Denny Hamlin won Sunday's Tums Fast Relief 500, race six in the 10-race Chase to the Sprint Cup, ahead of Mark Martin, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson at Martinsville, Virginia.
Hamlin was able to take a car that had mysterious problems early in the race to the front on the 5.26-mile oval at Martinsville Speedway and hold off a fast-charging Martin, who overcame a crash that should have relegated him to a dismal finish.
The tricky track known as the paperclip once again challenged the 43-car field and produced exciting bumping and banging.
All top five finishers expressed their thoughts before the green flag, as well as after the checkers for race 32-of-36 in the long but fast NASCAR season.
Denny Hamlin (No.18 Toyota) Finished first
“I feel like I am within striking distance,” Hamlin said. “Talladega is such a wildcard in the sense that it can go 100 points one way or another. But unless we go out there and lead the most laps and Jimmie has a struggle in Martinsville, that's probably not going to happen.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever closed that well - ever,” Hamlin said. “We kept working. We did not have a race-winning car all day until the very end. This is unbelievable. I had already counted how many points I was going to be behind after this race.
“We kept fighting, kept digging, kept making up spots throughout the day and just had the best car at the end. I just can’t say enough for everyone who put all the work in to get this done. This is a come-from-behind victory.”
Mark Martin (No. 5 Chevrolet) Finished second
"Martinsville was one of our more spectacular races this season,” Martin said.
“It's exciting any time you can get a new sponsor. I like the way they brought the fans into it and let them put their eBay usernames on the car. I've never driven a car with fans' names on it before. The fans have really stuck by us this year and this is a good way to say 'Thanks.' I'd like to get them all in Victory Lane Sunday."
“Gosh, that was so much fun!” Martin said. “I thought this was going to be the longest day of my life. We were two laps down and to be honest we were going to be 28th. So, boy; what an incredible race car, man! Another 20 laps and we could have caught him.”
Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Chevrolet) Finished third
“When it comes to thinking about being or not being aggressive because it is in the Chase, in my mind, nine times out of 10, the aggressor comes out up top,” Harvick said. “So, I’ll take that 10 percent chance of making a mistake and having things happen.”
“We kept the No. 48 behind us and the No. 11 in sight and what everybody said was a two-horse race and we were right there in the middle of it,” Harvick said. “So, it's a lot of fun. Right now we've got four more weeks. I'm looking forward to Talladega and just racing hard."
Kyle Busch (No.18 Toyota) Finished fourth
“You want to drive into the corner one foot deeper than that other guy. You want to step on the gas one foot sooner than that other guy, and you want to roll a half-mile-an-hour better than that other guy,” Busch said. “That’s why it’s so finicky and so hard there because everybody runs so tight that, any little thing you can find, it can help a lot.”
“That was just a good way to run here at Martinsville – one of these places that I struggle at tremendously,” Busch said. “To come out of here with a fourth-place finish – I can finish fourth here – I’ve done that maybe two or three times, but any higher than that, I’m struggling for it.”
Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet) Finished fifth
“You have more control over your car at Martinsville than at any of the other tracks on a double-file restart,” Johnson said. “We’ll see. Who I wouldn’t want next to me? Man, I guess whoever would be second in points.”
“It was a good day,” Johnson said. “It was a solid performance; something we can't be disappointed in. I wish we were a little better but there is a lot of racing left."
FYI WIRZ is the swift presentation of pertinent motorsports topics compiled and condensed by Dwight Drum @ Racetake.com. Quotes provided by NASCAR and Sprint Cup team media.
Photo credit: Dwight Drum @ Racetake.com.