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Fresh Tires Propel Hamlin to Richmond Nationwide Win

Denny Hamlin
Denny Hamlin
RICHMOND, Va. (May 2, 2008) -- With fresh tires on his No. 20 Toyota, Virginia native Denny Hamlin blew past Kevin Harvick on Lap 242 and weathered a green-white-checkered-flag restart to win Friday night's Lipton Tea 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Richmond International Raceway.

Hamlin had opened a lead of more than two seconds over Harvick, before Bryan Clauson's spin on Lap 247 brought out the eighth and final caution, necessitating the two-lap dash that took the race three laps beyond its posted distance of 250 laps.

Hamlin finished .790 seconds ahead of Harvick, who fell just short in trying to win his first race in his own car. Harvick, Carl Edwards and Mike Bliss had stayed on the track under caution on Lap 237, while Hamlin came in for new tires.

"When those guys stayed out, I knew it was our race to win," Hamlin said. "We had a third-place car there at the end, and the circumstances just worked out for us."

The victory was Hamlin's first in the Nationwide Series this year and sixth overall. It also was the third straight win for the No. 20 with three different drivers (Kyle Busch at Mexico, Tony Stewart at Talladega). Joe Gibbs Racing drivers have won seven of the 11 Nationwide events contested this year.

Kyle Busch rallied from a lap down to finish third, after trading shots with Steven Wallace on the final lap to hold the position. David Ragan surged past Wallace to come home fourth, and Wallace held on to fifth position. David Stremme, Edwards, Bliss, Clint Bowyer and Scott Wimmer completed the top 10.

Harvick's crew chief, Wally Rogers, called his driver into the pits on Lap 237, but Harvick saw in his mirror that Edwards and Bliss were staying up on the track and made an impromptu call to stay out.

"I've been caught on both sides of that, but it only cost us one spot," Harvick said. "I was pitting, until I saw the 60 (Edwards) and the 1 (Bliss) behind him stay up. I figured more cars would stay out."

Harvick beat Edwards off pit road on Lap 144 under caution for David Reutimann's spin in Turn 2, a mishap instigated by a tap from Sam Hornish's Dodge. Harvick kept his No. 33 Chevrolet in front through two more caution periods until Derrike Cope's spin on the frontstretch brought out the sixth yellow flag of the race.

Harvick retained the lead until Hamlin passed him on Lap 242.

After their last-lap fracas, Busch and Wallace traded barbs on pit road.

"He's a boy trying to play it in a man's sport," Busch said.

"If he's going to say stuff like that, he can come and say it to my face," retorted Wallace, who grabbed Busch's facemask when Busch confronted him while Wallace was seated in his No. 66 Chevy after the race.

"If you grab the bull, you're going to get the horns," Busch added in his post-race press conference.

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