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MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Denny Hamlin, driver of the No.11 FedEx Toyota, withstood a hard charging Team Penske duo to win the STP500 at Martinsville Speedway, securing himself a spot in the chase and bringing Toyota back to victory lane after a nearly year-long drought.
Leading 91 laps, Hamlin took the lead with 27 circuits left. He did, however, look back. Over the last ten laps, Keselowski went to beating and banging on Hamlin’s back bumper.
Keselowski’s efforts weren’t enough. Hamlin took his fifth victory – his first since 2010 – at NASCAR’s shortest venue.
“I did everything I could other than wreck him …” said Keselowski. “I hit him pretty good a couple times, so he did a good job.”
Keselowski, who is already locked into the chase, said he didn’t know if he took the high road or if he was just racing.
“…Morals in racing are pretty subjective. I just felt like I raced him the way I wanted to be raced. I guess that is what it is.”
Hamlin credited his ability to hold off Keselowski to “just great race cars and (being a) part of a great organization.”
“We just weren’t going to be denied today and hats off to Brad (Keselowski). He had an option and he took the latter– thank him for that.”
Joey Logano finished third to round out Team Penske’s dash to the front.
Logano qualified and won the pole for both the Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series events. After winning the Kroger250 in the No.29 Brad Keselowski Racing truck on Saturday, Logano came two positions shy of a perfect weekend at Martinsville Speedway.
Despite leading 109 of the event’s 500 laps, Logano didn’t think he could have won. “Our car just wasn’t as fast as those guys.”
“We didn’t have enough long run speed. I could hang with him a little bit, but it takes everything I’ve got to go their speed and my stuff just wears out on that last run.”
Making his first start in the Sprint Cup Series, Chase Elliot, son of NASCAR hall of famer Bill Elliot, was reserved to a finish of 38th after he crumbled his front bumper during an early race incident.
Martinsville’s half-mile of mayhem took a more potent victim, Kevin Harvick’s streak of finishing second.
Second only to Richard Petty’s 1975 streak of 15 straight top two finishes, Harvick ended his eight race streak with an eighth place finish in the STP500.
Ironically, the last race Harvick failed to finish in the top two came at Martinsville Speedway last October.
While one record was set in stone, two others were given more fuel to burn their fire.
Danica Patrick finished seventh in her No.10 TaxAct Chevrolet. Tying her second best career finish in the Sprint Cup Series, she also became the highest finishing female competitor in Martinsville Speedway history.
Posting her fifth career top-10, Patrick is now tied with Janet Guthrie for the most top ten finishes by a female in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Race-winner Hamlin also matched a historic record with Sunday’s victory. At 25 premier series wins, Hamlin is now tied with NASCAR hall of famer Joe Weatherly for the most victories by a Virginia native.
Both Hamlin and Patrick are expected to easily break their respective ties and solidify themselves in NASCAR’s history book.
Their quest for greatness will be placed on hold as NASCAR’s top three series’ will be taking Easter weekend off.
On April 25, the Sprint Cup Series will return to Virginia for the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway.