Denny Hamlin won Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 NASCAR Cup race and once again proved a road course race should be added to the Chase. Hamlin may be the only driver to think positive about road course races since most everyone else had problems with the track, tires, pit road, or other drivers. The race had it all.
Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski are known for their aggressive tactics, but they were a bit too aggressive with 10 laps to go. Following a caution flag for oil on the track, Busch and Keselowski were leading the field and both went wide in turn 1 with Hamlin taking advantage of their slip-up, grabbing the lead.
He never relinquished that lead, as he held off a hard-charging Martin Truex Jr. Those last 10 laps were the only laps Hamlin led.
Seven other drivers had the lead at one time or another, including Danica Patrick. She led the race for 10 laps and the announcers were having a field day describing how well she was doing. They failed to mention Danica got the lead by staying out on the track while the others pitted for fuel under green flag conditions. After she herself pitted, Danica was back in her normal position, and finished the race in 21st place.
Pitting seemed to be a major problem with 18 different drivers being penalized for infractions. The problem may have stemmed from the drivers having to enter the pits from right to left, completely opposite of the oval tracks. Speeding entering or leaving pit road and too many crewmen over the wall resulted in the most violations.
During the final 10 laps, Truex and Keselowski were running 2nd and 3rd when Keselowski spun out Truex. During the cool-down lap, Truex showed his displeasure by slamming into Keselowski’s door panel. Immediately following the event, Keselowski approached Truex on pit road admitting to his mistake.
Despite the instant apology, however, it didn’t mean much to a sizzled Truex.
“It don’t help,” Truex exclaimed. “What do I get out of it? I don’t run over people all the time. I don’t pull out in front of people during qualifying. Race me like I race you is all I ask.”
Well before the last laps of the race, there were several other incidents resulting in lots of carnage and hot tempers. The race was red flagged twice for almost a combined half-hour. About halfway into the race, the first red flag came out when Ricky Stenhouse careened into the wall and collected Gregg Biffle and Jimmy Johnson, ending their day. The second red flag came out with seven laps to go, involving seven cars.
Following Hamlin across the finish line was Joey Logano, Keselowski, A.J. Allmendinger, and Tony Stewart.