The Sprint Cup Series rolled into Richmond this weekend for another classic short track race.
Denny Hamlin started on the pole with Mark Martin alongside in second. Hamlin led the race until the first caution flag of the night came out for a blown tire by Johnny Sauter on Lap 66.
All the leaders took advantage of the caution by coming down pit road for fuel and tires. Hamlin's crew did their job by getting Denny off pit road first.
The race stayed under the green flag for awhile until a caution came out for debris on Lap 128. The leaders would once again come down pit road with Hamlin coming out first.
Hamlin continued to lead the race until a caution came out for a spin by AJ Allmendinger on Lap 204. This allowed all the leaders to pit under caution with Hamlin again leading out of the pits.
But Hamlin's perfect race had ended under that caution, because Allmendinger stayed out under the caution to lead a lap before he came to pit road for his service. So Hamlin had led every lap of the race except for that one by Allmendinger.
The race had been run relatively clean until Lap 231 when a big wreck brought havoc upon the field. The accident claimed 12 drivers, including J.J. Yeley, Kurt Busch, Patrick Carpentier, Juan Pablo Montoya, Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth, Johnny Sauter, Jimmie Johnson, David Gilliland, Michael McDowell, Regan Smith, and Sam Hornish. Some of these cars made it back out on the track with very little damage while others were not so lucky and were out of the race.
Hamlin continued to lead with green-flag pit stops coming up near the end of the race. Unfortunately, the caution came out for a crash involving Michael Waltrip and Casey Mears with just 46 laps remaining. All the leaders would come down pit road with Hamlin coming off first, Kyle Busch second, and Earnhardt Jr. third.
On the restart, Earnhardt was pressuring Busch for second place when Jamie McMurray crashed with 35 laps to go. This would set up for a great restart as Earnhardt Jr. passed Busch and was gaining on Hamlin, who had led every lap of the race except one with just 20 to go.
But unfortunately for Hamlin, he would have a tire go flat which gave the lead to Earnhardt Jr. Hamlin would ride it out until the tire finally blew. Hamlin then stopped on the race track so that he would get a caution and stay on the lead lap. NASCAR didn't take to kindly to Hamlin's actions and penalized him two laps for doing so.
This chain of events would lead to a restart with just five laps to go. Earnhardt Jr. was looking for his first win in two years but with three laps remaining, Busch spun Earnhardt while leading which gave the lead to Clint Bowyer.
Earnhardt Jr. left plenty of space for Busch on the bottom of the race track but Busch took Earnhardt out so that he could win the race in my opinion. You could clearly see that Busch moved up into the corner and spun Jr. out. Busch did the same thing the night before in the Nationwide Series race when he retaliated and knocked Steve Wallace out of the way on the last lap of the race.
I believe that Kyle Busch better start racing these boys with a little more respect because they might pull the same tricks that Busch pulls at the end of races. I'm sure that Earnhardt Jr. will pay Busch back the next time he's racing Busch.
Clint Bowyer ended up getting his first win of the season and the second of his career. The top ten were Bowyer, Busch, Martin, Stewart, Truex, Newman, Edwards, Harvick, Gordon, and Kahne. Some notable finishes include Jeff Burton in 11th, Bobby Labonte in 13th, Earnhardt Jr. in 15th, Hamlin in 24th, and Johnson in 30th position. Hamlin ended up leading 381 laps of the race before having a flat tire ruin a dominating performance. The top five in the points standings are Busch, Burton, Earnhardt Jr., Bowyer, and Harvick.
Richmond is now in the history books and we can all look forward to a great weekend of racing action in Darlington.