Saturday, October 16, 2021

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NSCS: Denny Hamlin Holds Off Brad Keselowski to Win STP 500 at Martinsville

Denny Hamlin would hold off a late charge from Brad Keselowski to win the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

“Just great race cars and part of a great organization that gives me cars that we’re able to do it,” he commented. “I feel like I missed out on so many grandfather clocks here because of mechanical issues and such. We just weren’t going to be denied today and hat’s off to Brad (Keselowski). He had an option and he took the latter – thank him for that. I’m proud of the whole FedEx team – we’re going to the Greenbrier and celebrate after this win.”

Hamlin took the lead with 28 laps to go from Matt Kenseth and outlasted a late race charge from Brad Keselowski, that included a couple bumps, to score the victory.  It marks Hamlin’s fifth Grandfather Clock and his first victory of his season as he punches his ticket for the Chase for the Championship. Keselowski would cross the line to finish second.

“It was a good run,” he commented. “Up and down day for us and we finished on a strong note, just not quite as strong as we wanted to. Man, it was a fun race. That’s the best we’ve ever been here at Martinsville, so I’m pumped about that, but a little disappointed I’m not taking home a clock. That’s how it goes sometimes, but, all in all, a really solid day, a fun day and just one spot short.”

Pole sitter Joey Logano would finish third after falling back mid-race, and having to fight his way to the front during the second half of the race.

“Our car just wasn’t as fast as those guys,” Logano said. “We had a decent race car and we recovered from the spin halfway through the race and we worked our way back and slowly but surely got ourselves back in the top three. We didn’t have enough long run speed. I could hang with him a little bit, but it takes everything I’ve got to go their speed and then my stuff just wears out on that last run. I gave it all I had from lap one until the end of it and just burned it up and lost too much steam. Overall, it was still a great weekend with a couple poles and a truck win and an awesome third-place finish here, so overall it was a good weekend.”

Matt Kenseth finished fourth after leading late in the race, saying that he thought he had the best long run car.

“Then on that last restart, that recent set of tires just didn’t agree with it – didn’t have any grip and couldn’t go anywhere,” he commented. “Just kind of hanging on, which is unfortunate. The crew guys put us out in the lead and gave us a great opportunity again this week. I feel like I didn’t get it done, but did the best we could with what we had there.”

David Ragan would round out the top-five, handing Joe Gibbs Racing three of the top-five spots.

“I feel like we’ve under-performed the last three or four weeks,” he said. “A lot of it has been just mistakes on my behalf, mistakes on the team’s behalf and we’ve been really good. We’ve had some good speed and we’ve had top-10 cars, but we just haven’t been able to have a good, entire weekend. Finally, we put together a good race where we weren’t very good Friday and Saturday. We put together a good race today and that’s what’s the most important.”

Martin Truex Jr. finished sixth, followed by Danica Patrick, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon and Jame McMurray. Gordon ran inside the top-five throughout the second half of the race, but suffered a speeding penalty late in the going.

While Hendrick Motorsports has been known for their strong runs at Martinsville Speedway in the past, that wasn’t the case on Sunday. Jimmie Johnson struggled with handling issues all day en route to finishing 35th, while Dale Earnhardt Jr. struggled with shifter issues and got in a wreck en route to finishing 36th. Chase Elliott. meanwhile, finished 38th in his Sprint Cup Series debut after making heavy contact on a restart.

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