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Monday, March 29, 2010
Kenseth's run-in with Gordon paves way for Hamlin

By Ed Hinton
ESPN.com

John Harrelson/Getty Images

Denny Hamlin, front right, takes the lead for good Monday as Jeff Gordon, center, and Matt Kenseth, left, can only watch.

The practice of drivers settling things among themselves continued Monday at Martinsville Speedway, but for a little while Jeff Gordon wondered if he might have settled with the wrong driver.

He hadn't. It turned out he'd paid back only one of two culprits at the end of the Goody's 500.

Replays showed Matt Kenseth was indeed the one who hit Gordon first in the green-white-checkered overtime that cost Gordon a much-needed win. Kenseth even confirmed it himself to reporters at the track.

Gordon led on that final restart, but Kenseth tapped him going into the first turn, causing Gordon's car to slip up off the bottom of the track, and Kenseth drove under.

Then Denny Hamlin, who would go on to win the melee, hit Gordon squarely in the back bumper as the dogfight continued off Turn 2.

Hamlin slipped into the lead while Gordon and Kenseth banged side by side down the straightaway.

Gordon at first told TV reporters that "I made sure he [Kenseth] wasn't going to win the race after that [bump from behind]," and punctuated it with a tight-lipped smile.

But later, in the postrace news conference, Gordon hedged, "I thought it was the 17 [Kenseth]. If it wasn't, I apologize to him."

Kenseth confessed -- sort of.

"I did go in there and I did get into Jeff a little bit, really not that hard," Kenseth said. "I got under him and everything was fine and he just took a left as hard as he could take one, and ran me down all the way into the marbles."

Hamlin had pitted for tires with 10 laps left in regulation to give Gordon, who stayed out on the track, the lead. Then Gordon appeared headed for the win until Kyle Busch wrecked just moments before the white flag, to cause the green-white-checkered.

"We were a hundred feet away from getting that white flag, getting the victory," Gordon said. "But I shouldn't be too upset. We were a third-place car before that, and we finished third."

Kenseth wound up 18th and said of his actions, "It's nothing Jeff wouldn't have done, or hasn't done, to me."

"The way he raced me today, I don't think was the way I would have raced him," Gordon said. And, "If somebody hits me, I'm going to hit him. If he hit me, I'm glad I did what I did on the back straightaway. If a guy gives you a cheap shot like that, he doesn't deserve to win the race, in my opinion.

"If that didn't happen, and I have not seen the video, then again, I'll be the first one to call him this week and apologize."

He needn't.

And the best news was that NASCAR said nothing about pondering penalties for either driver. So NASCAR continues to let 'em rip.

Camping World Truck Series: Harvick the runaway winner at Martinsville

To clear the stage for the real show, winner Kevin Harvick had politely checked out, far into the lead, with 40 laps to go in Saturday's Kroger 250.

Then commenced the beating and banging among Ron Hornaday Jr., Mike Skinner and Johnny Sauter that left the pits in postrace turmoil befitting tight little Martinsville Speedway.

Hornaday and Skinner rubbed and slammed door-to-door for third, sending each other swerving, until Hornaday moved in front and took off after second-place Sauter.

Then Hornaday took out both Sauter and Skinner, turning Sauter around in Turn 4 and collecting Skinner in the melee. Hornaday continued, although he let teammate Harvick go on the final restart with 19 laps left, and settled for second.

After the race, Sauter had a few dozen choice words for Hornaday, and a shove in the chest, after breaking away from crewmen trying to restrain him.

But for TV cameras and microphones after the set-to, Sauter would say only hi to his wife and kids, thank his sponsors and tout his Web site.

Hornaday was more open to the media at the track.

"Johnny's deal -- I don't know if he just got out of the throttle," Hornaday said. "I got a good run up on him. I doinked him.

"I just can't say nothin'; I spun him out," Hornaday said. "That's all there is to it."

Of getting a break from his teammate on the final restart, Harvick told TV reporters, "It was pretty clear the 2 [his truck] was better than the 33 [Hornaday]. We worked together really well, and everything came together," for the 1-2 finish.

It was Harvick's fourth straight win in truck races he has entered, and his sixth in the last 10.

He joked that he was mainly testing equipment for Hornaday, the defending truck champion who runs full-time.

"That's my job, R&D guy," Harvick cracked. "But it's worked out pretty good lately."

