MARTINSVILLE, Va.--Denny Hamlin lost the race to Alex Bowman at Martinsville Speedway but won the battle to advance to the Championship 4.
With eight laps remaining in the Xfinity 500 on Sunday, Bowman drove his car into Turn 4—and into Hamlin, sending the No. 11 Toyota spinning off the point after leading 103 laps.
When the race returned to green in overtime, Bowman held off Kyle Busch by .472-seconds for his first win at Martinsville and the fourth of the season.
“I just got loose in,” Bowman said. “I got in too deep, knocked him out of the way and literally let him have the lead back. For anybody that wants to think I was trying to crash him, obviously wasn't the case considering I literally gave up the lead at Martinsville to give it back to him.
“He's been on the other side of that. He's crashed guys here for wins. I hate doing it. Obviously, I don't want to crash somebody. I just got in, got underneath him, spun him out.”
Hamlin, who finished 24th, nursed his car back to the start-finish line to crash Bowman’s victory party. After driving circles around the No. 48, his spotter Chris Lambert reminded Hamlin to remember the “big picture”.
“I know we got (screwed),” Lambert said. “Big Picture. We’ll kick their ass next week.”
Hamlin parked his car on pit road between Turns 1 and 2 with his fellow contenders. As he climbed from the No. 11 Toyota, the crowd booed the Virginia driver.
“It's just Chase Elliott fans, man,” Hamlin said. “They don't think straightly.”
As for Bowman’s move for the win, Hamlin fired back.
“He's just a hack,” Hamlin said. “Just an absolute hack. He gets his ass kicked by his teammates every week. He's (expletive) terrible. He's just terrible. He sees one opportunity, he takes it.
Obviously, he's got the fast car of the week and he runs 10th. He didn't want to race us there. We had a good, clean race. I moved up as high as I could on the racetrack to give him all the room I could, he still can't drive.
Although Busch finished second on Sunday, his performance wasn’t enough to advance to the Championship 4. He entered the race with a one-point buffer but finished the race three points below the cut line. To add insult to injury, third-place finisher Brad Keselowski spun him on the cool-down lap.
“We just missed last week,” Busch said. “That's where we lost all the ground. Could have come in here with 15 more points, we would have been fine on the cut. Just wasn't it. Wasn't meant to be. Obviously, it was Truex's day. We had a Hail Mary opportunity there at the end. Just didn't materialize.
“All in all, just proud of the effort for sure. We slung everything and anything at this thing today, couldn't really make it come alive. Great effort. That was there for sure. We just got to get better, everybody included, the whole team, in order to be able to go race with the best and race for a championship. We're not going to do that this year.”
Martin Truex Jr., William Byron, Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch, Erik Jones, Chris Buescher and Joey Logano rounded out the top 10.
Truex qualified for his fifth Championship 4 round despite hitting the wall in Turn 2 with 29 laps remaining.
“I have no idea how we finished fourth,” Truex said. “Maybe I’ll buy a lottery ticket on the way home.”
Chase Elliott won both stages and became the second driver to lock into the final four after Stage 2. He led a race-high 289 laps and was battling Keselowski for third on Lap 455 when the pair made contact in Turn 4, sending Elliott’s car in the spin cycle. He finished 16th.
Kyle Larson, the first driver to advance to the championship round with his win at Texas Motor Speedway two weeks ago, started from the pole but finished 14th after two speeding penalties.
While the excitement level was off the chart throughout the entire Camping World Truck and Xfinity Series races on Saturday, the action didn’t heat up until the final stage of the Cup race. With just five cautions in the first 269 laps—two for stage breaks—the final segment featured 10 additional cautions. But the rooting and gouging picked up in earnest as the laps whittled away.
Truex reported overheating on the Lap 359 restart following contact with Larson before the ninth caution. Daniel Suarez spun on Lap 378 for the 10th caution. Austin Dillon, Tyler Reddick and Cole Custer stayed out on the track while the rest of the lead lap cars pitted. Truex passed Dillon for the lead on Lap 386 and Hamlin passed him for the lead three laps later. The action slowed after Dillon cut a right-front tire and hit the wall in Turn 2.
Hamlin held off a charge from Bowman for 10 laps before the battle between Elliott and Keselowski ignited the 12th yellow. The race restarted with 40 to go, but was barely up to song when a pile-up occurred in Turn 4 with Larson getting the worst of it after contact with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Keselowski used the restart to climb to third. On the restart, there was contact between Keselowski, Truex and Bowman resulting in a tire rub on the No. 48 Chevy. But it didn’t slow Bowman’s charge to the front. Truex tagged the wall five laps later, but with a Playoff berth on the line, continued on.
Ryan Preece triggered the 14th of 15 cautions after hitting Turn 2 on Lap 472. Bowman grabbed the lead out of Turn 4 on the Lap 478 restart but Hamlin came back to the point. Fifteen laps later, Bowman gave the No. 11 a nudge in Turn 4 with five laps remaining to take the lead and the win. Bowman held off Busch and Keselowski in overtime for his sixth career win.
“Regardless, we get a free grandfather clock, which is pretty special,” Bowman said. “I struggled here for a long time. I was trying to get the flag, do a backwards victory lap. Mark Martin thinks that's cool. Mark Martin is my hero. Obviously, like I said, hate we wrecked the 11. But how about that for Chevrolet, Ally, everybody on this 48 team. 48 car won here a bunch. Cool to do it again.”