MARTINSVILLE, VA. – Denny Hamlin passed teammate Matt Kenseth for the lead with 28 laps to go Sunday and ended Toyota's 32-race winless streak in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway. It was his fifth victory on NASCAR's oldest, smallest circuit.
"We had a very fast car, but obviously some pit road issues, but we overcame it," Hamlin said after his 25th career victory, which was helped along by a serious blunder that took four-time champion Jeff Gordon out of contention late.
Hamlin's pit crew, unlike Gordon, made their mistake early enough in the race to recover. Before the event was 200 laps old, Hamlin was penalized when his crew failed to control a tire on pit road. It dropped him from the lead to 22nd place.
He was back in the top 10 by the midpoint, and stalking the leaders shortly thereafter.
"The last 60, 70 laps played out how they needed to play out for us to win today," Hamlin said.
Hamlin also held off a five-lap, bumper-to-tail challenge from Brad Keselowski at the finish. There was some bumping and nudging, and a big wiggle for Hamlin in the final fourth turn, but Keselowski never caused him to spin.
"We just weren't going to be denied today, and hats off to Brad," he said, thanking Keselowski for not wrecking him.
"I did everything I could other than wreck him," Keselowski said.
The race was run without reigning rookie of the year Kyle Larson, who watched from a North Carolina hospital where he was undergoing testing after fainting at an autograph session on Saturday. Regan Smith drove in his absence, finishing 16th.
Keselowski was second, followed by Joey Logano, Kenseth and David Ragan, giving Joe Gibbs Racing three cars in the top five. The jolt was especially appreciated in a week when the team announced that President J.D. Gibbs is being treated for a "symptoms impacting areas of brain function," an issue that has left doctors with very few answers thus far.
"For me it was emotional and thinking about J.D. and all that he means to our team, so it was a big week for us, but a great finish to a story there," Joe Gibbs said.
Logano, the pole-sitter, was trying to become the first driver to sweep a weekend at Martinsville, having won the truck race on Saturday. He led 109 laps. Gordon, an eight-time Martinsville winner, took the lead for the first time with 58 laps to go and then got caught entering pit road too fast when the 16th and final caution came out with about 40 laps to go.
The mistake put him well back in the field, and while he rallied to finish ninth, was left disappointed.
"Wow. I'm sorry guys," he said on the radio when told of the penalty. "That's on me. I apologize."
The day went better for Danica Patrick, who was seventh, her fifth career top-10 finish. That tied her with Janet Guthrie for most top-10s by a female driver, and was one spot off Patrick's career-best sixth place run at Atlanta last year.