Denny Hamlin won the rain delayed NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody’s Fast Pain Relief at Martinsville Speedway.
Denny Hamlin, whose team made a questionable late-race pit decision, turned in some of the best driving of the season over the final two laps and won Monday’s Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway.
The race ended with a green-white-checkered finish thanks to tight three-wide racing and contact that sent Kyle Busch into the outside wall with a lap to go in regulation.
Jeff Gordon and Ryan Newman led the dash to the race’s final green flag. Hamlin, who had given up the lead to pit for four tires with nine laps remaining, stormed from fourth place to challenge for the lead almost immediately.
When Gordon got a bump from Matt Kenseth getting him loose into turn one on the restart, Kenseth slipped inside to push to the lead down the backstretch. But Kenseth’s momentum and a tap from Gordon carried him high in turn three and into the wall, and Hamlin was there to inherit the lead.
He stayed out front over the final lap to win for the first time since last season’s closing race at Homestead, Fla.
Hamlin and Kyle Busch were the only leaders to pit for tires with nine to go, leaving Gordon in the lead. When the green flag fell with four to go, Hamlin was ninth. He moved up to fourth quickly and then to first on the green-white-checkered.
“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.
“I had to bully my way through there near the end, but everybody was running like that. I somehow made it work.”
Hamlin was supposed to be undergoing surgery Monday.
Hamlin injured his left knee while playing basketball in January, and he had been scheduled to have reconstructive surgery Monday in Charlotte, N.C. When rain postponed Sunday’s race to Monday, the surgery was rescheduled for Wednesday.
Gordon, who finished third behind Hamlin teammate Joey Logano, was searching for his first win since April of last year at Texas Motor Speedway.
Gordon was pushing toward the win when Kyle Busch, racing three wide with Marcos Ambrose and Paul Menard, made contact with Menard and hit the outside wall, sparking caution as the leaders eyed the white flag.
“The real unfortunate part was that the yellow came out then,” Gordon said. “We had the thing wrapped up. On the last restart, I didn’t get a great start, but it was pretty decent. I drove into one trying to not overcook it. He (Kenseth) drove into the back of me so hard, but I made sure he wasn’t going to win the race after that.”
Hamlin survived a parade of caution flags, tire failures and typical short-track bump-and-thump racing.
Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Jeff Burton and Gordon had significant runs at the front, but Hamlin was the day’s top gun.
Hamlin and Burton battled over the final hundred laps as rain threatened to end the race early.
Burton lost his shot at a win with 18 laps to go when the right-front tire on his Chevrolet started losing pressure.
Burton eventually tapped the outside wall, causing the caution with nine laps to go.
Hamlin, then leading, surprised virtually everyone by giving up first place and pitting for four tires. In the end, the gamble worked.
Harvick had brake problems early in the race and gave up the seasonal point lead to Jimmie Johnson. Harvick fell to fourth.
From Speed TV contributed to this report
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For the second straight time Kevin Harvick won in the Truck series Saturday, dominating the Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway. He led 187 of the 250 laps.
Ron Hornaday Jr. survived a late-race altercation – and a post-race altercation – with Johnny Sauter to finish second and give Kevin Harvick Inc. a sweep of the first two spots. Brian Ickler, driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports, took third.
Hornaday sent Sauter into a spin as they battled for position 27 laps from the finish, and Sauter marched with intensity to confront Hornaday on pit road after the race, shoving a couple of crewmen who attempted to intervene.
Sauter yelled at Hornaday for about a minute as NASCAR officials and crewmen watched.
Also upset with Hornaday was Mike Skinner, whose truck was damaged when he slammed into the sliding Sauter. Skinner blamed Hornaday for the crash.
“I hate to see that,” Hornaday said of Sauter’s slide. “Johnny’s all mad, but that’s what short track racing is all about. He came down on me and I got into him.”
Asked if he planned to talk to Sauter later, Hornaday said, “There’s no talking to Johnny.”
Sauter would not discuss the incident after the race.
Timothy Peters, who finished fourth, led 39 laps in the middle of the race but couldn’t hold off Harvick.
“I pushed him as hard as I could to make him run hard,” Harvick said. “His truck would fall off after 15 to 20 laps. He started to get loose, and I got underneath him.”
It was a typical hard-knuckles afternoon of racing at Martinsville, with numerous trucks spinning out and the caution flag flying 11 times for 66 laps.
Narain Karthikeyan, a driver from India who formerly raced in Formula One, had an impressive debut in his first NASCAR major-series race, finishing 13th on the lead lap.
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I don’t think your going to see another charity race featuring old NASCAR drivers being held at Bristol any time soon.
