Sunday, August 26, 2012

Gibbs Garage: Hamlin dances his way to Victory Lane with smooth moves and two left side tires

Credit: Tyler Barrick / Getty Images for NASCAR
When it comes to dancing at Bristol’s driver introductions, no one would ever accuse Denny “Dougie” Hamlin of having two left feet. But he did take two left side tires in a late pit stop, and they carried him all the way to the checkered flag for his first Sprint Cup win in Thunder Valley.

After wowing a Bristol crowd as he danced to the song “Wobble,” Hamlin lined up eighth to start the IRWIN Tools Night Race. He ran solidly in the top 10 until sliding in oil on the track from David Ragan’s blown engine. Between scraping the wall and a failed cooling fan, the car became overheated and lost a lot of water. But instead of breaking down, the FedEx Toyota seemed to gain momentum.
Hamlin's shares his burnout with the No. 11 crew
Credit: Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images

“We were 300 degrees early on in the race ...,” Hamlin said. “... and so we spewed most of our water out, and we hit the wall pretty good. We hit, landed on pit road and I told Darian, the more stuff we hit, the faster it went.”

After some doctoring by the pit crew, the No. 11 restarted back in 22nd position. Hamlin stayed out on the next caution, extremely pleased with his car, and managed to work his way up to the lead on Lap 206. He only dropped out of the top 10 once the rest of the race, when he was shuffled back when others stayed out during caution.

After the 12th caution, Hamlin used the next run to pass his competitors until he was challenging Carl Edwards for the lead. With 38 laps to go, Hamlin pulled a smooth move on Edwards, getting around him on the inside. Edwards pulled in directly behind the No. 11, thumped his bumper and came around on the inside. But Hamlin held onto his lead, pulling off his third win of the season and possibly earning his spot in the Chase.

The No. 11 atop the scoring pylon at Bristol
Credit: Whitney Richards
“... it's a good feeling to know that you can go to a racetrack and win any given week, and that gives you a lot of confidence,” Hamlin said. “For me, even though it shows three wins, I feel like we've got five or six.”

In his post-race presser, Hamlin talked about this Bristol win marking the 200th win for the No. 11 car in the Sprint Cup series.

“You know, we have been thinking about it for a long time. It's big because it's my 20th, 200th for the car, and you look at the names, Ned, Jarrett and those guys that have driven number 11, I'm just a speck on that stat sheet of wins for this number,” he said. “But you know, hopefully by the time I'm done years down the road, whoever takes the (No.) 11 after that will try to live up to what we accomplished.”

Busch during practice at Bristol
Credit: Whitney Richards

Kyle Busch started his evening at Bristol with a rousing growl to the crowd at driver introductions, “Are you ready to get Rrrrrrowdy?!” He rolled off in 10th spot and ran in the top 10 for the first 80 laps, fighting rotor shake and tight conditions on his racecar.

On his first stop, Busch was too fast entering pit road and was stuck back in 30th after serving his pass-through penalty. But he showed why he has the top driver rating at Bristol by motoring from 30th to 17th in the next leg of the race. Busch continued to gain spots and ran in the top ten from about Lap 350 until the end. He brought his M&Ms Toyota home sixth and currently holds the second wild card spot, 16 points ahead of Jeff Gordon.

Joey Logano before the race
Photo: Boris at
Joey Logano won the Nationwide race at Bristol for his sixth NNS series win of the season. Based on his practice speed, he started fourth for the Cup race. On Lap 27, Logano took the lead by passing Casey Mears on the inside, a move he perfected during Friday’s night’s race. He stayed out front for almost 80 of the next 81 laps until surrendering it to Kasey Kahne. The Dollar General Toyota went on to lead several more stretches for a race-high 139 laps.

Pit strategy dropped Logano back to 15th late in the event, but he kept pushing forward. Concern about having enough fuel was relieved by late cautions, so the No. 20 finished eighth for his eighth top 10 of the season. Logano is at the bottom of all the wild card drivers who have one win each, sitting 109 points behind 10th place. At this point, another win is essential to keep his Chase hopes alive.

Overall, it was a heckuva night at Bristol with all three Joe Gibbs Racing drivers starting and finishing in the top 10.

Points standings after Bristol:
Denny Hamlin – 8th (+2)
Kyle Busch – 13th (+1) in 2nd wild card spot
Joey Logano – 18th

Beth Bence Reinke writes "Gibbs Garage," Joe Gibbs Racing Sprint Cup team recaps, for the 2012 season. Her Skirts and Scuffs column, “Faith on the Frontstretch,” explores the role of faith in motorsports. Beth is the author of Race Fans’ Devotions to Go, a devotional book geared toward female NASCAR fans. Follow Beth on Twitter at @bbreinke or reach her at


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