Hamlin wins Goody's 500 ahead of ACL surgery

MARTINSVILLE, Va. — The promise of Denny Hamlin's season showed itself for the first time on Monday.

Days away from knee surgery and battling on one of NASCAR's most difficult tracks, Hamlin won his way back into contention with an impressive victory in Monday's rain-delayed Goody's 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

Hamlin had been a preseason favorite by many fans and media to challenge Jimmie Johnson in his quest for a fifth consecutive championship. But through the season's first five races, Hamlin hadn't finished better than 17th.

Add to that Hamlin's decision over the weekend to go ahead with surgery this week for a torn ACL in his left knee, and a dark cloud seemed to settle around his title chances.

Monday at least — even with the race ending under the threat of rain — a flicker of light shined on the Virginia native's season.


The win is Hamlin's ninth of his Cup career and third overall and second consecutive at Martinsville.

Kevin Harvick, who started from the pole because Friday's qualifying session was rained out, took early control of the race, leading the first 44 lap and 57 of the first 58.

His chance at a victory, or even a good finish, went out the window when he was forced to the garage shortly thereafter with brake problems.

Jeff Gordon took over the lead on Lap 59, and he and Kurt Busch traded the lead five times over the next 61 laps.

Jeff Burton made his way around Kurt Busch on Lap 149 to take the lead for the first time. Burton, Mark Martin and Kurt Busch, traded the lead over the next 50 laps.

Hamlin passed Burton for the lead for the first time on Lap 230, much to the delight of the home crowd. Hamlin made his way back from the back of the pack when an early-race bad pit stop — his car fell off the jack — dropped him far back in the field.

On Lap 234, Regan Smith's spin in Turn 4 brought out the seventh caution of the race. On the restart on Lap 243, Hamlin continued to hold the lead.

Burton made his way back to the front again on Lap 250. Again Hamlin worked his way back to the front and retook the lead on Lap 276 only to see Burton re-pass Hamlin on Lap 307.


With 150 laps remaining, Burton continued to lead followed by Burton, Hamlin, Martin, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr.

Eight laps later, Hamlin again worked his way around Burton and back into the lead.

David Stremme spun and brought out the 10th caution of the race on Lap 365. All of the leaders pit for fuel and tires with Hamlin continuing to lead on the restart on Lap 373. During the pit stops, Martin was penalized for leaving his pit stall with pit equipment and dropped from third to 24th on the restart.

With 111 laps left, Burton made his way back around Hamlin for the lead. It didn't last long as Hamlin passed Burton back for the top spot 15 laps later.

Kevin Conway got spun by Marcos Ambrose on Lap 421 to bring out the 11th caution. All lead lap cars pit for fuel and tires with Hamlin restarting in the lead again on Lap 427. Burton was second and Kyle Busch third.

With 50 laps remaining, Hamlin led followed by Burton and Kyle Busch.

With 14 laps remaining Burton's right-front tire began to lose air-pressure and he ended his battle with Hamlin for the win.

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