Denny Hamlin brought home his second straight win Sunday Night in Atlanta after holding off Jeff Gordon in the final laps. Until the final caution flew with six laps to go, it looked like Martin Truex Jr was going to take home the win. After the pit stops during that caution, Denny Hamlin had become the new leader after beating Truex Jr off pit road. This is Hamlin’s fourth victory of the season and his second straight. After a rough early summer, Hamlin found his way back to victory lane in Bristol last week and again in Atlanta Sunday Night. With only one race until the Chase begins, Hamlin is on a hot streak and he could be on that hot streak all the way to Homestead-Miami. Hamlin is proving he will be a fierce competitor for the title come Chase time.
Pole-sitter Tony Stewart led the first ten laps before being passed by wild card contender Jeff Gordon for the lead. Gordon couldn’t hold the lead long and another wild card contender Kyle Busch took the lead on lap 16. Hamlin took the lead for the first time on lap 35 when he passed his teammate Kyle Busch.
The first caution came out on lap 39 when Aric Almirola had smoke coming out the rear of his car and he left fluid on the track. When the leaders pitted under the caution, Kyle Busch beat Hamlin off pit road to take the lead once again. After Busch led a good amount of laps, Hamlin regained the lead on lap 81. The first round of green-flag pit stops began on lap 83 and Kyle Busch regained the lead after the stops. The swapping of the lead between Kyle Busch and Hamlin continued when Hamlin passed Busch on lap 89. The second caution came out on lap 130 for debris on the backstretch. On the restart, Kevin Harvick passed Hamlin and took the lead for the first time of the night.
On lap 218 more green-flag pit stops began. Juan Pablo Montoya brought out the caution with 84 laps to go when he got into the turn three wall. Hamlin got back to the lead on the restart. With 61 laps to go, wild card contender Carl Edwards saw his chances of making the Chase blow out the back of his car when his engine let go. This is Edwards first DNF (Did Not Finish) since October 2009. Edwards needs a miracle to make the Chase, if he wins next week at Richmond he could possibly get in. Edwards said after the incident that “(We’re) going to Richmond where anything can happen.”
On the restart the yellow flag came out quickly when five-time champion Jimmie Johnson was turned into the backstretch wall. Johnson was squeezing Sam Hornish Jr up into Ryan Newman and when Johnson tried to slide up in front of Hornish Jr, Johnson got turned into the wall. The incident also collected wild card contender Ryan Newman who had no place to go. This is Newman’s second straight week with a wreck after he got hit from behind and turned into the wall last week at Bristol. Newman’s hopes of making the Chase are sliming but Newman can win next week at Richmond and make the Chase. With 49 laps to go Martin Truex Jr took the lead from Denny Hamlin. Truex Jr is looking for his first Sprint Cup win since Dover in 2007.
If the race stayed green to the end, Truex Jr would be in victory lane but with six laps to go Jamie McMurray blew a tire and hit the frontstrecth wall to bring out a caution. This caution changed everything. Now the leaders are going to pit and we will have a green-white-checker finish. Hamlin beat Truex Jr off pit road to take the lead. Truex Jr spun his tires on the restart and he couldn’t keep up with Hamlin. Now Jeff Gordon had taken over the second place and he was right behind Hamlin. Gordon needs a win to get that second wild card spot. After taking the white flag Gordon was right on Hamlin’s bumper and going into turn three Gordon tried to go low but Hamlin was too strong on the outside and Hamlin crossed the finish line first for the second straight week.
Gordon said after the race that “I should of run into the back of him going into (turn) three.” Hamlin got to celebrate in the Atlanta Motor Speedway victory lane for the first time. Hamlin said after the race that his “Pit crew won me the race.” Hamlin also said that going into the Chase that ”Wins are all that matters.” Hamlin now has the most wins on the season and he is looking at the top seed in the Chase. The wild card standings are unchanged since no wild card contender won the race. Kasey Kahne still has the first wild card spot and Kyle Busch still has the second. After Atlanta, all the current drivers in the top ten will get into the Chase somehow. The top nine will be in the Chase and will get to use their wins as bonus points going into the Chase. Tony Stewart in tenth will be in the Chase one way or another. If Stewart runs well next week he will get in as the driver tenth in points and get to use those three wins as bonus points or if Stewart has a bad week and falls out of the tenth position in points, he will have the first wild card spot to get him in.
Drivers like Marcos Ambrose, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon can win and get into the Chase. If any of those drivers win next week at Richmond, they’re in.
A wild week is in store at Richmond next Saturday Night and with so many different scenarios of how this and that driver can get into the Chase, it’ll be a crazy night.
Results via Nascar.com
|1||7||11||Denny Hamlin||Toyota||Sport Clips||48/5||327||Running|
|3||21||2||Brad Keselowski||Dodge||Miller Lite||41/0||327||Running|
|4||28||56||Martin Truex Jr.||Toyota||NAPA Shocks||41/1||327||Running|
|6||3||18||Kyle Busch||Toyota||Wrigley’s Doublemint||39/1||327||Running|
|7||35||88||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Chevrolet||National Guard / DietMountain Dew||37/0||327||Running|
|8||18||27||Paul Menard||Chevrolet||Quaker State / Menards||36/0||327||Running|
|9||4||17||Matt Kenseth||Ford||Ford EcoBoost||35/0||327||Running|
|10||6||55||Mark Martin||Toyota||Aaron’s Dream Machine||34/0||327||Running|
|11||15||22||Sam Hornish Jr.||Dodge||Shell / Pennzoil||0||327||Running|
|14||27||78||Regan Smith||Chevrolet||Furniture Row / Farm American||30/0||327||Running|
|15||2||16||Greg Biffle||Ford||3M / Manheim Auctions||30/1||327||Running|
|16||32||21||Trevor Bayne||Ford||Good Sam Club / Camping World||0||327||Running|
|18||9||20||Joey Logano||Toyota||The Home Depot||26/0||327||Running|
|20||40||83||Landon Cassill||Toyota||Burger King||24/0||327||Running|
|22||1||14||Tony Stewart||Chevrolet||Office Depot / Mobil 1||23/1||327||Running|
|24||20||1||Jamie McMurray||Chevrolet||Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Boats||20/0||325||Running|
|25||22||36||Dave Blaney||Chevrolet||Tommy Baldwin Racing||19/0||324||Running|
|26||41||93||Travis Kvapil||Toyota||Dr Pepper / Burger King||18/0||324||Running|
|27||30||15||Clint Bowyer||Toyota||5-hour Energy||17/0||324||Running|
|28||14||34||David Ragan||Ford||Glory Foods||16/0||323||Running|
|31||29||38||David Gilliland||Ford||House / Autry||13/0||298||Running|
|34||8||48||Jimmie Johnson||Chevrolet||Lowe’s / Kobalt Tools||10/0||269||Accident|
|35||17||39||Ryan Newman||Chevrolet||Army Medicine||9/0||268||Accident|
|37||36||195||Scott Speed||Ford||Jordan Truck Sales||7/0||196||Susp.|
|39||31||30||David Stremme||Toyota||Inception Motorsports||5/0||54||Susp.|
|40||39||23||Scott Riggs||Chevrolet||North Texas Pipe||4/0||43||Vibration|
|42||38||191||Reed Sorenson||Chevrolet||Plinker Tactical||0||24||Overheating|
|43||37||87||Joe Nemechek||Toyota||AM / FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves||0||22||Rear Gear|