Hamlin Wins Denny Hamlin Charity Race

The Denny Hamlin Foundation's Short Track Showdown was scheduled down to when the last caution would fly. The race would begin at 8 PM Thursday evening following the K&N East Series race. The 75-lap race would have a five minute break after 40 laps to allow for pit stops and adjustments. A yellow flag was planned with ten laps to go, creating a double-file restart, side-by-side racing, and a heart-pounding finish.
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Nature didn't agree with the schedule, however, and Thursday night found drivers anxiously waiting for the rain to subside at Richmond International Raceway. Denny Hamlin tweeted thanks to his fans for their patience after his charity race was delayed over two hours.

The cars fired up just after 10 PM. Joe Gibbs Racing development drivers Max Gresham and Darrell Wallace, Jr. jumped immediately from the K&N East race (where Wallace drove into Victory Lane) to their starting positions in the late model race. Chase Elliott, son of legendary driver (and Hamlin's personal hero) Bill Elliott, also pulled double-duty and raced both events. Hamlin started at the back of the field, telling media, "It feels like the place to be."

Once under green, the red flag flew in record time. A wreck off of turn two took out several cars in the back of the field and Richmond came to a complete stop for the second time that night (the first red flag came out during the K&N East race).

When the green flew again, Hamlin was in 21st, up from 35th. His Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Joey Logano were in positions two and three, respectively. Hamlin's Sprint Cup spotter, Curtis Markham, ran one of four FedEx Toyotas (the other three belonging to Gresham, Wallace, and Hamlin) in 10th place.
The action at the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown was non-stop.
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Two-time Short Track Showdown winner Busch took the lead, but Gresham surged to the front. Gresham fell into second behind Busch and steadily shaved away at his lead. As Busch and Gresham battled for the lead, former JGR driver Tony Stewart succumbed to mechanical issues. As the planned five minute caution drew closer, Gresham and Busch traded the lead and Wallace took third from veteran driver Michael Waltrip. The yellow fell with Busch, Gresham, and Wallace in first, second, and third.

Pit-stops occurred at a remarkably human pace. Logano's team even changed his carburetor without worrying about the seconds ticking on the clock. Hamlin took the opportunity to stretch his legs and grab a water bottle before climbing back into his car to finish the race.

A double-file restart found Gresham side-by-side with Busch. Gresham missed a shift on the restart and sank to sixth. Wallace and Waltrip moved in on Busch to battle for the lead.

Meanwhile, Jason White was black-flagged for illegal adjustments to his car, then refused to acknowledge his penalty. In the post-race, White revealed he didn't know about the black-flag as communication with his team was poor.

Hamlin moved into the top-10 and continued to pick off his competition one by one. The planned caution at 10 laps to go closed the field, but at six laps to go, second place Wallace came loose as he attempted to take the lead and was hit by Gresham. The field fell under red for the third time.

Busch, Waltrip, and Hamlin restarted first, second, and third. Hamlin passed Waltrip for second, then bumped Busch for the lead as Busch slipped backwards for some unseen reason (later confirmed on Twitter by wife Samantha as a fuel pickup issue). Hamlin took the checkered flag for the first time at his own event, and for the first time in 2011.

Hamlin was ecstatic about the win and said, "It feels like a Cup win."

Denny Hamlin visits victory lane at Richmond
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All but 10% of the money for the tickets went to the Denny Hamlin Foundation which supports cystic fibrosis research. The remaining 10% was designated Thursday morning to help the victims of the Alabama tornadoes.
Hamlin Wins Denny Hamlin Charity Race Hamlin Wins Denny Hamlin Charity Race Reviewed by Génette Wood on Sunday, May 01, 2011 Rating: 5