Last Saturday at Bristol when Larry Pearson and Charlie Glotzbach crashed during a Legends race for retired drivers. Both were reportedly knocked unconscious and transported to the hospital. Pearson was treated for a compound fracture of a broken ankle, fractured pelvis and broken hand.
Pearson, a two-time Nationwide Series champion, is 56 years old. Glotzbach, who won 12 Sprint Cup races and raced at the front so often in the 1960s and 1970s he picked up the nickname “Chargin’ Charlie,” is 71.
Pearson slid across the track in the second turn near the end of the 35 lap exhibition race. Pearson’s car appeared to have a rear tire problem, causing it to slide up the track, hit the outside wall and drop down off the banking.
Several seconds passed before Glotzbach drove into the area and hit Pearson at near full-force.
The crash was a stark reminder of why a “Legends Serious” proposed a couple of years ago never got off the ground.
It’s too dangerous.
Racing even on a small track at relatively slow speeds is never entirely safe. There’s always an element of risk involved. At any moment, on any lap, disaster can strike.
To think that such legendary racers as Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison and others of their era would participate in such competition is absurd. They’re too smart to even consider it.
Racing is dangerous. It always has been and always will be.
NASCAR has done a great job of making its Sprint Cup cars as safe as possible – witness such recent tumbles as Brad Keselowski’s upside-down flight at Atlanta – allowing drivers to walk away without a scratch.
But anybody who thinks it’s safe to speed around concrete walks in any type of race car is kidding themselves.
A few years ago a “Celebrity Race” was held at Nashville Speedway. Several country music stars competed, along with members of the media and a couple of area football coaches. They drove deceptively-toy-like Legends cars.
A few laps into the race a TV sports director crashed into the wall. He suffered a severe head wound and almost bled to death en route to the hospital. He spent weeks recovering from the near-fatal crash. That was Nashville’s final Celebrity Race.
There will never be a Geezer’s Tour in racing for the same reason why there’ll never be a Senior League in pro football: Too much hard contact for brittle old bones.
I think it’s a great idea to pay homage to retired drivers by keeping them in the spotlight. Bring them to the track and let them sign autographs. Let them meet the fans. Let them tell stories and ride around the track and wave. Let them do anything but race.
I think we’ve seen our last Old-Timers race. What happened at Bristol could happen anywhere and any time a retired racer climbs into a car. Pearson’s close call should scare some sense into them.
The drivers raced in Late Model cars from the United Speed Alliance Racing tour.
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Charlotte Motor Speedway will host two days of testing this week, which will be very important to the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.
There will be two full days of testing Tuesday and Wednesday at Charlotte Motor Speedway to see how Sprint Cup cars behave with a rear blade spoiler instead of a wing at a fast, 1.5-mile track.
Sunday’s Food City 500 was the last race for the rear wing, which had been a on the new generation Sprint Cup cars since they rolled out in March 2007. But the wings never caught on with the fans and so earlier this year, NASCAR decided to revert back to the old-fashioned rear blade spoiler.
The new spoiler will be used for the first time Sunday at Martinsville Speedway and remain in use for the foreseeable future.
And with 16 of 36 races on the 2010 Cup scheduled on intermediate tracks between 1.3 and 2 miles in length, the Charlotte test will be very important.
“It’s been quite some time since we’ve had a test of this magnitude at any race track,” said NASCAR Vice President For Competition Robin Pemberton. “I think the teams will be working hard.”
The teams are curious about the effect of the spoiler and the Charlotte test should give them some insight about what to expect.
“Until we go out there and race, I don’t know,” said four-time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon when asked what he thought the impact
Gordon’s teammate Jimmie Johnson agreed.
“Until we get out there and really have someone to chase and some lap times and can get in traffic and figure out what’s going on, I think we’re all on equal ground and hoping we have what we need,” said Johnson, the four-time defending series champ. “But nobody has a clear advantage at this point so it’s going to be different. The wing was put on the car to help with downforce for the cars behind. It was less sensitive to the pitch and attitude of the car and made the car more friendly. So with that stuff in mind, I’m assuming the car is going to be a bit more of a handful in certain situations. And we need to put the car in those situations to understand how to get that balance right.”
Kevin Harvick, the current Sprint Cup points leader, said no matter how much testing teams do, they won’t know exactly what they have until they race.
“I think the test is important but you still aren’t going to be racing around people (at the Charlotte test),” said Harvick. “I mean, you are going to be on the track at the same time, but there is just a difference between race conditions and how everything reacts in traffic. I mean, we all think we know how it is going to react, but you never know until they drop the green flag and you are side-by-side and have to pit.
“At Charlotte, are you going to do a 50-lap run? Probably not, I’m not,” Harvick said. “You have to do those things in the race. Are you going to have tire trouble? I don’t know. Do we have too much front down force in traffic? Do we have enough down force? There are just so many questions that have got to be answered.”
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