AAA Texas 500 Winners and Losers
#11-Denny Hamlin won the AAA 500 Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway for his 8th win of 2010 and the 16th win of his career, with the win Hamlin takes the points lead.
Columnist Kyle Lavigne checks in with his weekly Winners/Losers column from the great state of Texas. Who really won and who really lost in Texas? Read more to find out!
Denny Hamlin: If you’re going to win the 2010 title, you’ll have to go through Hamlin to do it. He wasn’t fast early, or even during the middle of the race, but he was the best when it mattered. And, he had to fend off a charging Matt Kenseth in the waning laps, so he couldn’t simply cruise home to the victory at the end. It was a hard-fought battle throughout the entire day and now he’s in the cat-bird seat for the final two races. Plus, Hamlin is the defending winner at Homestead, the final race of the season. One of those three point leaders was going to have to assert himself in this race; Hamlin seized the opportunity and has all the momentum on his side.
Kevin Harvick: For the second straight week, Harvick went into “damage control” mode at the end of the race, this time after bouncing off the turn four wall and pancaking the right side of Pennzoil Chevrolet. It looked like he would lucky to salvage a top ten at the end of day, yet a late-race caution allowed them to change tires, adjust the car, and put him in a position to make a push back up to sixth. He did lose ground in the standings, now 59 points out of the lead, but remains within striking distance of the lead heading into Phoenix, one of his better tracks. And, so long as he has a chance, Harvick will be a factor. Remember, he is the king of coming out of nowhere to win.
Matt Kenseth: It has been a trying year for Kenseth. He did make The Chase, but he hasn’t won a race all year, and hasn’t been a true contender at all. Today, though, he showed signs of the driver who the 2003 title and contended for the 2006 title. His late-race pass of Hamlin was as aggressive a move as we’ve seen from the mild-mannered Kenseth, but he is desperately looking to win, and he nearly pulled it off. His result is all the more impressive when you consider that he nearly lost a lap early in the race with a car that wasn’t handling right. Roush Fenway Racing hasn’t been much of a factor in the last two seasons, with Kenseth’s drive today, as well as Greg Biffle’s effort to lead the most laps, they are gaining momentum heading into next season and will be tough to handle in 2011.
Trevor Bayne: When you’re making your first career Cup start, your goal is simple: run all of the laps and finish the race. Bayne did exactly that…and then finished 17th! The driver who was left on the outside looking in when Michael Waltrip couldn’t find sponsorship to run him in the 2011 Nationwide campaign went and secured a top 20 in his first ever Cup start, finishing ahead of the likes of Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt and Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton, and Martin Truex Jr. (the driver currently driving Bayne’s old Nationwide car). Quite simply, Bayne’s debut could not have gone any better, and Roush Fenway Racing might have a future stud in their stable.
Jeff Burton: He and Jeff Gordon had some sort of an encounter on track that got Gordon frustrated with Burton; according a Burton interview, a glare prevented him from seeing Gordon slide up in front of him when a caution came for Martin Truex’s third crash of the day. Gordon showed his frustration in the form of a hand gesture and Burton, who admitted to have been in the wrong, pulled up along side to apologize. What happened afterward is baffling. Burton’s car darted to the left, and hooked Gordon straight into the turn two wall, taking Burton out as well in the process. Whatever point Burton was hoping to prove, he made himself look nothing short of foolish. Gordon’s anger spilled over into a small scuffle before the two entered an ambulance, but his frustration was understandable. Burton simply hooked Gordon and crashed him out. Burton apologized afterward and said he didn’t mean to do it, but the replays simply show his car darting to the left. As believable as Burton normally is, that crash was simply uncalled for.
Jimmie Johnson’s Pit Crew: In a multi-car organization, if one team drops out, it is common to see members of that crew sprinkled in the pit crews of the other team’s cars, in case one or more cars are having issues on pit road. Rarely do you see an entire pit crew replaced; that is exactly what happened to Johnson’s team. After losing positions on four of the first seven pit stops, the Hendrick group took Gordon’s pit crew and placed them in No. 48 pit box, ousting Johnson’s normal pit crew. It illustrates how intense of a title fight we currently have, and how mistakes cannot be tolerated. Johnson’s team had a bad day and paid for it. Morale may be down in that camp, but there was little choice to be made. Johnson did finish 10th, but ultimately lost the points lead and sits 33 points behind Hamlin. The good news is that they’re heading to Phoenix, which Johnson has owned in recent memory. But, they need to regroup quickly. Their result isn’t entirely the fault of the crew, but they faltered the most, and it showed.
Martin Truex Jr.: I can hear Harry Hyde right now. “I want you to go back out there, and hit the pace car! You’ve hit every other ******* thing about there, I want you to be perfect!” Truex hit about everything out there. Three crashes, including a spin through the grass early in the race, saw him have one of the worst races of his career, if not THE worst of his career. He’ll brush it off and move on undoubtedly, but this day just wasn’t meant to be.
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