Denny Hamlin looks upon what nearly became his best weekend of racing with disappointment four months later.
It doesn’t matter that Hamlin won the Nationwide race at Richmond International Raceway in May for his first career victory at his home track. It’s the anguish about what happened the following night. He dominated the Cup race until a tire problem late ended his chances to win.
Hamlin admits even as he and the rest of the NASCAR series head back to Richmond this week, he hasn’t gotten over the hurt from that Cup race.
“We had an opportunity to sweep both races there and that opportunity do that in someone’s hometown just doesn’t happen that often, especially in the shape and fashion that we did it by dominating,” he said.
This weekend could make him feel better. He enters 11th in the standings, 76 points ahead of Clint Bowyer, who is in the final transfer spot for the Chase, and 93 points ahead of David Ragan, who is trying to race his way into the Chase. A strong finish will clinch a Chase spot for Hamlin. The field for the title chase will be set after Saturday’s race.
He won the pole and led 381 of the first 382 laps before the flat tire dropped him out of the lead (he would finish 24th) in May. That set the stage for Kyle Busch bumping Dale Earnhardt Jr. out of the lead in the final laps and Bowyer winning the race.
TRYING TO SNAP HISTORY: Kasey Kahne enters Saturday’s race 48 points behind Clint Bowyer for the final transfer spot in the Chase. Should he fail to make it, this would make the fourth time in the five years of the Chase he has not competed for the championship.
“It’s not very good to look at it that way,” Kahne said. “It’s disappointing, but it’s the way our teams have been. It’s the way Gillett-Evernham has been. It’s the way our drivers have been.”
STILL A GO: Richmond International Raceway officials issued a statement Tuesday that the racing remains on as Tropical Storm Hanna moves closer.
Updates will be posted at least twice daily or as needed on the track’s web site, rir.com and at 1-877-251-7223.
MOVING ON: Chip Ganassi Racing announced Tuesday that Dario Franchitti will return to the IndyCar Series, ending his NASCAR experiment after this season. “I have really enjoyed this last season in stock cars and have not completely closed that chapter of my professional career but the opportunity that arose was just something I could not pass up,” he said in a statement.
He ran in 10 Cup events this season before his team was disbanded because of lack of sponsorship. His best finish was 22nd at Martinsville. He continues to drive some Nationwide events for Ganassi.
Ganassi tells Sports Business Journal that shutting down the team was a “no-brainer” because of the financial losses.
“If I’d known in my mind that we could hang in there for the rest of the year and lost, say, $5 million, I would have done that,” Ganassi said. “But the fact that we were at the halfway point of the season and we were already in excess of that, it just wouldn’t have been smart to continue.”
PIT STOPS: Martin Truex Jr. gets crew chief Kevin Manion back after a six-week suspension when the team was penalized for an infraction at Daytona. Manion was with Truex the following week at Chicago before losing the appeal. … Michael McDowell is back in the No. 00 car after Mike Skinner drove it the last three weeks. Skinner’s best finish was 28th during that time. … Bill Davis Racing has hired Brian Scott, a 20-year-old from Boise, Idaho, to drive for its truck series team next year. Scott has competed in 23 truck events the past two seasons.
Contact Dustin Long at 373-7062 or firstname.lastname@example.org
What: Chevy Rock & Roll 400
Where: Richmond (Va.) International Raceway
Time/TV: 7:30 p.m. Saturday/WXLV-45
Qualifying/TV: 6 p.m. Friday/ESPN2
What: Emerson Radio 250
Where: Richmond International Raceway
Time/TV: 8 p.m. Friday/ESPN2
Qualifying/TV: 4 p.m. Friday/ESPN2
What: Camping World 200
Where: Gateway International Raceway, Madison, Ill.
Time/TV: 2:30 p.m. Saturday/Speed
Qualifying/TV: 11 a.m. Saturday/Speed