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Hamlin shows class in Martinsville

The most difficult and most valiant thing Denny Hamlin did Sunday came after he climbed from his #11 Toyota.

Not that anything he did was easy.

Hamlin had just spent 500 laps in his Joe Gibbs Racing Camry, most of them leading the Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway.

At 0.526 miles, Martinsville is Cup racing's shortest track. The flat, narrow, paper-clip-shaped speedway prides itself on the action it produces. Contact between racecars is routine.

After powering past Jeff Gordon for the lead on lap 156, Hamlin stayed there. All told, he led 296 laps. Jimmie Johnson beat him out of the pits for a restart on lap 434. Hamlin countered with a hold-your-breath pass for the lead on the next restart, on lap 456.

Hamlin's day went south, however, when Johnson dived underneath his JGR Toyota entering turn three on lap 485. Hamlin said he was committed to the low line at that point and forced Johnson lower. Johnson's Chevrolet bounced off the curbing at the inside of the turn and slid into Hamlin's car.

Johnson regained control, powered off the corner in the lead, and Hamlin followed in the second position. That's how the race ended 15 laps later.

Whether justified, most drivers on the short end of the outcome would have been fighting mad after an incident like that. Many drivers might have considered Johnson's move an act of aggression, worthy of a physical confrontation, or - short of that - a few choice, salty phrases.

Hamlin was close enough to feel the flutter of the chequered flag, only to have victory ripped away. To compound the disappointment, the second-place finish continued a drought that is now a year long. His last victory in the series came at Martinsville on March 30, 2008.

Hamlin is hungry, both for success and recognition. Before the season started, he told reporters he didn't want to be the most glaring example of a driver who hasn't lived up to his potential. In his fourth full season of Cup races, Hamlin already feels he has given away too many races and has fallen short in others because of circumstances beyond his control.

After the race, however, Hamlin, 28, resisted the urge to blame Johnson and addressed the incident with refreshing maturity and honesty.



Related Pictures

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Denny Hamlin leads Jeff Gordon at Martinsville   [pic credit: NASCAR/Getty]
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s 75th Anniversary Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 3, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s 75th Anniversary Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 3, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s 75th Anniversary Toyota, celebrates with the chequered flag after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 3, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s 75th Anniversary Toyota, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 3, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s 75th Anniversary Toyota, leads Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, and Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 3, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Brian Vickers, driver of the #14 Janssen Arnie’s Army Charitable Foundation Chevrolet SS, finishes in seventh place, Sunday April 3, 2016, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, VA (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 Dow Chevrolet SS, finishes in fourth place, Sunday April 3, 2016, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, VA (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #14 Target Chevrolet SS, finishes in third place, Sunday April 3, 2016, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, VA (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #47 Kroger/Butterfinger/Coffeemate Chevrolet SS, finishes in second place, Sunday April 3, 2016, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, VA (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Great Clips Chevrolet, leads Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 2, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, drives during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 1, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, signs the Coors Light Pole Award backdrop after qualifying for pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 1, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia (Photo Credit: Photo by Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 1, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, sits in his car during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 1, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 21, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, takes the chequered flag ahead of Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Toyota, to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 21, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, takes the chequered flag ahead of Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Toyota, to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 21, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

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papamike301 - Unregistered

April 02, 2009 8:54 PM

Amen! Well said! I couldn't agree more with Denny. He could have been a real spoil sport, but he took the high road. I think he had the benefit of watching Smoke after Tony had gotten most of the aggression out of his system.



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