Redemption works in crazy ways. Denny Hamlin has had some bad luck over the past year or so. However, Hamlin is victorious for the first time in 2014, and in doing so - won in his 300th career start in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Hamlin won his 24th career race on Sunday afternoon as he held off a hard charging Greg Biffle before a caution came out on the backstretch to end the race. Winning the Aaron's 499 at Talladega marks the first points paying race which Hamlin has won at a restrictor plate track. Biffle led a race-high 54 laps, which is more than he has led throughout the season after eight races. The win marks the third victory for Joe Gibbs Racing at Talladega in Sprint Cup Series competition. Elliott Sadler, a Joe Gibbs Racing driver, won Saturday's Nationwide Series event - giving the organization a weekend sweep.
After starting the Aaron's 499 in 2013, Hamlin was forced to remove himself from the car due to his back injury. Now, Hamlin is in victory lane, and was quite emotional after having to miss the race at Auto Club Speedway several weeks ago.
"We really just want to win race, regardless of the implications that this means for the Chase," Hamlin said in victory lane.
The caution came out as the field was in the middle of the backstretch on the final wreck. Cole Whitt, who was involved in several incidents on the day, got into Justin Allgaier. Allgaier's No. 51 Chevrolet slammed into the wall right by the finish line. However, NASCAR kept the green flag out. Biffle was debating whether or not to make a move to pass Hamlin, but wanted to wait until the field was back on the frontstretch. However, the spin occurred in the tri-oval, several yards before the leaders took the white flag.
"I didn't have any teammates out there. I was going to try to pass him going into the tri-oval," said Biffle after the race. "I was backing up to get a run on him on the backstretch, but then the caution came out."
After the race, fans were outraged on social media about the caution which concluded the race. However, a large piece of fiberglass-like material from Allgaier's car was sitting right in the middle of the track by the finish line. If NASCAR would have enabled the cars to keep going, most of the field would have ran that piece of debris over, possibly causing it to fly into the grandstands. Some people believe that the cars could have just gone around it, but if the leaders were to go three-wide, it would have been extremely difficult to miss a piece of debris that could have put people in danger. Moreover, this will make NASCAR look at their policy on green-white-checkered finishes as the ARCA Series has adapted the same mentality as NASCAR, but enables the possibilities of having yellow flags after the white flag.
There were several major wrecks during the Aaron's 499 which featured 23 different leaders with 48 lead changes. Brad Keselowski was battling Danica Patrick for the lead early in the event when he went down to clear Patrick's No. 10 Chevrolet at the end of the front stretch, but was not clear of Patrick. Patrick went up the race track a drop, and Keselowski continued to go down. Keselowski spun out, then went below the apron, and he went back up the race track. Keselowski had overheating problems, putting him eight laps down at one point.
However, that was not the last incident the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion was involved in.
Keselowski was racing in the midst of the pack where he got loose, collecting multiple cars including Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon. It is arguable that Keselowski should not have been racing in the pack since he was multiple laps down. However, he was racing for the lucky dog, and had to stay ahead of Jamie McMurray, who sustained damage during Keselowski's spin, to do so. Throughout the race, McMurray had six lucky dog awards - putting him just one lap down at the finish.
Jimmie Johnson had an up and down day in his No. 48 Chevrolet. However, the six-time Sprint Cup Series champion did not have the day he wanted. Johnson had an incident similar to that of Keselowski's. He was in the midst of the pack when his car just got slightly loose, collecting Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, Michael McDowell and last year's winner of the Aaron's 499, David Ragan. Even with the spin, Johnson had the least amount of damage of those which were involved in the accident.
A.J. Allmendinger collected his second straight top-five finish for JTG Daugherty Racing. Allmendinger was running inside the top-10 for the majority of the race. Kyle Larson was the highest finishing Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate. Larson unofficially finished ninth in the No. 42 car as he stayed in the back of the pack for most of the race until late in the going. Landon Cassill had an impressive run in the No. 40 car for Hillman Racing. Cassill finished a career-best 11th after running well throughout the race.
27 cars were able to finish the race on the lead lap.
Josh Wise, in a car sponsored by Reddit.com users, was running towards the front of the field late in the race, but ended up finishing the day in 20th for Phil Parsons Racing. Patrick was able to lead six laps early, but experienced some power issues during the race - causing her to finish 22nd. Pole sitter, Brian Scott, finished the day in the 42nd position after getting caught up in the Keselowski wreck.
