Late Caution Helps Hamlin Win at Atlanta

Hamlin celebrates a win at Atlanta
Photo – Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

By Jason Schultz

Denny Hamlin brought home his second straight win Sunday Night in Atlanta after holding off Jeff Gordon in the final laps.  

Until the final caution flew with six laps to go, it looked like Martin Truex Jr was going to take home the win. After the pit stops during that caution, Denny Hamlin had become the new leader after beating Truex Jr off pit road. This is Hamlin’s fourth victory of the season and his second straight. After a rough early summer, Hamlin found his way back to victory lane in Bristol last week and again in Atlanta Sunday Night.  

With only one race until the Chase begins, Hamlin is on a hot streak and he could be on that hot streak all the way to Homestead-Miami. Hamlin is proving he will be a fierce competitor for the title come Chase time.  

Pole-sitter Tony Stewart led the first ten laps before being passed by wild card contender Jeff Gordon for the lead. Gordon couldn’t hold the lead long and another wild card contender Kyle Busch took the lead on lap 16. Hamlin took the lead for the first time on lap 35 when he passed his teammate Kyle Busch.  

The first caution came out on lap 39 when Aric Almirola had smoke coming out the rear of his car and he left fluid on the track. When the leaders pitted under the caution, Kyle Busch beat Hamlin off pit road to take the lead once again. After Busch led a good amount of laps, Hamlin regained the lead on lap 81.  

The first round of green-flag pit stops began on lap 83 and Kyle Busch regained the lead after his stop on pit road. Swapping of the lead between Kyle Busch and Hamlin continued until Hamlin passed Busch on lap 89.  

The second caution came out on lap 130 for debris on the backstretch. On the restart, Kevin Harvick passed Hamlin and took the lead for the first time of the night.  

On lap 218 more green-flag pit stops began.  

Juan Pablo Montoya brought out the caution with 84 laps to go when he got into the turn three wall. Hamlin was back to the lead on the restart.  

With 61 laps to go, wild card contender Carl Edwards saw his chances of making the Chase blow out the back of his car when his engine let go. This is Edwards first DNF – Did Not Finish – since October 2009. Edwards needs a miracle to make the Chase, however, there’s a slight chance to get in, if he wins next week at Richmond – depending on where the other wild card competitors finish. Edwards said after the incident that “(We’re) going to Richmond where anything can happen.”  

On the restart the yellow flag came out quickly when five-time champion Jimmie Johnson was turned into the backstretch wall. Johnson was squeezing Sam Hornish Jr up into Ryan Newman and when Johnson tried to slide up in front of Hornish Jr, Johnson got turned into the wall.  

The incident also collected wild card contender Ryan Newman who had no place to go. This is Newman’s second straight week with a wreck after getting hit from behind and turned into the wall last week at Bristol. Newman’s hopes of making the Chase are also slim, but if Newman wins next week at Richmond, he can  make the Chase.  

With 49 laps to go, Martin Truex Jr took the lead from Denny Hamlin. Truex Jr is looking for his first Sprint Cup win since Dover in 2007. If the race stayed green to the end, Truex Jr would be the one in victory lane. But with six laps to go, Jamie McMurray blew a tire and hit the frontstretch wall to bring out a caution. This caution changed everything, with the leaders going to pit road, there will be a green-white-checker finish.  

Hamlin beat Truex Jr off pit road to take the lead. Truex Jr spun his tires on the restart and he couldn’t keep up with Hamlin. Jeff Gordon took over second place and was right behind Hamlin. Gordon needs a win to get the second wild card spot.  

After taking the white flag, Gordon was still right on Hamlin’s bumper. Going into turn three Gordon tried to go low, but Hamlin was too strong on the outside and crossed the finish line first for the second straight week. Gordon said after the race that “I should of run into the back of him going into (turn) three.”  

Hamlin celebrated in Atlanta Motor Speedway’s victory lane for the first time. After the race, Hamlin said that his “Pit crew won me the race.” Hamlin also said that going into the Chase, ”Wins are all that matters.” Hamlin now has the most wins of the season and he is looking at the top spot in the Chase.  

The wild card standings are unchanged since no wild card contender won the race. Kasey Kahne still has the first wild card spot and Kyle Busch still has the second.  

