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Archive for Monday, March 31, 2008

Hamlin victorious at Martinsville

Burton’s late-race pit strategy backfires at Goody’s 500

Driver Denny Hamlin is congratulated after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Cool Orange 500. Hamlin held off Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton on Sunday to claim the checkered flag in Martinsville, Va.

Driver Denny Hamlin is congratulated after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Cool Orange 500. Hamlin held off Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton on Sunday to claim the checkered flag in Martinsville, Va.

March 31, 2008

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— Denny Hamlin hopes he finally has put his frustration behind him, not only at Martinsville Speedway, but throughout the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

"It's just been so close so many times, and to finally break through here, it definitely means a lot," Hamlin said Sunday after he foiled Jeff Burton's late-race pit strategy and won the Goody's 500. "It feels like maybe the monkey is off our back."

Hamlin twice had finished in the top three on the smallest, tightest track in the series and said he felt like bad luck had let several other wins slip away, too.

At Atlanta three weeks ago, he had just moved into second place when his power steering failed. Then in the last race at Bristol, a fuel pickup problem on the restart of a two-lap sprint to the finish cost him a chance to win, and he finished sixth.

"I definitely feel like maybe this is the turning point for our team," he said.

For 389 laps, the race looked like it would be another victory for Hendrick Motorsports at the track it has dominated by winning eight of the last 10 races.

Hendrick drivers led 371 of those laps, but Hamlin and fellow Virginia native Burton made decisions under the next-to-last caution that allowed them to move up front.

Hamlin then ruined Burton's decision to stay out while the rest of the leaders pitted, passing him on the 427th lap and holding on for his fourth career victory.

Jeff Gordon rallied to finish second, followed by Burton, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart. Johnson had won three straight at Martinsville heading into the race.

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