Hamlin Darts to the Lead Winning Cheez-It 355
Sunday’s finish in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Cheez-It 355 at the Glen played out like shuffled playing cards with a new leader drawn from the deck trumping the field around every corner and the chaos didn’t stop even after this raucous race.
The lead was still up in the air coming around the final turn when unlikely road racer and leader, Denny Hamlin claimed his first counter-clockwise win at the newly repaved Watkins Glen International. Going into the last two turns, Martin Truex, Jr. was mounting a charge to go after Hamlin before Brad Keselowski clipped his rear bumper sending him spinning into the turn seven wall. That’s when fourth place runner, Joey Logano pounced on their slowed momentum capturing second at the checkers with Keselowski rolling in third.
To make matters worse for Hamlin, he was suffering intense back pain the whole day, hobbling out of his car very gingerly to walk to victory lane after literally blowing out both rear tires in his post race burnout leaving his car on the track.
“I just woke up with back spasms this morning,” said the Daytona 500 champion. “(It) just hits me every three or four months or so. I just wake up and can’t move. Really doubted being in the race car today, to be honest with you, but can’t say enough about this whole FedEx Freight Toyota team.
“Should’ve won both road courses (Hamlin was second to Stewart at Sonoma), which is something we never would’ve predicted going into the year. Sold out crowd, two years in a row, this is a good time. I’ve finally won at all of the (types of) race tracks, so it’s a great accomplishment for us.”
Keselowski accepted full responsibility for the accident with Truex feeling awful, but afterwards, the No. 78 driver showed his displeasure banging fenders along with a few hand gestures directed at the Miller Lite machine’s driver to emphasize his point. Truex finished seventh.
“I got right up to the bumper of the 78 (Truex) and couldn’t do anything there, and he made a move to get by the 11 (Hamlin) on the inside, and the 11 blocked him,” Keselowski said. “I went high, and the 78 went high and by then I was already deep in the corner and got in and turned him. That was really unfortunate, and the last thing I wanted to see:
“This track here, when you drive into the corner, you commit, and sometimes you don’t know what will happen when you commit. It was another crazy Watkins Glen day.”
Truex took it all in stride and after his string of bad luck, it’s almost as if he had a premonition of something would happen.
“He (Keselowski) said it was his fault. I knew that,” said Truex, sheepishly. “Simple as that. It’s all good. It’s just good, hard racing. I just wanted him to know I wasn’t happy after the race.”
The top five finishers were Hamlin, Logano, Keselowski with A.J. Allmendinger and Tony Stewart completing the front pack.
The Chris Buescher watch to make the Chase is on after getting tangled up in a late race accident finishing 30th with David Regan, also in the same accident, is now just three points ahead of Buscher for the coveted No. 30 position in the NASCAR Sprint Cup driver’s standings.
Jeff Gordon substituting for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. scored a 14th place finish in his 800 start in a career dating back to November of 1992 in Atlanta.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup teams now take next weekend off and the schedule resumes on Saturday night, August 20, for the running of the Pro Bass Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Speedy Logano Rules in Xfinity Zippo 200 at the Glen
The Roger Penske No. 12 Ford Mustang team driven by Joey Logano used a strong pit strategy of quick stops, staying out front to avoid the numerous cautions, and a very fast car to score his 26th NASCAR Xfinity Series victory in the Zippo 200 at the Glen at Watkins Glen International.
It was clearly Logano’s show leading from the pole for 67 of the 82 laps followed by his teammate Brad Keselowski, who was in close pursuit until he broke a rear track bar retiring three laps from the finish earning a 24th-place finish.
“Brad gave me a run for my money, that’s for sure,” said Logano, winning for the second consecutive year. “He was just as fast as me, maybe faster. I never ran so many qualifying laps inside the car. I was running as hard as I possibly could, and I wasn’t sure if my car would last, running that hard, but she held together just long enough.”
Many multi-car crashes slowed the early pace with perennial favorite Kyle Busch being one of the casualties; ironically, on lap 18, avoiding other spinning cars was caught up in the melee bringing out the red flag for a 20-minute cleanup.
After the winner, Logano, it was Paul Menard, Kyle Larson, Daniel Suarez and Trevor Bayne rounding out the top five.
In one for the NASCAR ages, Derrike Cope driver of the 70 Chevrolet slowed down in the bus stop runoff area when suddenly a loud explosion rocked his car lifting the hood off its hinges sending a billow of black smoke blasting skyward. Cope was checked out and released, but was baffled about the cause of the blast.
The road course racing continues for the NASCAR Xfinity series as the tour heads to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course next Saturday for the running of the Mid-Ohio 200 airing on USA Network.