Hometown hero Denny Hamlin wins the Chevy Rock & Roll 400

Hometown hero Denny Hamlin wins the Chevy Rock & Roll 400

Hometown hero Denny Hamlin (#11 FedEx Express Toyota) won the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway, solidifying his position in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.  Hamlin finished 0.379 sec. ahead of Kurt Busch (#2 Miller Lite Dodge). Rounding out the top 5 finishers were Jeff Gordon (#24 DuPont/National Guard Wounded Warrior Chevrolet), Mark Martin (#5 Kellogg’s/CARQUEST Chevrolet) and Kyle Busch (#18 M&M’s Toyota).

Hamlin, who is from the Richmond suburb of Chesterfield, was ecstatic to finally win a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at his favorite track. “This is my house,” said Hamlin. “We finally showed it. We’re championship contenders and we showed everybody we’re for real. We had the most dominant car all day.” After pulling into Gatorade Victory Lane and seeing the oversized Chevy Rock & Roll 400 trophy, “This is the coolest trophy you can get and I’ve always wanted to get it.”

Second place finisher Kurt Busch, who had started 13th, said, “That was a pretty good run. I’m really happy with how my team adjusted during the race.”

Jeff Gordon, who led 6 times for 98 laps, was philosophical, saying, “We pushed hard.  Unfortunately Clint Bowyer pushed a little too hard down in turn one and almost pushed us out but we caught our way back up to third.  I did exactly what I expected us to do as a team.  Our goal was to win, and we went into it as hard as we could to win.  We had great pit stops.  We had the best car I've had here in a very long time.  I pushed hard when I felt like I had to on the restarts, the double‑file restarts, and I think we had a second‑place car and we finished third.

The Chevy Rock & Roll 400 was the 26th race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season and the final Race for the Chase contest. When the points were tallied up at the end of the night, *** was left on the outside, looking in.

The evening got off to a rocking start as The All American Rejects put on a rousing concert for the fans. A brief rain shower wet down the track, causing a short delay to the proceedings.  Once the green flag waved, Mark Martin jumped out to a small lead over Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson who had passed Martin Truex Jr. for second.

Showing the strength of his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Denny Hamlin grabbed the lead from Mark Martin on lap 4.

The first caution of the evening was for a spin by Scott Speed (#82 Red Bull Toyota) in turn two. He backed into the wall, caving in the rear of his racing machine.

Lap 45 saw the caution fly for the second time of the evening. Tony Stewart tried an ill-advised, three-wide maneuver going into turn 3. As Reed Sorenson (#43 Reynolds Wrap Dodge) moved to the inside of David Stremme (#12 Penske Dodge), Stewart dove even further to the inside. Going into turn 3, something had to give, and Stewart slid up into Sorenson, spinning both cars out. They were both able to continue. Once the green flag waved again, Hamlin led Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Kurt Busch and Martin Truex Jr.

By lap 50, Kyle Busch had moved himself up to 6th place and into the 12th position in the Chase. Matt Kenseth, who slipped back to 26th place on the track was out of the Chase, falling to 14th position.

Caution waved again on lap 58 as Regan Smith stopped his car on the apron at the exit to turn 2. Smith is trying to avoid breaking his perfect streak running at the end of every race he started in the Sprint Cup.

When the green flag waved, Hamlin led Gordon, Truex Jr., Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (#88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet).

Lap 68 saw Jeff Gordon snatch the lead for the first time of the evening from Denny Hamlin. Hamlin came right back at Gordon, running side-by-side for two laps. Fans were treated to many, many side-by-side battles throughout the entire field and drivers jockeyed for position.

Kyle Busch began experiencing handling problems with his Toyota and dropping down the leader board and, provisionally, out of the Chase.

At lap 100, the racing action had settled down a bit as racers consolidated their position and evaluated their situation. The top 5 were Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin and Kevin Harvick. As for the provisional Chase standings, Brian Vickers was in, running in 10th and Matt Kenseth was out, running down in 29th.

Lap 107 saw the caution fly for debris on the front straight. Following a long green-flag run, all the front runners headed to the pits for service.  Matt Kenseth’s evening got worse as he missed his pit stall and had to go around again. Tony Stewart was able to get his lap back following his early spin, taking advantage of the “Lucky Dog” rule.  When the contest returned to green-flag racing, the status quo resumed at the front of the field.

On lap 150, Hamlin moved around Gordon to take the lead and began pulling away, gaining a half second over the next 5 laps and holding a 1.25 second lead on lap 172. That lap saw the caution wave again for debris in turn 4.

With the pace car slowing the field, the entire hoard headed to pit road for service. Gordon’s team worked just a bit faster than Hamlin’s, getting the DuPont driver into the lead. Mark Martin returned to action in third, Johnson fourth, then Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick. Contrary to what the other drivers were doing, Mark Martin’s stop was for tires and fuel only for the second time as Mark was happy with the handling of his car.

Gordon and Hamlin resumed their battle, dicing side-by-side over the next 5 laps. Mark Martin lurked three tenths of a second behind this duel, looking to take advantage of any miscues by the leaders.

Regan Smith’s streak of 53 career NASCAR Sprint Cup races without a DNF, ended on lap 174 when his Chevrolet was too damaged to continue.

At the half way point of the race, Hamlin led Gordon by two tenths, then Mark Martin, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch. In the provisional point standings, Brian Vickers moved into 12th place (running 11th on the track), with Kyle Busch down in 13th (running 7th on the road)

Gordon re-took the lead on lap 203, just before Regan Smith (#78 World Vision Chevrolet) suffered a mechanical failure on the front straight, sending Smith into the wall, bringing out the caution. The field headed to pit road again. This time, Hamlin’s crew got their man out in first, by inches over Jeff Gordon. Losing out during the pit stops was Brian Vickers. As the racing resumed, he was down in 13th, compared to Busch’s 7th.  Matt Kenseth continued to suffer, running down in 22nd place on the road, 14th in Chase standings. Hamlin and Gordon then pulled away from the front of the field, gaining a 1½ sec. over the next 25 laps.

After losing a lap early in the race, Tony Stewart methodically climbed through the field, getting up to the 15th position at lap 250.

Brian Vickers had a close call on lap 264 when he became the meat in the sandwich of a three-wide battle coming out of turn 4. One lap later, Denny Hamlin passed Matt Kenseth, putting the Ford driver a lap down in 26th position. Kenseth was now provisionally 14th in the point standings.

The racing action was slowed again on lap 278 when Martin Truex Jr. slapped up against the wall on the front straight, flattening the right side of the car and cutting down the right front tire. The leaders headed to the pits for service once again. Hamlin and Gordon came out in front again. Vickers gained two spots on Kyle Busch and moved past him in the provisional point standings.

After 300 laps, Denny Hamlin led Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, Mark Martin, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Brian Vickers, Juan Pablo Montoya and Kevin Harvick. This running order put Vickers, provisionally, into the Chase.

The field was slowed again on lap 319 when South Boston’s Jeff Burton cut a tire and left debris on the back straight. Following the pit stops, Brian Vickers moved ahead of Kyle Busch into 6th place on the track.

As the green flag waved again on lap 325, Clint Bowyer (#33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet) tapped Jeff Gordon, moving him up the track in turn 1. Gordon did a nice job to keep his Chevrolet off the wall, but he lost 4 spots down to 6th. Meanwhile, Michael Waltrip spun out on the front straight, digging up the grass and depositing it on the racing surface as he made his way back to the pits.

On the restart, Hamlin pulled away from Bowyer, Martin and Kurt Busch. A few laps later, Brian Vickers passed Kyle Busch for 5th place. Busch would continue his slide down the order, losing 6th to Jeff Gordon and 7th to Jimmie Johnson.

With 50 laps to go, Hamlin led Martin, Kurt Busch, Bowyer, Vickers, Gordon, Johnson, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick. This put Vickers comfortably into the Chase for the time being.

With 25 to go, Hamlin led Mark Martin by 1.3 seconds. Kurt Busch was running third, Vickers fourth and Jeff Gordon fifth.

With 20 to go, a caution for Brad Keselowski’s blown engine, bunched the field. During the ensuing flurry of pit stops, Tony Stewart hit a tire carrier of the David Reutimann car pitted in front of him while driving out of his pit. Kyle Busch would have one last try at getting past Vickers and into the Chase.

The green waved on lap 386 with Hamlin ahead of Martin, Kurt Busch, Gordon, Bowyer, Kyle Busch and Vickers. In the scramble after the green, Vickers dropped to 8th place (out of the Chase) while Kyle was in 4th. Gordon passed Kyle, bringing Vickers back into the Chase.

The final laps ran out with Vickers battling Sam Hornish for 7th position while Kyle Busch ran in 5th.

Home town boy Denny Hamlin took the checkered flag, having led 7 times for a race-high 298 laps. Kyle Busch finished 5th, with Brian Vickers 7th and in the Chase by a mere 8 points over Busch.

 

Various Post-race Quotes:

Tony Stewart (#14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet) “I'm disappointed with my effort tonight.  I made mistakes as a driver that I normally cuss people for doing, and from an ownership standpoint, I'm ecstatic to have us locked in and for Ryan.”

Jimmie Johnson (#48 Lowe’s Chevrolet) “We had a disappointing race.”

Carl Edwards (#99 Aflac Ford) “This season is so much different than last season.  We had six wins or something at this point last season.Right now, we have struggled a little bit as a group, Roush Fenway, so I feel like this is our opportunity to only be a few points behind the leader, kind of gather all of our energy and all of the things we have been working on and head into these last ten races full force.  So real excited about it and hopefully we can have some good runs and get back up there the way we know we can run.”

Kasey Kahne (#9 Budweiser Dodge) “This team did a nice job these last few races. We’re in and now we have our work cut out for us. We have a little work to do on some of these tracks, but we’ll work hard.”

Juan Pablo Montoya (#42 Target Chevrolet) “Everybody on the Target team did a great job. We raced hard all day. We tried to race smart.”

Mark Martin (#5 Kellogg’s/CARQUEST Chevrolet): “Great car, great team. This is the icing. Now we can race for the cake. This has been really incredible. It was nice to have a great run tonight.”

Greg Biffle (#16 3M Ford) “We fought hard but didn’t make our car perfect. But I’m so happy to make the Chase.”

Matt Kenseth (#17 DeWalt Ford) “It was disappointing, but I’m not that surprised because we haven’t performed good enough this year.”

Brian Vickers (#83 Red bull Toyota) “Thank you. Don’t just welcome me, welcome this whole team. It’s really special. Thanks to all the people who believed in me. You can look back to a million events that helped us get into the Chase.”

Kyle Busch (#18 M&M’s Toyota) “It was just short. That’s what this year has been for us. Tonight was a good run, but the points just didn’t fall our way this year. I can point to a lot of situations this year that cost us. My guys were flawless tonight. Everybody raced hard tonight.”

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