Denny Hamlin started the day telling the media that he was going to win this race.Ã‚Â “Mark my words” he said in a television interview “I am going to win this race today”.Ã‚Â Starting from the pole was certainly an advantage in his eyes, but as the race began Denny’s car looked like it was going to fade to black and finish.Ã‚Â Dropping back from the pole and surrendering the lead to Marcos Ambrose before the first 10 laps had been finished.
“We just did not have a race winning car all day, until the very end.Ã‚Â Mike and the guys just kept adjusting and adjusting until they got it right.Ã‚Â They got me from 6th to 3rd on that last restart.Ã‚Â I was hoping the 29 and the 31 were going to use their stuff up racing each otherÃ‚Â and I was just sitting there patient and saving my rear tires until I needed them.”Ã‚Â Denny made it look easy as he drove around the 31 and 29 cars on his way to victory lane.Ã‚Â Making the pass with only 5 laps to go and holding his breath that there would be no last minute cautions as the race ran down,Ã‚Â Denny Hamlin took the checkered flag.
With Jimmie Johnson finishing in 5th it brings Hamlin to within 6 points of taking over the lead in the Chase.
Kevin Harvick did not fail to entertain in Martinsville either.Ã‚Â Running in the top 10 for most of the day he looked like he was going to ruin Hamlin’s prediction until the final 10 laps.Ã‚Â Some on track disagreements between Harvick and Jeff Burton surely did no help either of their causes as they got into each other in some close tight racing incidents.Ã‚Â Starting near the back of the field Harvick was one of the races hardest chargers as he worked his way towards the front.Ã‚Â He had no problems moving people out of the way as he played the bump and run from lap 1 until the end.Ã‚Â Crew chiefÃ‚Â Todd Berrier was able to stay on top of the changing track and keep a consistent race car under Harvick all day.Ã‚Â Harvick’s 3rd place finish keeps him in 3rd and moves him to 62 points behind Johnson.
Jeff Gordon ran well all day as well staying up near the front and running bumper to bumper with the leaders until a scuffle with Kurt Busch spun him out and moved him back to 2 laps down.Ã‚Â Racing at Matinsville certainly wears on your patience and Kurt Busch and Gordon let it show as they got into each other with Busch getting the better end of the deal.Ã‚Â Busch managed to stay on the lead lap and a 16th place holds his points position at 9th.Ã‚Â Gordon finished 2 laps down and moved backwards in the standings to 5th as Kyle Busch moves ahead to 4th.
Kyle Busch put in a great effort also having to work his way through the field.Ã‚Â Pit road strategy certainly played a big part in his move towards the front.Ã‚Â Starting from the 26th position his aggressive driving style served him well on this .526 Mile race track.Ã‚Â Short tracks and short tempers are usually a bad mix but Kyle managed to hold his composure this time and it allowed him to calmly arrive at a 4th place finish.
The real story of the race however was a driver who is not even in the chase, wrecking into the wall and driving himself all the way back to 2nd place.Ã‚Â Mark Martin came on in a late race charge to the front like a freight train that had lost it’s brakes.Ã‚Â After being spun out late in the race and losing his rear bumper and right rear corner of the car it looked like a car that should have been in the garage being fixed…. not running out front.Ã‚Â Kyle Busch held Martin off until 3 laps to go and there just wasn’t enough time for Martin to catch up to Hamlin.
Dale Jr had the attention of the Jr Nation mid race as he took the lead from Jeff Gordon and held onto it for a solid 30 lap run and a total of 69 laps.Ã‚Â On the restart before Jr took the lead, Chad Knaus crew chief for the #48 car, was heard telling Johnson over the radio “If you hear a roar from the right side of the car it just means that Jr took the lead.”Ã‚Â And roar they did as thousands of Jr. fans stood in a sea of green and whiteÃ‚Â and cheered on their driver .Ã‚Â As the field shuffled around in the final sequence of pit stops, Jr shuffled back but managed to hold on to a 7th place finish which is sure to inspire hope that he and crew chief Lance McGrew are finally building their communication skills with each other.
Tony Stewart was looking good throughout the day running as high up as 2nd while Jr was holding the lead and staying in the top 5 for most of the race.Ã‚Â A late race problem with the left rear tire however relegated Stewart back to a 24th place finish 3 laps down.Ã‚Â This finish has taken a toll on Stewart’s chances for this season moving him back to 7th in the standings.
The Chase is still 4 races away from completion but it’s very clear now that it is going to be a 3 car drag race to the finish.