It looked for all the world as if Kevin Harvick was going to hold court again at Martinsville this past weekend, but Denny Hamlin and an ever changing racetrack denied him that. Denny Hamlin fought like hell and deserved the win for himself and JGR.
During the early stages of the race Kevin Harvick kept moving in and out of place within the top ten and, mostly, top five to position himself for that last 20 laps of mayhem. He is “The Closer” after all. However the race track temperatures changed throughout the day and so did the strategies of the teams.Early in the race the top groove on the famous half-mile track refused to cooperate and ‘come-in’. In other words be drivable. It was too cool and not enough rubber had been laid down. As a result it was a dogfight to hold position until that set of circumstances presented itself.
Early in the race the top groove on the famous half-mile track refused to cooperate and ‘come-in’. In other words be drivable. It was too cool and not enough rubber had been laid down. As a result it was a dogfight to hold position until that set of circumstances presented itself.
Midway through the swirling event the rubber finally had come into play and the passing began, but it wasn’t going to last.
For a solid third, if not more, the top groove of the track submitted to the rubber and was a perfect passing zone where Harvick, Gordon and Hamlin could move around with impunity. However, after what seemed like a million neck twisting turns the track turned on them.
The cool temperature had taken the rubber and balled it up into little chunks as opposed to setting it into the track. On a warmer day the rubber would have ‘married’ the track and given it grip, instead it did just the opposite causing the drivers to slowly move back down into the lower groove.
What happened then? You guessed it, the “Rubbin is Racin, the Chrome Horn or Bump and Run” came into play, so did tire strategy that helped those towards the rear such as Tony Stewart.
Hamlin almost didn’t get a shot at it due to a pit road speeding penalty he received, if it had come any later it would have played out very differently. A similar penalty later on ruined Jeff Gordon’s day.
On the last tire change everyone set up for the final 20 laps and Harvick made an uncharacteristic mistake, he moved to the outside to affect a pass and got shuffled to the middle of the field. When you try to drive in the marbles you simply can’t steer the car. No one was dumb enough to let him back in.
In the meantime at the front Brad Keselowski had methodically moved up into position and began to work on Hamlin. It didn’t look as if he would catch him, but you wouldn’t know that from watching Hamlin’s in-car camera. He was looking in the rear view mirror more than Paris Hilton before a date.
Once Keselowski sets his sights on you he’s going to get there come hell or high water and he did, on the last lap. It was actually epic thinking that Brad was going to put the bumper to him, wreck him and win, but he didn’t, wreck him that is.
He did manage to get to Hamlin’s right rear quarter panel coming to the flag and move the Toyota around a bit, but Hamlin went to take the checkered flag and gurantee himself a spot in the chase.
He has Brad Keselowski to thank for that and he did. He knew BK could have crashed him, but Keselowski knew his chase berth is all but set and decided the points were worth more.
It was a great race and a good call by Keselowski and a deserved win for Denny Hamlin who fought for it right up to the last corner of the last lap.