Hamlin Earns First Road Course Victory as Tempers Flare at The Glen

Denny Hamlin ended up in victory lane in the Cheez-It 355 for his first ever win on a road course in his career. His No. 11 Toyota led 10 of the 90 laps on Sunday afternoon in front of a sold-out Watkins Glen International in upstate New York. However, the race was filled with action throughout, with crashes, strategy, penalties and of course, drama.

“I just woke up with back spasms this morning,” Hamlin, who has a history of back problems, told reporters in the media center post-race. “Just hits me every three or four months or so. I just wake up and can’t move. Really doubted being in the race car today, to be honest with you.”

The win is Hamlin’s second of the 2016 season, going along with the Daytona 500. However, he could’ve had three, as the other road course race slipped away.

“Should’ve won both road courses, which is something we never would’ve predicted going into the year.” Hamlin finished second to Tony Stewart at Sonoma, as he was passed on the final turn. “Sold out crowd, two years in a row, this is a good time. I’ve finally won at all of the [different types of] race tracks, so it’s a great accomplishment for us.”

Martin Truex Jr., who was running second at the time, was sent spinning in the final turn on the final lap by Brad Keselowski. The No. 78 was relegated to a seventh place finish, but showed his displeasure with the No. 2 on the cool-down lap, banging into the door and bumper. However, Keselowski took full blame for the incident, as he immediately got out of his car, rushed to Truex Jr. and took the blame.

“I went high and the 78 went high. By then I was already deep in the corner and got into him and turned him. That was really unfortunate, and the last thing I wanted to see,” Keselowski told NBCSN post-race. “This track here, when you drive into the corner, you commit, and sometimes you don’t know what will happen when you commit. The last thing I wanted to do was turn him.”

Keselowski went on to finish third in the event.

His Team Penske teammate, Joey Logano, followed up his win in this race last season and win in the XFINITY Series race the day prior with a second place finish. AJ Allmendinger finished fourth and Tony Stewart fifth. However, Allmendinger’s No. 47 car was also involved in some late-race drama with the No. 42 Chevrolet of Kyle Larson..

Larson was running fourth going into the final corner and was looking at a solid, top five finish to pad his Chase position. That was until Allmendinger’s front bumper met Larson’s rear bumper. The No. 42 was sent into the inside guardrail, sustained damage, and ended up finishing 29th. Larson would end the day losing a whopping 25 points in one corner.

“We were running sixth coming to [turn] 7; the No. 47 was behind me. He is always aggressive. I figured he would be smart,” Larson told reporters after exiting the medical center. “Obviously, the No. 78 was spinning in front of us. That is a free spot for both of us and he (Allmendinger) just dumped me. He had already run me down to the front stretch wall once with about 15 to go or so.  Pretty dumb move right there too, but I was the smarter one racing for points. [I] could have wrecked him, but didn’t. “

Larson didn’t stop there, vowing to get revenge and make things even.

“I don’t know. He wrecked me earlier in the year at Vegas,” he said. “He has run me hard, but we always race pretty well. But today was flat-out stupid. I love his crew chief [Randall Burnett] to death; he was our engineer last year. It just sucks they are going to have to start building some more race cars because he has got a few coming.”

Allmendinger was apologetic after the race, as he looked down on the asphalt upon exiting his car on pit road.

“I spun Kyle Larson out. Not on purpose. We were battling hard there for fifth and coming into the last corner. He had a good run and I defended, and I think the No. 78 was spinning as I tried to cut back under Kyle. He was lower than I expected,” he said to NBCSN.

The No. 47 sits 19th in the Chase standings, with Larson dropping a couple spots to 15th (will be 16th once Chris Buescher enters the top 30).

“They should be pissed off at me right now,” Allmendinger continued. “I’m a little pissed off at me right now myself. I just feel pretty crappy right now.”

Kyle Busch finished sixth, Jamie McMurray eighth, Trevor Bayne ninth and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top ten.

Kurt Busch, Casey Mears, Chase Elliott, Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards finished in the 11th-15th positions when the checkered flag flew.

Some other notables include Ryan Blaney in 19th, Danica Patrick in 21st, and the aforementioned Buescher in 30th after being in a crash late.

Kevin Harvick (32nd), Greg Biffle (39th) and Jimmie Johnson (40th, was penalized twice on pit road) were also all involved in late-race accidents, both forcing red flags.

Next week, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is off. The XFINITY Series will be in action at Mid-Ohio for more road course racing. Next up for the NSCS is Bristol in two weeks.