Hamlin fights off illness, takes Dover for third Busch victory

Updated: September 22, 2007, 10:29 PM ET
Associated Press

DOVER, Del. -- The checkered flag was the perfect tonic for the ailing Denny Hamlin.

Feeling weak and needing intravenous fluids before the race, Hamlin nearly threw in the towel. Good thing he held on, or else he would have missed out on bringing home a trophy.

Hamlin shook off an illness and found the energy to dominate and win the caution-filled Busch Series race at Dover International Speedway on Saturday, his third win of the season.

"I need a nap," Hamlin said.

Hamlin can on sleep on this: With the yellow flag seemingly dropping every few laps, a helmet fighting for space with the cars on the track, and full-time Cup drivers nipping at his bumper, Hamlin stayed out of the care center and parked himself in Victory Lane.

Swig that soda? No thanks, he sprayed the drink on his crew. He needed water.

Winning sure has a way of curing the nastiest symptoms.

"It takes your mind away from it, for sure," Hamlin said.

Hamlin complained of a tender throat, had trouble breathing and dizzy spells. Then he got in the car for a 200-lap race. Hamlin said the illness shouldn't affect him for Sunday's Cup race at Dover.

"I get hot. I get cold," he said. "I feel inadequate really."

The results looked like they could have come straight out of the Cup race. Martin Truex Jr., who won the Cup race on the Monster Mile in June, was second. Matt Kenseth finished third.

Hamlin, Truex and Kenseth are part of the 12-driver field for the Chase for the Nextel Cup championship.

"We just didn't have the car all day long," Truex said. "We almost pulled one off on the 20. He was really strong all day."

Hamlin was fastest in the final Cup practice earlier in the day.

Mike Bliss and Reed Sorenson round out the top five. Series points leader Carl Edwards, another Chase driver, was sixth.

Hamlin struggled just to get in his car. He took fluids and leaned, slumped, really, against his No. 20 Chevrolet before putting on his firesuit. Kyle Busch took the seat shortly before the race to see how he would fit and was on standby in case Hamlin couldn't go.

Busch watched from the pit stall and late in the race Hamlin offered Busch, his new teammate next year at Joe Gibbs Racing, the wheel. Go ahead, take it.

Both drivers got a chuckle out of that one. There was no way Hamlin was really going to relinquish control. Not even with a doctor's note.

"I think he saw how strong a car it was and I'm sure he was chomping at the bit to get in there," Hamlin said. "I see Kyle on the wall and I saw him rooting us on. I know he would have loved to have got in the race car, but it was too late. He was not getting in this one."

Hamlin could have rested -- and celebrated -- a bit sooner if not for all the cautions. The yellow flag came out 13 times and 20 laps of green-flag racing was considered a hot streak.

"I was happy about the breaks for sure," he said. "The longer the green flag went, the more the aches and pains came on. The cautions never really came when it was a bad time for us."

Greg Biffle turned a lap of 154.440 to win his second pole of the season, but he dropped two laps down after an unscheduled pit stop because of tire issues. He rebounded to finish ninth.

Tony Raines was knocked out of the race early when his car was hit by Robby Gordon's. Raines, whose No. 33 Chevrolet was sponsored by the same company that sponsored the race, believed the hit was intentional.

So Rained hopped out the window, waited for Gordon to drive around again and hurled his helmet at the No. 27 Ford. The helmet missed the target and skidded across the concrete.

Raines took an ambulance ride to the infield care center (he was cleared) and will surely be fined.

"Unfortunately, they can't keep idiots like Robby Gordon from driving race cars," Raines said.

Gordon's race was derailed on lap 93 when he lost control of the car, turned sideways and spun into the wall. Gordon acknowledged he was at fault for the earlier accident.

"I just clipped him a little bit," he said.

Ric Flair would have been proud. The former world champion punctuated the command for the drivers to start their engines with his trademark "Whooooo!"


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press