After Atlanta, all the current drivers in the top-ten will get into the Chase competition. However, at this point, only eight will get to use their wins as bonus points going into the Chase – Harvick and Truex Jr have zero wins for the season.  

Tony Stewart, currently in tenth-place, will be in the Chase one way or another. If Stewart runs well next week, he will get in as the driver tenth in points and get to use those three wins as bonus points and a better staring position when the Chase begins at Chicagoland. But if Stewart has a bad week and falls out of the tenth position in points, he will have the first wild card entry and will not get bonus points for his three wins – he would start the chase in 11th place.  

Drivers Marcos Ambrose, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon will need to win at Richmond to get into the Chase as the #2 wild card entry. A wild week is in store at Richmond next Saturday Night and with so many different scenarios of how this and that driver can get into the Chase, it’ll be a crazy night.

Results and Point Standings via NASCAR.com

FIN

ST

CAR

SPONSOR

STATUS

1

7

11

Toyota

Sport Clips

48/5

327

Running

2

5

24

Chevrolet

DuPont

43/1

327

Running

3

21

2

Dodge

Miller Lite

41/0

327

Running

4

28

56

Toyota

NAPA Shocks

41/1

327

Running

5

24

29

Chevrolet

Rheem

40/1

327

Running

6

3

18

Toyota

Wrigley’s Doublemint

39/1

327

Running

7

35

88

Chevrolet

National Guard / DietMountain Dew

37/0

327

Running

8

18

27

Chevrolet

Quaker State / Menards

36/0

327

Running

9

4

17

Ford

Ford EcoBoost

35/0

327

Running

10

6

55

Toyota

Aaron’s Dream Machine

34/0

327

Running

11

15

22

Dodge

Shell / Pennzoil

0

327

Running

12

26

31

Chevrolet

Caterpillar

32/0

327

Running

13

16

51

Chevrolet

HendrickCars.com

31/0

327

Running

14

27

78

Chevrolet

Furniture Row / Farm American

30/0

327

Running

15

2

16

Ford

3M / Manheim Auctions

30/1

327

Running

16

32

21

Ford

Good Sam Club / Camping World

0

327

Running

17

10

9

Ford

DEWALT

27/0

327

Running

18

9

20

Toyota

The Home Depot

26/0

327

Running

19

25

47

Toyota

Kingsford

25/0

327

Running

20

40

83

Toyota

Burger King

24/0

327

Running

21

33

42

Chevrolet

Target

23/0

327

Running

22

1

14

Chevrolet

Office Depot / Mobil 1

23/1

327

Running

23

11

5

Chevrolet

HendrickCars.com

21/0

325

Running

24

20

1

Chevrolet

Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Boats

20/0

325

Running

25

22

36

Chevrolet

Tommy Baldwin Racing

19/0

324

Running

26

41

93

Toyota

Dr Pepper / Burger King

18/0

324

Running

27

30

15

Toyota

5-hour Energy

17/0

324

Running

28

14

34

Ford

Glory Foods

16/0

323

Running

29

23

10

Chevrolet

GoDaddy.com

0

321

Running

30

42

32

Ford

Greensmoke

0

319

Running

31

29

38

Ford

House / Autry

13/0

298

Running

32

13

43

Ford

AdvoCare

12/0

297

Running

33

19

13

Ford

11/0

291

Engine

34

8

48

Chevrolet

Lowe’s / Kobalt Tools

10/0

269

Accident

35

17

39

Chevrolet

Army Medicine

9/0

268

Accident

36

12

99

Ford

Subway

8/0

264

Engine

37

36

195

Ford

Jordan Truck Sales

7/0

196

Susp.

38

34

249

Toyota

Robinson-Blak-
eney Racing

0

77

Vibration

39

31

30

Toyota

Inception Motorsports

5/0

54

Susp.

40

39

23

Chevrolet

North Texas Pipe

4/0

43

Vibration

41

43

37

Chevrolet

MaxQworkforce
.com

3/0

32

Brakes

42

38

191

Chevrolet

Plinker Tactical

0

24

Overheating

43

37

87

Toyota

AM / FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves

0

22

Rear Gear

 

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