Hamlin get 1st Truck Series win after late passStarting Grid | Results | Recap
By HANK KURZ Jr.
MARTINSVILLE, Va. (AP) Denny Hamlin ducked inside points leader Austin Dillon and four-time Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday Jr. after a restart with 14 laps to go and went on to win at Martinsville Speedway on Saturday.
Hamlin's first victory in the series, in a truck owned by Kyle Busch, made him the 23rd driver to win a race in each of NASCAR's three national series.
"It really means a lot to me to be able to get my very first Truck victory," he said. It also was a much needed confidence booster for the Sprint Cup driver, who hasn't won a race since Michigan in June.
"I knew if I could win a race today, it was going to propel me hopefully into tomorrow, and if I didn't win, I would have been pretty disappointed because I had a great truck," he said.
It was harder than he thought it might be after giving up the lead he'd held for 54 laps by pitting for tires with other leaders with 70 laps to go. When he got back out, he was 18th.
"I just gave it everything I had those last 50 laps - the hardest last 50 laps I've ever driven at Martinsville," Hamlin said. He's won four Cup Series races on the 0.526-mile oval.
Hornaday, seeking his fifth series championship, finished second and Dillon was third. He remained the points leader - by 11 over James Buescher and 15 over Hornaday and Johnny Sauter with two races remaining, but felt that he cost himself or Hornaday a victory.
"We gave it to him. I did," Dillon said of Hamlin's inside pass out of Turn 2. "If I could have made the first turn, it would have been either me or Ron in Victory Lane, I think."
On the restart, Dillon was on the inside with Hornaday on the outside and Hamlin behind him. When Dillon's car slid up the track coming out of the second turn, Hamlin darted low into the inside and pulled away, leaving the championship contenders to battle for second.
"It was a gift," said Hamlin, who savored his first Trucks victory. "It's a big deal for me, more than what people probably think."
Hornaday, meanwhile, seemed more pleased to have gained one point in the standings.
"It worked out for both of us," he said. "Other than Denny Hamlin snuck in the middle of both of us and stole the win, but we'll take it."
The series races next at Texas on Nov. 4 and finishes at Homestead two weeks later.
Updated October 29, 2011