Denny Hamlin has won just about everything there is to win in Martinsville, Virginia. The winner of three of the past four Sprint Cup races at the paper clip, Hamlin was trying to claim victory for the first time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driving the #18 for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
Driving a truck that Hamlin said, “Makes me feel like Kyle Busch,” Hamlin was able to join the fraternity of drivers that can take claim in saying the have won in all three national touring divisions of NASCAR by winning Saturday’s Kroger 200 at the Martinsville Speedway. Hamlin becomes the twenty-third driver that can take claim to that mark of winners.
“I’m really grateful for the opportunity,” Hamlin said in victory lane. “This is a big race for the Truck Series, glad to be a part of it.”
Soaking in all the Kyle Busch-esk glory, Hamlin celebrated his first NCWTS victory by taking the signature bow that truck owner Kyle Busch does after his victories.
While Hamlin appeared to have the race under control as the checkered flag neared closer, the race was only beginning to pick up behind him.
Series points leader Austin Dillon was locked in a fierce battle for second with championship rival, Ron Hornaday Jr. Leading the race late in the going, Dillon slipped back to third after tangling with Hornaday on a late race restart, allowing Hamlin to slip by for the lead, and eventually the win. Keeping the fight going right to the bitter end, Dillon ultimatley wound up in third, with Hornaday finishing second and holding the claim as the highest finishing championship contender.
Johnny Sauter had a day very characteristic of his 2011 season, tough.
Jumping out to an early lead, Sauter was looking strong as he tried to get his Thor Sport Racing team back into the championship race. But a pit call forcing Sauter to stay out on the track, Sauter began to slip back the 36 truck field. Fighting his way ruthlessly like a classic old-school short track racer, Sauter was able to get his Chevrolet back up to the fourth position, and remain right in the thick of the championship chase.
“I just got to shut up and drive,” Sauter said after the race regarding his questioning of crew chief Joe Shears call leaving him out on the track. “I guess that’s just what I got to do.”
“This is the type of racing I grew up doing,” Sauter continued. “I get really excited when I see Martinsville on the schedule twice.”
In a race that featured maybe the most ‘classic short track racing’ in recent memory, teammates Max Papis and Todd Bodine were the stars of the slug-fest.
After an early trip down pit road, Bodine and Papis were neck-and-neck coming off the narrowly winding pit road. Trying to hold his position, Papis ran the #5 of Bodine nearly into another pit box, prompting Bodine to ‘pop’ Papis in the bumper.
But the action wasn’t nearly over between the two.
Appearing to be brake checking going down the back stretch, Papis saw his day go for a ride off the bumper of Bodine, sending Papis into the inside back stretch wall.
After the race, Bodine was spun by the struggling truck of James Buescher who suffered from alternator issues for the majority of the race. Papis took pleasure in seeing his teammate turned around as he began to applaud the side ways truck of Bodine going back to the the garage.
“I don’t know what he was thinking,” a confused Bodine said after the race. “I was going to hit that pit crew.”
“I was just trying to get rid of him, right there (regarding spinning Papis down the back stretch),” Bodine continued. “I just do not know what he was honestly thinking.”
Even after all the craziness, Dillon comes out of Martinsville with the points lead, increasing the gap over second place James Buescher to eleven points with two races remaining.
Results of the Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway
- Denny Hamlin
- Ron Hornaday Jr.
- Austin Dillon
- Johnny Sauter
- Joey Coulter
- Kevin Harvick
- Cale Gale
- Timothy Peters
- Brendan Gaughan
- James Buescher
- Todd Bodine
- Matt Crafton
- Nelson Piquet Jr.
- Jeff Agnew
- Jason White
- Miguel Paludo
- Justin Lofton
- Max Papis
- Elliot Sadler
- Grant Enfinger
- Parker Kligerman
- David Starr
- Ryan Sieg
- Clay Rogers
- Max Gresham
- Bryan Silas
- Cole Whitt
- Josh Richards
- Norm Benning
- Tyler Tanner
- Matt Lofton
- Blake Feese
- Johanna Long
- TJ Duke
- Ricky Carmichael
- Mike Garvey