Following a wild finish with, not one, but two Big Ones in the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway, Denny Hamlin pulled out a huge win after emerging from the wreckage to drive to Victory Lane.
Hamlin took the white flag and won the race under caution, as Justin Allgaier's bumper was left near the finish line.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver was ecstatic to get his first restrictor-plate win at Talladega, a track where he hasn't experienced a lot of success. While he's won multiple exhibition races, he hasn't taken the checkered flag in a points race, as Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press and Nate Ryan of USA Today point out:
Hamlin gave out a sigh before he spoke. "Superspeedway win. With points! With points!"— Jenna Fryer (@JennaFryer) May 4, 2014
It's the first restrictor-plate points victory for Denny Hamlin, who has won multiple times in exhibitions/qualifiers at Daytona. #nascar— Nate Ryan (@nateryan) May 4, 2014
Some of the most notable drivers on the Sprint Cup circuit were caught up in the huge wrecks throughout the race.
Both Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon were caught up in accidents, while Brad Keselowski was likely the cause of two different wrecks. Johnson spoke about his mishap from the garage, per Fryer:
"It just turned around on me. I hadn't been loose ... the back just slowly slid out on me," Johnson said.— Jenna Fryer (@JennaFryer) May 4, 2014
Joey Logano, who won in Richmond and is one of just two drivers with multiple wins this season, was involved in the wreck after Johnson got loose. With a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup solidified, Logano didn't have the same pressure coming into the race as Johnson or Gordon.
Logano knew going into the famed Alabama track that huge accidents come with the territory, per Jeff Gluck of USA Today:
Joey Logano tells MRN: "It's Talladega. You're coming to this race almost expecting something like that to happen."— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) May 4, 2014
With 10 races now out of the way in the Sprint Cup season, here's a look at the current standings and remaining schedule before the Chase gets underway.
|4||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||328||-19|
|Sat, May 10||Kansas 400||Kansas Speedway||7:30 p.m.||Fox|
|Fri, May 16||Sprint Showdown||Charlotte Motor Speedway||7 p.m.||Fox Sports 1|
|Sat, May 17||NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race||Charlotte Motor Speedway||9 p.m.||Fox Sports 1|
|Sun, May 25||Coca-Cola 600||Charlotte Motor Speedway||6 p.m.||Fox|
|Sun, June 1||FedEx 400||Dover International Speedway||1 p.m.||Fox|
|Sun, June 8||Pocono 400||Pocono Raceway||1 p.m.||TNT|
|Sun, June 15||Quicken Loans 400||Michigan International Speedway||1 p.m.||TNT|
|Sun, June 22||Toyota-Save Mart 350||Sonoma||3 p.m.||TNT|
|Sat, June 28||Quaker State 400||Kentucky Speedway||7:30 p.m.||TNT|
|Sat, July 5||Coke Zero 400||Daytona International Speedway||7:30 p.m.||TNT|
|Sun, July 13||Camping World RV Sales 301||New Hampshire Motor Speedway||1 p.m.||TNT|
|Sun, July 27||Crown Royal 400||Indianapolis Motor Speedway||1 p.m.||ESPN|
|Sun, Aug. 3||GoBowling.com 400||Pocono Raceway||1 p.m.||ESPN|
|Sun, Aug. 10||Cheez-It 355 at The Glen||Watkins Glen International||1 p.m.||ESPN|
|Sun, Aug. 17||Pure Michigan 400||Michigan International Speedway||1 p.m.||ESPN|
|Sat, Aug. 23||Irwin Tools Night Race||Bristol Motor Speedway||7:30 p.m.||ABC|
|Sun, Aug. 31||AdvoCare 500||Atlanta Motor Speedway||7:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|Sat, Sept. 6||Federated Auto Parts 400||Richmond International Raceway||7:30 p.m.||ABC|
Next Race: Kansas 400 at Kansas Speedway
Which driver will win in Kansas?
After a restrictor-plate race on a superspeedway, the Sprint Cup circuit will now move on to the latest 1.5-mile track in Kansas Speedway for the Kansas 400.
While Talladega Superspeedway is one of the most notable tracks in NASCAR, the Sprint Cup series will be running just the 17th race at Kansas. It may not have a lot of history, but Kansas has a very familiar list of dominant drivers.
Gordon, Matt Kenseth and Johnson may all still be in search of their first win, but have thoroughly controlled Kansas in their careers. With just 11 different winners at the track in Sprint Cup history, all three have two wins and at least six top-five finishes individually.
Getting caught up in the Big One at Talladega hampered the No. 24 car in the standings, but he's put together a great year on the track. Gordon spoke about his consistency thus far this season, per Brant James of ESPN.com:
As good as we're running, I definitely feel like we can win races just about anywhere that we go, and if we continue to perform like this, we are going to win. That's how you win.
There's sometimes when you just pick the right pit strategy. There's other times you get a good restart, and then there's times when you just go and outrun them. I'll take outrunning them more times than any because I think that's when the multiple wins are going to come.
Putting a clear emphasis on winning, Gordon and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Johnson will have to fend off Kenseth and Kevin Harvick, winners of the last two races in Kansas.
With Kenseth and Johnson running well all season at 1.5-mile tracks, both drivers will look to do the same at the Kansas 400. But in a year where wins are more important than ever, both will be duking it out yet again for the checkered flag.
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