourth for the lead.
Biffle, hugging the bottom of the track and working to keep Matt Kenseth behind him, held the lead from Lap 62 and still had it on Lap 95 when he headed to the pits for a scheduled stop under green. That gave Carl Edwards, who had not pitted, the lead. When he did pit, Michael McDowell took the lead for a lap.
When the pitting cycled through on Lap 97, Biffle was back in the lead and Kenseth was right behind.
The lead pack pitted again when debris brought out a caution. Most of those who pitted took fuel. Leading the pack back onto the track for the Lap 111 restart was Dale Earnhardt Jr. Behind him were Kenseth and Logano. Biffle had slipped to fourth.
Earnhardt, who planted his car at the bottom of the track was challenged for the lead by Logano and then Trevor Bayne. Bayne edged the nose of his car past Earnhardt and took the lead on lap 113 from the middle line of traffic.
Earnhardt edged back to the lead on Lap 119 as the Bayne-led outside line fell back. Behind Earnhardt in the bottom line were Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and AJ Allmendinger.
On Lap 135, Marcos Ambrose moved to the lead by getting a big run in the outside line.
On Lap 136, the big wreck struck. It started when Keselowski, who was several laps down and leading the middle line, got loose and was tapped from behind by Bayne.
Among those caught up were Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Cole Whitt, Paul Menard, pole-sitter Brian Scott, Tony Stewart and Michael Annett.
Most of the field pitted under yellow with 50 laps to go – Lap 138 – and Biffle came out first and restarted the race with 45 laps to go as the leader.
With 42 laps to go, Earnhardt moved passed Biffle from the outside, moved to the bottom of the track and had the lead.
With 38 laps to go, the caution flag waved again when the No. 38 car of David Gilliland blew its engine.
Leader Earnhardt pitted for a splash of fuel and Biffle had the lead again.
Second when the race restarted with 32 laps to go was Harvick while rookie Kyle Larson was third, Brian Vickers fourth and Kurt Busch fifth. Earnhardt restarted 13th.
With 29 laps to go, Vickers, in the outside line drew even with Biffle, moved passed for the lead and dropped to the bottom of the track. With 26 laps to go, Hamlin briefly too the lead in the middle line. When he fell back, Vickers again had the lead. Briefly, as Hamlin drew even, and then ahead.
With 25 laps to go, the field was divided into three lines. The leaders of those three lines were Vickers down low, Hamlin in the middle and Justin Allgaier on the outside. They were side-by-side for a lap or two.
With 20 laps to go, Harvick moved to the lead from the center line. Once in the lead, he quickly dropped to the bottom of the track. With 18 laps to go, the top 18 cars were within a second of the lead.
With 14 laps to go, Johnson, running in the middle of the field, got loose and caused a wreck that took out Logano, Michael McDowell, David Ragan and Kurt Busch.
“I don’t know exactly what happened,” Johnson said over his radio.
The race restarted with eight laps to go and with Harvick P1. Hamlin was P2 and on the outside of the front row. Biffle and Kyle Larson were in Row 2.
Hamlin and Harvick stayed door-to-door until Hamlin was able to get past and then in front of Harvick with six laps to go. Harvick came back to retake the lead but as he was trying, Carl Edwards spun and wrecked to bring out a caution.
“I lost a tire,” Edwards said. “I tried my best to get out of the way, but I couldn’t hang on to it. I couldn’t keep the speed up and hang on to it, but all those guys did a really good job of avoiding me. The car just got too wide and too sideways and Ryan (Newman) got me, but overall we were having a pretty good day.”
When the race restarted with two laps to go, Hamlin sat on the bottom of the track as Harvick fell back.
When the yellow waved a lap later, Hamlin has his win.
“We knew we were in a good spot to get a victory and it was a just a matter of which line was going to get the push — was it going to be the outside or inside,” he said. “I thought my best chance was to stay on the inside, but usually the outside lane gets jumbled up with guys trying to stick it three-wide. I chose the bottom and it was the right decision.”
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race – Aaron’s 499
Sunday, May 04, 2014
1. (34) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 188, $303315.
2. (35) Greg Biffle, Ford, 188, $265985.
3. (27) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 188, $215151.
4. (18) Brian Vickers, Toyota, 188, $181760.
5. (3) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 188, $154113.
6. (2) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 188, $167384.
7. (8) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 188, $158778.
8. (42) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 188, $131145.
9. (29) Kyle Larson #, Chevrolet, 188, $140590.
10. (25) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ford, 188, $152795.
11. (41) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 188, $104410.
12. (19) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 188, $152276.
13. (15) Aric Almirola, Ford, 188, $143821.
14. (4) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 188, $130018.
