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Hamlin Dominates Damp Dover to Win Heluva Good! 200

Joe Gibbs Driven Hot Rod Oil Driver Leads 131 of 200 Laps En Route to Seventh Career Victory

Denny Hamlin
Denny Hamlin
A nearly three-hour rain delay didn’t slow down Denny Hamlin in Saturday’s Heluva Good! 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. The driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Driven Hot Rod Oil Toyota led three times for a race-high 131 laps en route to the dominating win.

“It means a lot,” said Hamlin of his seventh career Nationwide Series victory, his second this season and his second straight at Dover, as he won last September’s Nationwide Series race at the 1-mile oval. “It was four years ago that J.D. Gibbs (team owner), Steve deSouza (vice president, Nationwide Series and driver development programs) and Joe Gibbs (team owner) gave me an opportunity as a development driver to get in this ‘18’ car at Darlington (S.C.). A lot of these same guys are still on this team, and they went through so many struggles for so many years. I’m just proud of this whole group – Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) and the entire Joe Gibbs Nationwide Series team.”

Despite Dover’s reputation as a tough track on man and machine, Hamlin beat second-place Carl Edwards by 1.072 seconds in an unusually low-key race.

“It was fairly uneventful,” Hamlin said. “There wasn’t a whole lot of passing from where I was sitting because our car was so good at the beginning. The track really tightened up there on that one run when Kyle (Busch) and the ‘88’ (Brad Keselowski) got by us (on lap 38).

“We just made some big adjustments. Even though it seemed like we had our best run and pulled away the furthest, we really decided when we came on pit road that next stop we were going to make the biggest adjustments we made all day right then. It paid off in the end because I think if we didn’t have those adjustments, then we were going to be in trouble.”

Trouble is what the rest of the teams in the Nationwide Series must feel each time Joe Gibbs Racing unloads its cars at the race track. Hamlin’s win marked the ninth Nationwide Series win for Joe Gibbs Racing in the 14 races run so far this season.

Hamlin’s teammate, 18-year-old Joey Logano, also enjoyed a good outing. He qualified his No. 20 GameStop Toyota a strong ninth, battled back from an early pit road incident that dropped him to 28th in the 43-car field, and finished an impressive sixth in his Nationwide Series debut.

“He’s really done just a great job,” said Hamlin of Logano’s first career Nationwide Series race. “I recorded the race to try to get a feel for where he was at, and I would like to see how well he did. By the finish it looks like he did great. His on-track performance looked good and he was able to make up positions at the beginning and at the end, so that’s a good sign.”

Hamlin’s victory brought the No. 18 team up eight spots to 32nd in owner points. The No. 18 team is running a limited Nationwide Series schedule in 2008, and Dover marked the team’s sixth race of the season.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 car – which is being campaigned for the full Nationwide Series schedule – expanded its lead in the Nationwide Series owner standings thanks to Logano’s sixth-place result. It now has a 159-point advantage over the No. 2 entry of Richard Childress Racing.

David Stremme finished third in the Heluva Good! 200 behind Hamlin and Edwards, while David Reutimann and Greg Biffle secured the rest of the top-five. Logano, Brad Keselowski, Mike Wallace, Clint Bowyer and Kahne comprised the remainder of the top-10.

There were six caution periods for 26 laps, with 17 drivers failing to finish the 200-lap race.

The next event on the Nationwide Series schedule is the June 7 Federated Auto Parts 300 at Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway. 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.

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