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Sweet Home Virginia!

Z-Line Designs Team Helps Bring Hometown Win to Hamlin at Richmond

Denny Hamlin
Denny Hamlin
Denny Hamlin didn’t lead the most laps in Friday night’s Lipton Tea 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, but he led the ones that mattered most to earn what he called his “biggest accomplishment as a race car driver.”

Hamlin led the final 12 laps of the 253-lap race and held off Kevin Harvick for his first win of any kind at Richmond, even with a green-white-checkered finish that sent the race three laps past its scheduled 250-lap distance.

The win was incredibly special for Hamlin, as the 27-year-old grew up in nearby Chesterfield, Va., and made a name for himself by winning Late Model stock car races throughout Virginia and the Carolinas. Even with all his success that includes four wins in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and now six career wins in the Nationwide Series, Hamlin desperately wanted a win at Richmond.

“This is my biggest accomplishment as a race car driver so far in my career, even bigger than all the Cup victories,” said Hamlin, whose previous best Nationwide Series result at Richmond was sixth in September 2006. “It means a lot to finally break through in Richmond. It’s just an unbelievable day for this whole Z-Line Designs team and thanks for all their support. They’re the ones that put me in this car three years ago and got me to the level that I’m at. Thanks to Z-Line Designs, Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing and everyone involved.”

Joe Gibbs Racing officials plucked Hamlin from the short tracks of the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series back in late 2004, and then put him in their No. 20 Nationwide Series car full-time beginning with the 2005 season. Hamlin went on to make seven Sprint Cup starts late in 2005, earning a full-time Sprint Cup ride for the 2006 season with Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 11 team. Hamlin ran both series full-time in 2006, but now runs a part-time Nationwide Series schedule while in his third full year of Sprint Cup.

Friday night’s win was Joe Gibbs Racing’s fifth straight Nationwide Series victory and its seventh in the 11 races run this season. And it came thanks to a shrewd late-race pit call by No. 20 team crew chief Dave Rogers for four tires.

The Z-Line Designs Toyota was good, but not near as strong as the cars of Harvick and Carl Edwards, who together led a combined 224 laps. Still, Hamlin was a steady presence in the top-five.

When the caution flag waved on lap 229 for an accident on the backstretch of the .75-mile oval, Rogers and Hamlin used the break in the action to pit for four tires and fuel while Harvick and Edwards stayed out. The fresh rubber was exactly what Hamlin needed to motor past Edwards and then Hamlin for the lead on lap 242, and then hold on to the lead during the final green-white-checkered finish.

“It was our race and I knew it,” said Hamlin from victory lane. “I told them as soon as we left pit road that we were going to get those guys. Harvick and those guys had a dominant car all day. We had a third-place car there at the end, but the circumstances worked out and one finally came my way.”

Hamlin’s win kept the No. 20 car first in the Nationwide Series championship owner standings, extending its lead to 107 points ahead of the No. 2 entry of Richard Childress Racing.

Following Hamlin and runner-up Harvick in third was Kyle Busch, who drove for Braun Racing. David Ragan and Steven Wallace secured the rest of the top-five, while David Stremme, Edwards, Mike Bliss, Clint Bowyer and Scott Wimmer comprised the remainder of the top-10.

The next event on the Nationwide Series schedule is the May 9 Diamond Hill Plywood 200 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. The race starts at 7:30 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by ESPN2 beginning with its pre-race show at 7 p.m. The race will also be broadcast live on SIRIUS Satellite Radio Channel 128.

Hamlin returns to the No. 20 Z-Line Designs Toyota May 24 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway for the Carquest Auto Parts 300.

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