Hamlin wins second straight Busch race at Darlington

5/13/2007 - NASCAR

DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Denny Hamlin won his second straight Diamond Hill Plywood 200 on Friday night, again surviving a wreck-filled Busch Series event at Darlington Raceway.

Hamlin, a Virginia native, then paid tribute to the victims of
the Virginia Tech massacre, taking a school flag along for his
victory lap.

Hamlin had hoped to honor the victims several times in the past
month, and particularly last week at Richmond International
Raceway. Still, he was glad for the chance to remember the innocent
lives lost in the tragic shooting.

"I just feel like I'm doing my duty as a fellow Virginian to
help them heal," said Hamlin, fourth in the Nextel Cup standings.

The young star raced to his third Busch Series victory, winning
from the pole at "The Lady In Black" for the second consecutive

Not that it was easy.

Hamlin picked his way through a record-tying 10 caution periods
to take the checkered flag. The race matched the 10 cautions from
April 1984. A year ago, there were nine caution periods.

Hamlin stood strong through a final restart with six laps left.
Busch points leader Carl Edwards got as close as Hamlin's window as
he dove low in turn one trying to take the lead, but Hamlin powered
through the turn and was never tested again.

"We wanted to saddle them up and see what he had," Hamlin
said. "And we came through at the end."

Mark Martin, driving a Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, finished
second, and Edwards was third.

Hamlin led five times for 79 laps, including the final 52.

The most high-profile caution involved former Nextel Cup
champion Matt Kenseth, who hit the wall in turn one and was clipped
by Brad Keselowski as he slid down the track. Neither driver was

"Everything just went wrong all day pretty much after we took
the lead from Hamlin on lap 17," Kenseth said.

A short time after Kenseth's wreck, David Gilliland bounced off
the wall and into Shane Huffman, who drives for Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s JR Motorsports team. Huffman's front wheels lifted off the
ground from the collision.

Bobby Labonte brought out the final caution, spinning near the
start-finish line on lap 137. When it took longer than expected to
tow Labonte's car off the track, officials red-flagged the race for
3 minutes.

Hamlin showed his Chevy's strength from the start. He led the
first 16 laps then, after falling behind Kenseth, retook the top
spot six laps later.

Hamlin held the lead twice more before moving in front for good
when he swept past Jason Leffler on lap 96.

Hamlin had to outrace his rivals through four more restarts to
get the victory.

He's not sure why he excels at Darlington, a quirky oval with an
abrasive surface.

Maybe, he thought, he's "more on a level playing field with the
guys [at Darlington] because no one's figured out the perfect way
to get around these race tracks. There is no perfect way."

The race featured longtime Roush Fenway Racing star Martin
driving for former rival team owner Rick Hendrick. Martin, who
holds the Busch record with eight Darlington victories, was racing
in just his third Busch event this year.

Martin said the Busch machine was the best he's had to work with
in some time. He just wasn't close enough at the end to catch

"I was in the best position handling wise that I possibly
could've been in at the end, but I didn't have the track
position," Martin said.