Nationwide Series: Drivers eye stand-along race at Nashville

The Nationwide Series was off. Its next race is April 3 at Nashville Superspeedway.

Ed Hinton is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at edward.t.hinton@espn3.com.

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Racing Resources Says …

Sprint Cup Series

Denny Hamlin

Hamlin

  • Denny Hamlin won the postponed 2010 Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500 Monday at Martinsville Speedway. It was Hamlin's ninth Cup series victory in his 157th career start. His last win came at Homestead in November 2009.

  • Hamlin has scored a victory in each of the last five years.

  • It was Hamlin's first top-10 finish in six races in 2010. It was his third Cup win at Martinsville in 10 races, and third in his last five Martinsville starts. It was his ninth top-10 finish in 10 races at Martinsville.

  • Hamlin scored his fourth victory in 27 races on short tracks.

  • Hamlin climbed from 19th to 15th in the point standings.

  • Hamlin led six times for 172 laps, including the final two.

  • Joe Gibbs Racing scored its 78th Cup victory overall and sixth at Martinsville. It was JGR's first win in six races in 2010.

  • Only one driver has scored top-10 finishes in the first six races in 2010: Greg Biffle (10th).

  • Jimmie Johnson leads the points by 14 over second-place Biffle.

  • Kurt Busch leads all drivers with 30 lap-leader bonus points. He has led in five of the six races this season.

  • Pole sitter Kevin Harvick finished 35th and dropped to fourth in points from first. Harvick has been running at the finish in all 18 of his races at Martinsville.

  • Joey Logano (second) posted his third finish of sixth or better in six races this season.

  • Jeff Gordon (third) posted his 11th straight top-5 finish at Martinsville and 15th straight top-10 at the Virginia short track. Gordon has been running at the finish in his 35 Martinsville races, the longest current streak.

  • Ryan Newman (fourth) posted his first top-10 finish in 2010.

  • Martin Truex Jr. (fifth) posted his second top-10 finish in 2010, his best finish at Martinsville.

  • Jimmie Johnson (ninth) posted his 16th straight top-10 finish at Martinsville, the longest current streak.

  • Harvick (35th) has been running at the finish in all 18 of his races at Martinsville.

  • Biffle has been running at the finish in all 15 of his races at Martinsville.

  • Carl Edwards (eighth) has been running at the finish in all 12 of his races at Martinsville.

  • Toyota scored its third victory at Martinsville. Chevrolet has 46, Ford has 26, Dodge has 10 while all others have 40.

  • A Toyota has won three of the last five races at Martinsville, both by Denny Hamlin.

  • A Ford has gone 15 races without a victory at Martinsville. Kurt Busch scored the last Ford victory at Martinsville (October 2002).

  • Dodge has gone 12 races without a victory at Martinsville. Rusty Wallace scored the last Dodge victory at Martinsville (April 2004).

  • The top 10 consisted of four Toyotas, four Chevrolets and two Fords. Keselowski (12th) was the highest-finishing Dodge driver.

Camping World Truck Series

Kevin

Harvick

  • Kevin Harvick won the Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway. It was Harvick's eighth series victory in his 103rd career start. He's won the last four races that he has started. It was his 54th career NASCAR win, which ties him with Lee Petty for 11th all-time. Harvick has won six of his last 10 truck starts.

  • Harvick led three times for a race-high 187 laps, including the final 61.

  • It was the 28th career win for Kevin Harvick Inc.

  • Ron Hornaday Jr. finished second after two poor races to start the season (27th at Daytona, 34th at Atlanta).

  • Brian Ickler (third) tied his career-best finish (June 2009 at Michigan).

  • Timothy Peters (fourth) takes over the points from Todd Bodine (30th). Peters leads the standings by 59.

  • Johnny Benson (fifth) scored his second top-10 finish in his second start of 2010.

  • Austin Dillon (16th) was the highest-finishing rookie of the year contender among the four in the race.

  • Seven drivers made their series debut: DJ Kennington (17th), Tony Jackson Jr. (20th), Chris Eggleston (11th), Clay Greenfield (21st), Narain Karthikeyan (13th), Brian Johnson Jr. (32nd), Lance Fenton (34th).

  • The top 10 consisted of five Toyotas and five Chevrolets. The highest-finishing Dodge was Clay Greenfield in 21th, the highest Ford was Rick Crawford (19th)

-- Racing Resources