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Hamlin Nets The ‘Coach’ An All-Star Victory

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 17 2015
Denny Hamlin held off Kevin Harvick to win the 2015 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race on Saturday night. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Tim Parks)

Denny Hamlin held off Kevin Harvick to win the 2015 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race on Saturday night. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Tim Parks)

NASCAR and NFL championships are synonymous with Joe Gibbs; however, one thing was missing from the team owner’s illustrious career – a victory in NASCAR’s All-Star race. After Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway, it’s missing no more.

sprint-logo-08With Denny Hamlin winning the race off pit road for the 110-lap event’s fifth and final segment, the senior driver in Joe Gibbs Racing’s stable held Kevin Harvick at bay for 10 laps to earn the organization’s first-ever victory in the prestigious event. However, it wasn’t just the victory that came in the team’s 24th try that made the night special.

  • JGR driver Kyle Busch returned to racing after breaking a right leg and a left foot in the Xfinity Series season opener at Daytona in February. His injuries forced him to miss the Sprint Cup Series’ first 11 races. Saturday night he finished sixth.
  • J.D. Gibbs, the team’s president and the son of the Pro Football Hall of Fame coach, was at the track to participate in and enjoy the celebration. He had been absent from the track since he began treatments for symptoms impacting areas of brain function, including speech and processing issues.

“J.D.’s been in every meeting these last weeks,” his father said. “He’ll always be a part of our
organization, part of all the big decisions. He’s going through a lot right now. J.D. is always going to be there for us. I know he’s at my back.”

It was J.D. who told his father they should hire Hamlin after he showed up at a random test at Hickory Motor Speedway and watched the Virginia native drive. Hamlin left his family’s late model organization 11 years ago to join JGR and it was J.D. whom he said became his second father.

“He was the one that looked after me, called me when I did something wrong, praised me when I did something right,” Hamlin said after providing Toyota with its first-ever Sprint All-Star victory. “He (J.D.) has been the key person in the development and the relationship that I’ve grown with at Joe Gibbs Racing. When Coach was away for the first couple of years coaching, he was the leader.

“He’s a guy that you want to model yourself after. The way he handles himself  professionally, with his family, his kids; he’s a model person. Just proud I could get them and the entire family a win after 24 years.”

JGR made its first appearance in the All-Star race in 1992 with Dale Jarrett and had an entry in each subsequent one. For Hamlin, it was his ninth start in the event with his previous best finish being fourth in 2009 and 2010. It also was JGR’s first victory on a 1.5-mile track since 2013.

“When you have something like this, something that just keeps bugging you, that we just can’t get a win here in this race, it was a huge deal for us from that standpoint,” Joe Gibbs said. “For me personally, it’s hard to separate the thrills when you get one like this because it’s hard to think back in the past. But a big night like tonight, Pat (Gibbs’ wife) normally says it best. She says it’s like having babies, you can’t separate them. All those great wins are so much fun. I get excited every week.”

It, however, wasn’t difficult for Hamlin to cite the All-Star victory as the biggest of his career.

“When you’re able to come out first against the best in the business, you have to rank this up at the top,” Hamlin said with a smile.

Hamlin led three times for 26 laps in the eighth caution-free All-Star race and the first since 2008.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race – NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race

Charlotte Motor Speedway

Concord, North Carolina

Saturday, May 16, 2015

 

  1. (1) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 110, $1,045,009.
  2. (20) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 110, $249,784.
  3. (16) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 110, $149,735.
  4. (9) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 110, $119,705.
  5. (17) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 110, $114,705.
  6. (19) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 110, $108,705.
  7. (5) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 110, $102,555.
  8. (11) Joey Logano, Ford, 110, $101,555.
  9. (3) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 110, $100,555.
  10. (7) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 110, $99,555.
  11. (13) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 110, $98,530.
  12. (4) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 110, $97,530.
  13. (2) Greg Biffle, Ford, 110, $96,530.
  14. (8) Aric Almirola, Ford, 110, $96,030.
  15. (12) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 110, $95,430.
  16. (14) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 110, $95,155.
  17. (10) Carl Edwards, Toyota, 110, $95,030.
  18. (18) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 110, $94,930.
  19. (15) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 110, $94,830.
  20. (6) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 78, $94,730.

 

Average Speed of Race Winner:  106.452 mph.

Time of Race:  01 Hrs, 33 Mins, 00 Secs. Margin of Victory:  0.923 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  4 for 0 laps.

Lead Changes:  7 among 4 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   D. Hamlin 1-14; K. Kahne 15-25; B. Keselowski 26-32; Kurt Busch 33; B. Keselowski 34-75; D. Hamlin 76-77; Kurt Busch 78-100; D. Hamlin 101-110.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  B. Keselowski 2 times for 49 laps; D. Hamlin 3 times for 26 laps; Kurt Busch 2 times for 24 laps; K. Kahne 1 time for 11 laps.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 17 2015
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