Hamlin rallies for Martinsville win, points battle takes a swing

There’s never a shortage of action whenever the trucks visit the half-mile Martinsville Speedway and that was no different on Saturday.

After dominating the majority of the race, it looked as though Kevin Harvick was going to cruise to a sweep of the Martinsville races in 2012. But that changed on the restart with 41 laps to go after series points leader, Ty Dillon hit the turn one wall.

Lined up next to Harvick on the restart, Matt Crafton, who had rode in the second position for a big part of the race, muscled his way in front of the No.2 Chevrolet with 38 laps to go.

Checking out to a sizable lead, it looked as though it was Crafton’s race to lose unless there was a caution flag. To the dismay of Crafton, there were three caution flags in the run to the finish.

Still in the lead on the final restart, Crafton lined up next to Denny Hamlin who started the race from the rear of the field after missing the mandatory drivers meeting before the race.

Racing side-by-side into the first turn, the two Toyota’s played by the old, short track “rubbin’s racin'” mindset in the races final seven laps.

After holding Hamlin off for the first lap, Crafton’s lead was short lived as Hamlin muscled his way around the No.88 with five laps to go

As drivers traded paint behind him for positions inside the top-five, Hamlin stretched his lead to win Saturady’s Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway.

“I love this place,” said Hamlin in victory lane. “Man, that’s short track racin’ at its finest.

“I gave the 88 (Crafton) extra room on the outside, went to the second lane and didn’t want to crowd him in (turn) one. I tried to pass him on the outside, he shoved up into me and pushed me into the third groove and I just got back to him.

“I didn’t wreck him or anything like that. You’re going to have contact at Martinsville. I’d expect the same thing from anyone else.”

For Hamlin, it marks the second time in two years he’s won the October race at Martinsville. Last year, it was Hamlin’s first trip to victory lane in the Truck Series. Saturday’s win adds one more to the total which now stands at two.

“I don’t get to race these races that often,” said Hamlin. “So, I got to take advantage of them when I do.”

While Hamlin’s race had a positive outcome, the same can’t be said for Ty Dillon.

Hitting the wall late in the race, Dillon fell six laps down to the leaders and eventually finished the race in the 28th position.

His championship counterpart, James Buescher, was able to take a struggling start to the race and end it with a sixth place finish. That effort gives Buescher a 21-point advantage over Dillon heading into next Friday night’s race at Texas Motor Speedway.

“This team knows to never give up,” said Buescher post-race. “We came from two laps down earlier to win a race this year and came from a lap down to take the points lead.

“You can’t give up until the checkered flag.”

Kroger 200 Unofficial Results 

  1. Denny Hamlin
  2. Nelson Piquet Jr.
  3. Joey Coulter
  4. Matt Crafton
  5. Scott Riggs
  6. James Buescher
  7. Timothy Peters
  8. Ryan Blaney
  9. Parker Kligerman
  10. Brian Scott
  11. Max Gresham
  12. Kevin Harvick
  13. Jason White
  14. Johnny Sauter
  15. Miguel Paludo
  16. David Starr
  17. Josh Richards
  18. John Wes Townley
  19. Justin Lofton
  20. Peyton Sellers
  21. Jeff Agnew
  22. Todd Bodine
  23. Ross Chastain
  24. Caleb Holman
  25. Clay Greenfield
  26. Ryan Sieg
  27. Tim George Jr.
  28. Ty Dillon
  29. Bryan Silas
  30. Tyler Young
  31. Norm Benning
  32. Ryan Truex
  33. Ron Hornaday Jr.
  34. Matt Merrell
  35. Cale Gale
  36. Chris Fontaine