It was a long wait for a win but a familiar Victory Lane for Denny Hamlin.
He held off a wild charge from Brad Keselowski to win Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway, for Hamlin’s first Sprint Cup Series victory of the season and the first for Toyota.
The win is Hamlin’s fifth at the speedway and his first since May 4, 2014, at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.
Joey Logano finished third, Matt Kenseth was fourth and David Ragan fifth.
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With the win, Hamlin is all but assured a spot in this season’s championship Chase.
Hamlin restarted fifth on Lap 467 of 500 and quickly moved into the lead with new tires on Lap 474. Equally impressive was his work holding off Keselowski during the final laps.
Three who mattered
Denny Hamlin: A win is just what Joe Gibbs Racing ordered.
Brad Keselowski: A victory last week and second this week. He certainly looks in championship form again.
Danica Patrick: Patrick was close to matching her career high (sixth) but ended up with a solid seventh, her first top-10 of the year.
They said it
“Just great race cars and part of a great organization that gives me cars that we’re able to do it. I feel like I missed out on so many grandfather clocks (trophies) here because of mechanical issues and such,” – Hamlin
▪ Joe Gibbs Racing’s performance was a well-timed shot in the arm as the organization deals with the serious illness of team president J.D. Gibbs. JGR cars had shown flashes of potential during recent weeks but had not been able to put the race finishes together. Sunday, Hamlin won the race, and his teammates finished fourth, fifth and 17th.
▪ Although Kevin Harvick ended his streak of eight consecutive races with a finish of first and second, his eighth-place finish still was impressive on a track on which he has struggled. Just to compare, during his championship season last year, Harvick finished seventh and 33rd in the Martinsville races.
▪ Chase Elliott’s Cup series debut did not go anywhere near as well as he hoped. He got into a couple of incidents early in the race and was forced to the garage for extensive repairs on his car. Halfway through, Elliott was more than 60 laps down. He finished 38th.
Danica Patrick ties second-best finish: Patrick’s seventh-place finish was her first top-10 of the season and the fifth of her Cup career, which ties her with Janet Guthrie for the most top-10s by a female driver in the history of the series.
Patrick struggled early and fell a lap down but rallied late, running as high as sixth at one point.
“We made a couple of good changes in the middle of the race that really made the difference, and I said if we could just do a little bit more and make me just a little bit better, we’re going to be good,” she said. “We’re at least going to be all right. And that’s what we did.”
Six and counting: Martin Truex Jr. rallied for sixth place, his sixth consecutive top-10 finish to start the season. Not only is that a record for his team, Furniture Row Racing, but it also is a career-best mark for Truex as a driver.
“It is awesome. I can’t say enough about the team; again to battle like we did today,” said Truex, who is third in the series standings. “We showed we never give up. We haven’t all year long. We haven’t given up on each other since I started here.”
Three tweets from Sunday’s race:
Duck Commander 500
Where: Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth, Texas
When: 7:30 p.m. April 11
Radio: Performance Racing Network