15. (5) Austin Dillon #, Chevrolet, 188, $151146.
16. (17) Michael Annett #, Chevrolet, 188, $118043.
17. (43) Martin Truex Jr, Chevrolet, 188, $130493.
18. (6) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 188, $109735.
19. (26) Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 188, $127280.
20. (36) Josh Wise, Ford, 188, $98535.
21. (31) Cole Whitt #, Toyota, 188, $96160.
22. (7) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 188, $106835.
23. (20) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 188, $148871.
24. (37) Terry Labonte, Ford, 188, $109168.
25. (28) Michael Waltrip, Toyota, 188, $105410.
26. (30) Dale Earnhardt Jr, Chevrolet, 188, $104110.
27. (38) Justin Allgaier #, Chevrolet, 188, $113107.
28. (33) Alex Bowman #, Toyota, Accident, 187, $94510.
29. (32) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 187, $129024.
30. (10) Carl Edwards, Ford, Accident, 182, $111110.
31. (24) Ryan Truex #, Toyota, Accident, 182, $92460.
32. (16) Joey Logano, Ford, Accident, 174, $131301.
33. (9) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, Accident, 174, $91185.
34. (22) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, Accident, 174, $91060.
35. (39) David Ragan, Ford, Accident, 174, $98910.
36. (14) Michael McDowell, Ford, Accident, 174, $90785.
37. (21) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 171, $139742.
38. (13) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 160, $130098.
39. (11) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 156, $127626.
40. (40) David Gilliland, Ford, Engine, 150, $84690.
41. (23) Trevor Bayne(i), Ford, Accident, 136, $72690.
42. (1) Brian Scott(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 136, $74690.
43. (12) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, Accident, 136, $99348.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 152.103 mph.
Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 17 Mins, 16 Secs. Margin of Victory: Caution.
Caution Flags: 8 for 31 laps.
Lead Changes: 48 among 23 drivers.
Lap Leaders: 0; P. Menard 1-5; D. Patrick 6-7; J. Gordon 8; D. Patrick 9-12; B. Keselowski 13; P. Menard 14; L. Cassill(i) 15; P. Menard 16-19; M. Kenseth 20; J. Logano 21-31; D. Hamlin 32-34; C. Edwards 35-37; J. Logano 38; C. Edwards 39-40; J. Johnson 41; J. Logano 42-51; D. Gilliland 52; Kyle Busch 53; J. Logano 54-56; G. Biffle 57-58; J. Johnson 59; G. Biffle 60-94; C. Edwards 95; M. McDowell 96; G. Biffle 97-106; D. Ragan 107; C. Mears 108; D. Earnhardt Jr 109-112; T. Bayne(i) 113-118; D. Earnhardt Jr 119-134; M. Ambrose 135-137; R. Sorenson 138; R. Newman 139; C. Mears 140-141; G. Biffle 142-145; D. Earnhardt Jr 146-151; G. Biffle 152-158; B. Vickers 159-161; D. Hamlin 162; B. Vickers 163; D. Hamlin 164-165; B. Vickers 166-167; K. Harvick 168-180; D. Hamlin 181; K. Harvick 182; D. Hamlin 183-185; K. Harvick 186; D. Hamlin 187-188.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): G. Biffle 5 times for 58 laps; D. Earnhardt Jr 3 times for 26 laps; J. Logano 4 times for 25 laps; K. Harvick 3 times for 15 laps; D. Hamlin 6 times for 12 laps; P. Menard 3 times for 10 laps; D. Patrick 2 times for 6 laps; T. Bayne(i) 1 time for 6 laps; B. Vickers 3 times for 6 laps; C. Edwards 3 times for 6 laps; M. Ambrose 1 time for 3 laps; C. Mears 2 times for 3 laps; J. Johnson 2 times for 2 laps; M. McDowell 1 time for 1 lap; Kyle Busch 1 time for 1 lap; B. Keselowski 1 time for 1 lap; M. Kenseth 1 time for 1 lap; R. Newman 1 time for 1 lap; D. Ragan 1 time for 1 lap; R. Sorenson 1 time for 1 lap; D. Gilliland 1 time for 1 lap; L. Cassill(i) 1 time for 1 lap; J. Gordon 1 time for 1 lap.
Top 16 in Points: J. Gordon – 347; M. Kenseth – 344; Kyle Busch – 343; D. Earnhardt Jr – 328; C. Edwards – 328; J. Logano – 305; J. Johnson – 304; G. Biffle – 300; R. Newman – 299; B. Vickers – 297; B. Keselowski – 294; D. Hamlin – 292; K. Larson # – 286; A. Dillon # – 281; A. Allmendinger – 279; M. Ambrose – 268.No Comment