Denny Hamlin Wins AAA Texas 500: Fighting, Pit-Crew Swaps and Tempers

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Denny Hamlin Wins AAA Texas 500: Fighting, Pit-Crew Swaps and Tempers
John Harrelson/Getty Images

Denny Hamlin took the lead with 29 laps to go, held Matt Kenseth off on a last race restart and took the win in the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

"What a run!" Hamlin said in victory lane. "Just can't say enough for this whole FedEx team. I told everyone that I'd wait for three to go, and I felt that was the most aggressive I've been on a restart all year."

Hamlin worked his way through the field after starting 30th.

"At the beginning of the race, we're struggling, we're running 25th," Hamlin said. "Every stop, we kept working on it, adjusting it and finally when night fell, we were ready to go. This is why I told everybody not to read into qualifying and practice times as we know what kind of car we need."

Matt Kenseth finished second, after almost going into the wall during the final run.

"Denny was getting all the air off of me, like he should, and when I got back to the gas, I just got such a run and had to let off." Kenseth said after the race.

With the win, Hamlin leads the championship standings by 33 points over Jimmie Johnson, who finished ninth.

"It was just a long day," Johnson said. "We just gave away so much track position at the beginning and it was tough to get back to where we needed to.

"On the restart, it was the 16 spinning the tires on the restart and all those guys who took tires behind us."

"It was pretty rough day for sure," crew chief Chad Knaus said. "We lost the track position and when you get back there, you don't know how you should tune on the car."

The race was an eventful one for the No. 48 team. It even included a pit-crew swap.

Out of the first seven stops of the day, the No. 48 team lost spots on four of them, costing their driver valuable time. Once teammate Jeff Gordon was wrecked out of the race, Hendrick officials decided to use Gordon's pit crew.

"Ultimately, it was my decision to make the decision as we were getting beat," Knaus said. "I hope we get back with the 48 guys and get things back on track."

"I'm okay with it," front tire changer Mike Lingerfelt said. "We're all team players."

Johnson said that despite everything, don't count his crew out.

"I've lost plenty of championships in the past," he said. "You're not going to get everything you want every weekend. I can promise you this--33 back is not where we want to be, but we're going to work hard on getting it back."

Harvick finished the race in sixth and now sits 59 points behind Hamlin.

 

Fighting: Jeff Burton vs. Jeff Gordon

Under a caution for Martin Truex Jr. wrecking, Jeff Burton made contact with Jeff Gordon, causing them both to wreck.

“That sucker killed it," Gordon said after the contact on the radio. "What the hell? He’s the one being a dumb###.’’

Gordon was angry about the whole event and proceeded to get out of his car and throws some punches at Burton.

The events on track led to some interesting commentary on both Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson's radios.

Harvick's Spotter Bill O'Dea: "Now they're fighting."
Harvick: "For real?"
Harvick's Crew Chief Gil Martin: "For real fighting."
Harvick: "Cant be for real. Gotta be a show!"
Richard Childress: "Oh yeah, they were swinging and pushing."

Knaus: "Man, Jeff Gordon just knocked the shit out of Jeff Burton."
Johnson: "Punched him?"
Knaus: "Big time."

For Gordon, the entire trickle of events leads back to the previous green flag lap before the caution.

"He went wide going into turn three, I went underneath him," Gordon said after the incident. "There were three car lengths between us and he came right down to me and got into me.

"Under caution, I went up to him to tell him what I thought; I never even touched him. He just drove into my right rear and put me into the wall under caution. Out of all the people, I never would have thought that Jeff Burton would do something like that. I had a lot of respect for him and now I've lost a lot of respect.

"I was walking toward him, and I started going through all the scenarios in my mind. Thankfully, I had a long walk down there to him, because I did about the least amount I wanted to do. I wanted to show him how upset I was, but I wanted to do a whole lot more than that. I held back.

"I'm just still in disbelief. I like Jeff. Usually he's a guy that's very rational and I respect his opinion. He apologized. It's over."

Burton said he didn't mean to get into Gordon, as he wanted to tell him he was right to be mad.

"Well, we came off turn four and he drove underneath me and when he drove underneath me, I should've let him go," Burton said. "He pulled up next to me to tell me he was upset with me. Then I went to pull up next to him to acknowledge him, to say he was right. I turned left, and he was turning left, and we just hung up. And when we hung up, off we went. I honestly don't know what happened.

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

"One hundred percent, it was my fault. It was definitely my fault. We got together, I couldn't get off of him. I didn't mean to hit him, I meant to pull up next to him and tell him he was right."

Burton also said that he's not mad at Gordon for wanting to say a few words.

"I knew he was going to be mad, and I don't blame him for being mad," Burton said. "He didn't do anything he shouldn't have done. He was upset, and he should have been upset. I wrecked him under caution – I didn't mean to wreck him, but I wrecked him under caution – and he meant to tell me he was upset. That's OK. I don't have a bit of problem with what he did. He was mad, and he should have been mad."

 

Kyle Busch Gets Mad at the Officials

Under caution, Busch sped off pit road to try to beat the pace car and stay on the lead lap. He caught up, but NASCAR penalized him one lap for speeding.

Busch then went on a rant on the radio against NASCAR and showed the officials the middle finger on pit road, which incurred a penalty of two laps for driver misconduct.

"I'm the only one who will stand up to 'em, and they're gonna show me how far I can stand up," Busch said on the radio after the penalty. He then added that it was freedom of speech, going against the constitutional rights of everybody.

Busch, in case you haven't read the Constitution, it only protects freedom of speech against the government.

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