Making his 300th career start today, Sunday, May 4th, Denny Hamlin, driver of the FedEx Toyota, won the 45th Annual Aaron’s 499 at Talladega, leading only 12 of the 188 scheduled laps, after a late race caution.
This is Hamlin’s first victory of the 2014 season and his 24th career win, at a race that featured 48 lead changes the most lead changes for this season at a track. Although Hamlin has four non-points race wins at Daytona this is his first point’s race win at a restrictor plate track.
Hamlin is the eighth different winner in 10 races this season as the drivers’ battle for the 16 berths available for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. If a driver gains a victory it should all but guarantee a spot, unless they drop from the top 30 in the point standings. After Hamlin’s win, Joe Gibbs Racing has both Kyle Busch and Hamlin, eligible for contention for the championship.
Carl Edwards, driving the #99 Fastenal Ford, had waved his hand out the window to indicate that the #99 car was having problems, spun up the track into the path of Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet in Turn 1, bringing out the yellow and setting up the late race dash to the checkers.
Hamlin took the white flag as Justin Allgaier, driver of the #51 Brandt Professional Agriculture Chevrolet, spun in the tri-oval resulting with the caution flag freezing the field. As a rather large piece of bodywork from Allgaier’s car landed just before the start/finish line, causing NASCAR to throw the yellow flag for safety reasons, as the field raced down the backstretch, ending the race under caution.
“We really just want to win races, regardless of the implications of what this means for the Chase,” Hamlin said. “I’m still a short-track guy. Those are my roots. But we’ve come a long way. We couldn’t finish 22nd in a restrictor plate track, now we know we have the cars and the skills to win. It feels good to be back in Victory Lane in a points-paying event (Hamlin had won the season opener Sprint Unlimited and the second of the Duels at Daytona).”
“We saw that things were getting heavy in the middle part of the race and those guys got in a wreck and we were able to avoid that, and just played our cards right,” said Hamlin. “Darian Grubb (crew chief for the #11) made the right strategy…My pit crew’s done an awesome job and picked me up spots every single week and they did again today.”
Saturday, May 10th, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will go to Kansas Speedway for the 5-Hour Energy 400 Benefiting Special Operations Warrior Foundation night race with coverage beginning at 7:30 p.m. eastern standard time on Fox.