Here are some other notables:
-Dale Earnhardt Jr. led 26 laps. However, Earnhardt Jr. finished 26th after struggling late in the race.
-Cole Whitt finished 21st after being involved in several wrecks in his second race for BK Racin
- Terry Labonte finished 24th in the No. 32 car for GO Fas Racing. Labonte will be returning to competition for only two more races (Daytona in July and Talladega in October).
-Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had his fourth top-10 finish of the season.
-Michael Waltrip finished 25th in the No. 66 Toyota. Waltrip was hanging towards the back of the pack for the majority of the race, but could not gain many positions late in the event.
-Jeff Gordon has a three point lead over Matt Kenseth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings.
-There are now eight drivers which are seemingly locked into the Chase for the Sprint Cup as long as they attempt to qualify/race each event and are inside the top-30 in points.
1)11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Express Toyota 188 laps
2)16 Greg Biffle 3M Window Film Ford 188 laps
3) 15 Clint Bowyer PEAK Antifreeze/Motor Oil Toyota 188 laps
4) 55 Brian Vickers Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota 188 laps
5) 47 AJ Allmendinger Bush's Beans Chevrolet 188 laps
6) 27 Paul Menard Richmond/Menards Chevrolet 188 laps
7) 4 Kevin Harvick Jimmy John's Chevrolet 188 laps
8) 5 Kasey Kahne FrmrsInsrnce/Thankamillionteachers.com Chevrolet 188 laps
9)42 Kyle Larson # Target Chevrolet 188 laps
10) 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr Zest Ford 188 laps
11) 40 Landon Cassill(i) Hillman Racing Chevrolet 188 laps
12)18 Kyle Busch M&M's Pretzel Toyota 188 laps
13) 43 Aric Almirola Logan's Roadhouse/Gwaltney Ford 188 laps
14) 13 Casey Mears GEICO Chevrolet 188 laps
15) 3 Austin Dillon # Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet 188 laps
16) 7 Michael Annett # Pilot/Flying J Chevrolet 188 laps
17) 78 Martin Truex Jr Furniture Row Chevrolet 188 laps
18) 31 Ryan Newman Caterpillar Chevrolet 188 laps
19) 9 Marcos Ambrose DeWalt Ford 188 laps
20) 98 Josh Wise Dogecoin/Reddit.com Ford 188 laps
21) 26 Cole Whitt # Scorpyd Crossbows Toyota 188 laps
22) 10 Danica Patrick GoDaddy Chevrolet 188 laps
23)48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe's/Valspar Reserve Chevrolet 188 laps
24) 32 Terry Labonte C&J Energy Services Ford 188 laps
25) 66 Michael Waltrip Blue/DEF Toyota 188 laps
26) 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr National Guard Chevrolet 188 laps
27) 51 Justin Allgaier # Brandt Professional Agriculture Chevrolet 188 laps
28) 23 Alex Bowman # Dr.Pepper Toyota 187 laps Accident
29) 1 Jamie McMurray McDonald's Chevrolet 187 laps
30) 99 Carl Edwards Fastenal Ford 182 laps Accident
31) 83 Ryan Truex # VooDoo BBQ & Grill Toyota 182 laps Accident
32) 22 Joey Logano Shell Pennzoil Ford 174 laps Accident
33) 41 Kurt Busch Haas Automation Chevrolet 174 laps Accident
34) 36 Reed Sorenson Golden Corral Chevrolet 174 laps Accident
35) 34 David Ragan KFC Go Cup Ford 174 laps Accident
36) 95 Michael McDowell Jordan Truck Sales Ford 174 laps Accident
37) 20 Matt Kenseth Dollar General Toyota 171 laps Running
38) 2 Brad Keselowski Miller Lite Ford 160 laps Running
39) 24 Jeff Gordon Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet 156 laps Running
40) 38 David Gilliland Love's Travel Stop Ford 150 laps Engine
41) 21 Trevor Bayne(i) Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford 136 laps Accident
42) 33 Brian Scott(i) Shore Lodge Chevrolet 136 laps Accident
43) 14 Tony Stewart Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet 136 laps Accident