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Denny Hamlin Steals Richmond

Denny Hamlin Celebrates his Victory on Easter Night

What goes better than short-track racing on a Sunday night? Short-track racing on a Saturday night. This past weekend, the NASCAR Cup Series headed north to the historic city of Richmond, Virginia. For years, Richmond was a fan-favorite short track that was as popular as Bristol was. But in the last 12 years or so, Richmond has fallen from the grace that it used to have. Now, Richmond is one of the worst tracks on the schedule. There have been a few good races in recent years, but not like in the early 2000s. Coming into Richmond, the big headline was the Hendrick-dominated weekend in Austin Texas at Circuit of the Americas. Now, a familiar face is back in victory lane at Richmond. Let’s discuss the events that took place in the River City.  

A Wacky Race on Easter: 

It’s not every day that NASCAR hosts a Sunday night race on Easter Sunday. It was a Hendrick Motorsports sweep of the front row in qualifying as Kyle Larson started on the pole alongside Chase Elliott. It was a soggy Easter night in Richmond to begin the race. NASCAR called for all teams to start on the wet weather tires about an hour before the race. Larson would lead most of the first stage to win his third stage of the season. Stage two began, and Larson drove away from the field. This quickly became a strategy race. Could you run the stage on two pit stops or split it in half? Most of the field went with the safer strategy of running the stage on two pit stops. While other drivers like Larson, Alex Bowman, and others split the stage in half.  

That strategy was going to work out if not for a caution for Kyle Busch hitting the turn-two wall. Martin Truex Jr would win the second stage. For the final stage, it was a dogfight the entire stage between Larson and Truex. On the final green flag pit stop of the night, Larson got out ahead of Truex for the lead but was immediately passed back by Truex. The laps would start winding down. Then, with two laps to go, the caution would come out for a spinning Kyle Larson off the bumper of Bubba Wallace. This set up overtime. For the final pit stop, Denny Hamlin would win the race off pit road to beat Truex. Hamlin would get almost too good of a restart and drive away from Truex to steal Richmond and win at his home track for the fifth time in his career.  

This is also Hamlin’s second win of the season, all coming in the last three races and the 53rd win of his career. But like most of his wins in recent memory, it is shrouded in controversy. As previously said, Hamlin almost got too good of a restart on the final restart. Let’s discuss what happened on the final restart. 

Did Hamlin Jump the Final Restart? 

Before you all jump down my throat for this, this is my honest opinion about this matter. It’s no different than if Chase Elliott or Brad Keselowski were in Hamlin’s position. The fact of the matter is that yes, Hamlin did jump the final restart. What that means is that he accelerated before when he was supposed to be in the restart zone. It was close, but regardless, Hamlin did jump the final restart. NASCAR has a set of white lines on the front straightaway, about 300 feet apart from each other, this is called the restart zone. The leader, who is the control car, must accelerate within that zone, and if they accelerate before the zone, they will be penalized. From the camera footage from Truex’s in-car video, it showed Hamlin jumping the restart.  

What makes this infuriating to fans, drivers, and team members is that NASCAR did not review the restart and called it clean until half an hour after the race. Truex was understandably frustrated with Hamlin in his post-race interviews. Truex led over half the race and had the race won until the late race caution involving Larson and Wallace. What makes things even worse is that Elton Sawyer of NASCAR confirmed that Hamlin jumped the final restart in an interview on Sirius XM NASCAR Radio Tuesday morning. This is a poor look for the sport and the officials. NASCAR officiating must get a grip on themselves before it gets worse.  

What to Expect from Martinsville:  

From one Virginia short track to another, this coming weekend, NASCAR sets its eyes on Martinsville. Three things are certain when it comes to racing in Martinsville. The hot dogs will always be $2. There will be great racing on the track. And there will be a Hendrick Motorsports car in victory lane at the end of the day. In its 40 years of operation, Hendrick Motorsports has won at Martinsville 28 times, the most all time. That’s a winning percentage of almost 35%. Last season, it was Kyle Larson unexpectedly getting his first Martinsville victory of his career. Don’t be surprised if another Hendrick driver gets another Martinsville clock this coming weekend. Keep an eye on Chase Elliott or Alex Bowman to get their first win of the season this coming weekend in Martinsville.  

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