Race Rewind: Denny Hamlin drives through pain, wrecks

Looking back at the Coke Zero 400

Sunday, Jul. 08, 2012


• Tony Stewart continues to give us examples of why he might be the most talented driver on the Sprint Cup circuit. Going from 42nd to first at Daytona is another.

• Is Denny Hamlin impervious to pain? After not practicing Thursday because of a bad back, he finished 25th Saturday and would have done better had he not wrecked late in the race. Remember, Hamlin won two races in 2010 immediately after having knee surgery.

• The big wrecks were certainly that - big. Fifteen cars were involved in the accident at the finish line on the final lap. That came six laps after another melee that involved 14 cars.


HAMLIN'S BACK: Denny Hamlin's bad back didn't prevent him from staying near the front of the pack for much of the race. He finished 25th after instigating a multi-car wreck on Lap 154. He also was involved in an accident earlier that collected seven cars.

"I'm all right," said Hamlin, who was so sore on Thursday that he was unable to practice. "None of the hits were too bad except for the last one in the right-side door. I was fine - I could have done without it, that's for sure. I'll be 100 percent next weekend."

KENNETH STAYS ON TOP: Matt Kenseth's third-place finish allowed him to increase his lead in the points standings to 25 over Dale Earnhardt Jr., who finished 15th. But Kenseth wanted more.

"I guess you want to be happy when you finish that good, but also when you have restrictor-plate cars that fast, that doesn't happen very often and you want to figure out how to win."

Kenseth, who was on the pole Saturday, has fared well on NASCAR's two biggest tracks recently, winning February's Daytona 500 and finishing third at Talladega in May.

"I'm happy to get third, but on the other hand, I'm incredibly disappointed."

Kenseth was leading Saturday on the final lap, until his tandem with Greg Biffle was broken by race-winner Tony Stewart.

"I didn't think (Stewart) was going to clear me and get in front of me," said Kenseth.

A SURPRISE RUNNER-UP: Given the way his season has gone, few expected Jeff Burton to finish second. But that's what Burton did, notching his first top-five finish since the season-opening Daytona 500 and just his second of the season.

"It feels good," said Burton. "We've had a miserable year and to come out of Daytona with a second-place finish, we should be happy."

PIT STOPS: Honorary starter was former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden. His prerace command: "Gentlemen, start your dad-gum engines!" ... The new patch heading into Turn 3 from where a portion of Daytona's track melted during the Daytona 500 in February is still very much in evidence. The track melted when a jet drier was hit during a caution by Juan Pablo Montoya and the diesel fuel caught fire on the asphalt ... Bill Elliott's car was fast early, but he finished 37th when he was involved in an accident on Lap 125 ... There was a scary moment on pit road when Jeff Gordon and Ryan Newman's cars brushed each other, sending Newman into Kasey Kahne. Kahne then bumped Newman into Brad Keselowski's car in its pit stall, sending members of Keselowski's team and a race official hurdling over the wall to safety. Nobody was hurt.

3 keys to victory

1. The race's first caution allowed Stewart, who started at the rear of the field, to make his first move to the front.

2. When Kenseth and Biffle were unable to stay connected on the final lap, Stewart blew by leader Kenseth for the victory.

3. Stewart then backed up to Kenseth - not allowing him any room to make a run at him down the front stretch.

Turning point

When Stewart finally broke what appeared to be an unbeatable tandem of Kenseth and Biffle.

Things would have been different if ...

Stewart hadn't been able to stay clear of the three major wrecks that happened in the final 35 laps.

Next race

Lenox 301

Where: New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon, N.H.

When: 1 p.m., July 15


Radio: Performance Racing Network

Last year's winner: Ryan Newman

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