Hamlin Wins First Race of Sprint Cup Season
Denny Hamlin must know himself, his team and his car pretty well or maybe he just decided that he was going to win one for his grandmother who passed away recently. Either way, he successfully predicted on Friday that he would win Monday’s rain delayed Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway and he was as good as his word. His win was a struggle throughout the 500 miles but he managed to keep his car in sixth position and in one piece until he was able to make his move with 13 laps remaining. Hamlin had his best race of the year, he was in front for a race-high 91 laps on the way to his first Sprint Cup Series victory of the 2009 season and this win ended a 50-race drought. He and his team must be breathing a little easier today after finally getting the job done, but now they’ll be expected to repeat the performance, which will probably be even harder.
Hamlin managed to beat Juan Montoya to the line by only 0.869 seconds in a race in which he struggled at times to keep his emotions under control. Something seemed to take control of his car with just 13 laps remaining and he drove with complete control and calm as he made his way to this victory. It could be the spirit of his grandmother guiding him, his undying desire and inability to give up, or will power that gave him the ability to win on this day of days. It really doesn’t matter after the fact, but in the end it’s nice to think he might have been guided a little by the spirit of his grandmother. We all have lost loved ones and many in so doing were able to lift themselves to greater efforts and accomplishments and this is an amazing way to pay respect to those you miss.
Hamlin and his car were the ones to beat all day despite his difficulties. This is his first victory since Martinsville in March 2008 and one that he really needed to strengthen his position for the race for the Championship. Clint Bowyer was passed by Montoya on Lap 192 but held on for third. Sam Hornish Jr. was fourth, Kasey Kahne finished fifth, while Brian Vickers, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart rounded out the top ten in the Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500.
“Image: Zuma Press”