TALLADEGA, Ala. – Denny Hamlin is quick to say superspeedways aren’t his forte. Short-track racing is his history and his specialty.
But he also thinks his victory in Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway was due, if only because fate robbed him of an opportunity weeks ago in California.
A piece of metal, lodged in one of his eyes, wasn’t diagnosed in time for him to drive that day. Hamlin felt he had a great car in California. He had a good car Sunday, and was in the right spot to benefit from a late caution.
The yellow flag came out on the last lap after a piece of Justin Allgaier’s car came loose in a crash. Since Hamlin had already taken the white flag, he was declared the winner as soon as the yellow came out.
Greg Biffle of Vancouver, Wash., was the runner-up and Kasey Kahne of Enumclaw finished eighth of 43.
This was Hamlin’s 24th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory but his first at Talladega or Daytona, where restrictor-plate racing is a different challenge.
Hamlin said he has learned from past mistakes.
“I drive superspeedway races a lot differently that I used to,” he said. “I’m not the guy always making the move. I kind of stay in line and be patient.”
In the drafting environment of restrictor-plate racing, attempting a pass too soon on the leader becomes self-defeating because a car can get by itself and lose speed dramatically. That was the calculation Biffle was making near the end, but the yellow flag made it all moot.
“I looked in the mirror and saw smoke (from the Allgaier accident) behind me. I could have made my move then,” Biffle said. “But I didn’t want to pass too early.
“I’d have been a lone soldier and ended up 15th. I wish I’d known we weren’t going to race all the way back (to the finish line), but it was a good day for us.”
Biffle is eighth in the Sprint Cup standings.