RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — If there’s one thing Denny Hamlin could change, he maybe wouldn’t have been so forthcoming about Richmond International Racing in all those Joe Gibbs Racing team meetings.
But holding out information about his home track would make Hamlin a bad teammate, so he shared everything he knew.
Then Kyle Busch used those tips to beat his teammate Saturday night at Richmond, denying Hamlin a weekend sweep at his home track.
“I learned from Denny last fall, and I’m not going to say what I learned,” Busch said after stretching his final tank of gas 107 laps to pick up his second win of the Sprint Cup season.
It was Busch’s third consecutive win in Richmond’s spring race. Hamlin has won the last two fall races, and the last non-JGR driver to win at Richmond was Jimmie Johnson in September, 2008.
So it was no surprise to see Busch and Hamlin finish first and second for a JGR sweep Saturday night. Hamlin just wished it had been him out front.
“It’s tough when you share notebooks. You know those guys got exactly what you got,” Hamlin said. “Just got beat by my teammate. He drove a great race. I thought he would burn his stuff up. Our cars were dead equal.”
Hamlin, in an early season slump, really needed the strong finish to snap the funk that’s had many wondering if last year’s championship runner-up will challenge for the title again. He got off to a great start by winning his charity race Thursday night at RIR, and followed it with a victory in Friday night’s Nationwide Series race.
And while he sat back in the closing laps, waiting to pounce should Busch’s tank run dry, he never regretted giving Busch the information that ultimately beat Hamlin.
“If I don’t tell him the things I know on short tracks, the crew chiefs don’t relay information, it’s not a good team,” he said. “Yeah, it might cost me a race here or there because he out runs me. In the grand scheme of things, it makes me an overall better driver.”
Kasey Kahne, fresh off surgery to repair a torn ligament in his knee, finished a season-best third to give Toyota the top three spots.
“We weren’t quite good enough as the Gibbs cars, they were really good tonight,” Kahne said. “But it’s still a good run. The guys did a good job and it’s nice to get a top-five.”
The leaders seemed to have an easy go of it, with most of the fireworks coming far behind them in the field.
Roush Fenway Racing drivers David Ragan and Carl Edwards finished fourth and fifth in Fords, while Clint Bowyer was sixth in a Chevrolet. AJ Allmendinger was seventh and was followed by Johnson, Tony Stewart and Brian Vickers.
But Stewart, despite his top-10 finish, was less than pleased with the performance.
“We have a lot of work to do,” he said. “We (stink) right now. I am embarrassed about how bad our stuff is.”
That was par for the course Saturday night.
Ryan Newman and Juan Pablo Montoya were involved in two different on-track incidents. The first caused Montoya, the pole-sitter, to brush the wall. His stop to repair the damage dropped him three laps off the pace. He later ran into the back of Newman when Newman was running eighth, and Newman vowed his payback would come after the race.
There was no confrontation, though. Montoya hopped on a waiting golf cart and headed out of the track, while Newman walked to the NASCAR hauler to complain about Montoya’s driving. What kind of action did he want from NASCAR?
“Just fair, I guess. I don’t know that you can have that,” he said. “To retaliate the way he did just didn’t show much class.”
There’s been some history between the two, including contact that led to a fiery crash for Montoya in his 2006 Cup debut at Homestead. Newman got a dig in when asked if he thought Montoya’s still mad about that accident.
“Yeah, I don’t know if he could even remember back that far,” he said.
Meanwhile, Kurt Busch completely lost his composure on his team radio several times during the race. Frustrated by an ill-handling car, he was pushed over the edge when he ran into Newman seconds after contact between Newman and Montoya brought out the caution.
And Martin Truex Jr., in position for a top-five finish, threatened over his team radio to fire his entire crew when he was penalized twice on his final pit stop.
All that action made the actual finish fairly uneventful, and both Hamlin and Kahne shared a knowing smirk during the post-race news conference about all the in-race excitement.
“I watch the screen … every time Montoya has damage, you see who did it, they usually end up getting wrecked,” Hamlin said. “You usually know that’s coming.”
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.
The Associated Press