Monday, April 19, 2010

Denny Hamlin Becomes Top Gun in Texas Sprint Cup Race

Photo Credit: Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR

Walking on a light hobble off-track, Denny Hamlin found his #11 Fed-Ex sponsored Toyota a great equalizer in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Samsung Mobile 500 race at Texas Motor Speedway. Charging from 29th place through enduring much of the 500 mile distance, Denny Hamlin and the Joe Gibbs Racing team took victory in a race which seemed destined for being another Hendrick Motorsports celebration.

Delayed roughly 20 hours as rain flooded the race festivities Sunday
, the Samsung Mobile 500 started Monday a little past noontime. The #14 Office Depot Chevrolet of Tony Stewart taking full advantage of his pole position leading the first 15 laps. Committing the first pass for the lead, Greg Biffle #16 Ford belonging to Roush Fenway Racing grabbed the top spot from Stewart holding the place until a planned competition caution on lap 28. In all, the Samsung Mobile 500 would see a lively array of lead changes with the top position changing hands 29 times in total.

While Biffle would lead another 9 laps past the midway point of the Samsung Mobile 500, the race's lead would soon fall into long-term possession of Hendrick Motorsports cars Including the #14 Chevrolet of Tony Stewart running a Hendrick-built race car.

Stewart took the lead through a field-wide dive into pit lane and led everyone to the lap 32 restart. After 18 laps out front, the #14 came under attack of the #48 Lowes Chevrolet driven by Jimmie Johnson. Johnson led 28 laps before one of his Hendrick Motorsports teammates mounted a charge on the #48 Chevrolet. The AMP Energy #88 Chevrolet of Dale Earnhardt Jr took the lead on lap 76 to a wide cheer of some 90,000 spectators (it remains fuzzy for whether the majority of the applauds came for Earnhardt Jr leading or for fact Jimmie Johnson was passed on track). Although Earnhardt Jr would only lead 4 laps in this stint before a yellow flag flew, the #88 car would spend an additional 42 laps at the front in Texas.

As the race flowed smoothy through the mid stages, the green flag stayed out for 116 laps requiring Sprint Cup cars to roll down pit road as the field rotates under full speed. Within this run, the #24 National Guard/Dupont Chevrolet belonging to Jeff Gordon would emerge gifting Rick Hendrick with seeing three of his cars fighting for the lead of the race. However, as Gordon reached the front of the NASCAR Sprint Cup competition, his #24 car nestled in the lead for a race-topping 124 laps.

Breaking the long green run, Juan Pablo Montoya collides with the turn 2 wall in his #42 Chevrolet bringing out a caution on lap 233. With just over 100 laps remaining in the Samsung Mobile 500, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr made up the top-3 cars. With the Hendrick Motorsports trio choosing to stop for four tires, Stewart's #14 pit crew moved their driver/owner into the lead by changing only right side tires.

Battling for second shortly after the restart, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon provided an entertaining duel for position. Seemingly forgetting they were teammate, Johnson's #48 and Gordon's #24 car made contact down the front-stretch. Exchanging some cross-feelings over the contact through radio transmissions with crew chief Steve Latarte, Gordon certainly put on a good act in reacting to side-by-side driving with Johnson. While Jeff Gordon's #24 Chevrolet continued to move forward to snatch the lead 12 laps later, damage on the #48 car required Jimmie Johnson to pit prematurely.

At lap 310, the caution flag came out for a 6th time as top-10 runner David Reutimann suffered an engine explosion. Setting up the final laps to the checkered flag, the lead cars pitted with many making a gamble for two tires only. Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson were the sole frontrunners taking four tires sacrificing track position for use of preferable grip.

The #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet of Jeff Burton won the fight off pit road to earn top spot for a lap 316 restart with Tony Stewart starting alongside in the double-file lineup coming to green. While Burton ran off, fierce pressure in the final stages of the race including Dale Earnhardt Jr and the #18 Toyota of Kyle Busch pounced on Stewart leaving the #14 to fight hard to regain momentum. Unfortunately, as the field came through turn 3 close contact first with Jeff Gordon and a clip later out of turn 4 from the #99 Ford of Carl Edwards resulted in the #14 Chevrolet setting off a pile-up which severely damaged 9 cars. Of the cars caught in the crash were Gordon, Edwards, Jamie McMurray and Clint Bowyer.

Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR

After a 19 minute red flag, the field restarted with only a dozen laps remaining. While Burton led the final restart, the Joe Gibbs Racing #11 Toyota of Denny Hamlin drew side-by-side with the #31 Chevrolet to overtake Burton down the frontstretch. Losing the preferred first place spot, Jeff Burton fell to 12th at the end of the event.

In the final laps, a Hamlin victory came under attack by a super fast Jimmie Johnson. On four fresh tires, the #48 Chevrolet ate into the Toyota's lead to the end but ran out of laps to properly contend with Denny Hamlin.

Despite the combined efforts placed by three of Hendrick Motorsports' four cars, the late laps of the Samsung Mobile 500 ended with the Joe Gibbs Racing team celebrating their late-race placement. For the 2nd time in 3 races, Denny Hamlin's season has come alive after a start which saw the #11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota finishing outside of the top-10 through the first 4 races. This victory for Joe Gibbs Racing was also the first for Toyota as the Japanese car maker reduces the number of tracks the manufacturer badge has left to be featured in the winner's circle.

Behind 2nd place Johnson, Joe Gibbs Racing teammate to Hamlin Kyle Busch brought the Interstate Batteries sponsored #18 to 3rd. Kurt Busch and Kasey Kahne rounded out the top-5 for the 2010 Samsung Mobile 500.

In 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup points, Jimmie Johnson stay in the lead for the standings gaining an advantage over Kenseth who finished 20th place in the race. Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch all improved their place in the Sprint Cup standings.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup tour heads to Talladega Superspeedway for the Aarons 499 on the 2.66 mile oval.

2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup
Samsung Mobile 500
Texas Motor Speedway

1) 11 Denny Hamlin     FedEx Ground Toyota
2) 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe's Chevrolet
3) 18 Kyle Busch Interstate Batteries Toyota
4) 2 Kurt Busch Miller Lite Dodge
5) 9 Kasey Kahne Budweiser Ford
6) 5 Mark Martin Chevrolet
7) 29 Kevin Harvick Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet
8) 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet
9) 56 Martin Truex Jr. NAPA Toyota
10) 16 Greg Biffle 3M Post-it Ford
11) 39 Ryan Newman U.S. ARMY ROTC Chevrolet
12) 31 Jeff Burton Caterpillar Chevrolet
13) 43 A J Allmendinger Insignia/Best Buy Ford
14) 12 Brad Keselowski Dodge Dodge
15) 6 David Ragan UPS Ford
16) 82 Scott Speed Red Bull Toyota
17) 47 Marcos Ambrose Scott Branded Products/Kingsford Toyota
18) 19 Elliott Sadler Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford
19) 77 Sam Hornish Jr. Mobil 1 Dodge
20) 17 Matt Kenseth Crown Royal Black Ford
21) 78 Regan Smith Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet
22) 13 Max Papis GEICO Toyota
23) 71 Bobby Labonte Perry for Governor Chevrolet
24) 34 Travis Kvapil Long John Silver's Ford
25) 21 Bill Elliott Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford
26) 7 Robby Gordon Monster Energy Toyota
27) 38 Kevin Conway Extenze Ford
28) 20 Joey Logano Home Depot Toyota
29) 37 David Gilliland Taco Bell Ford
30) 1 Jamie McMurray Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet
31) 24 Jeff Gordon DuPont/National Guard Special Forces Chevrolet
32) 14 Tony Stewart Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet
33) 99 Carl Edwards Scotts Ford
34) 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Target Chevrolet
35) 98 Paul Menard Quaker State/Menards Ford
36) 33 Clint Bowyer Cheerios/Hamburer Helper Chevrolet
37) 00 David Reutimann Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota
38) 83 Brian Vickers Red Bull Toyota
39) 32 Reed Sorenson Dollar General Stores Toyota
40) 87 Joe Nemechek Crosby Roofing Toyota
41) 66 Michael McDowell PRISM Motorsports Toyota
42) 09 Mike Bliss Phoenix Construction Chevrolet
43) 55 Dave Blaney PRISM Motorsports Toyota

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