It had been over a year since Toyota won on a non-restrictor plate track but on Sunday Denny Hamlin and his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing team ended that drought when he won the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway.
It’s Hamlin’s first win of the season and the 25th of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career.
Hamlin was able to hold off a hard charging Brad Keselowski late in the race.
“We just weren’t going to be denied today,” said Hamlin in Victory Lane. “Just great racecars, part of a great organization that gives me great cars that are able to do it. Hats off to Brad. He had an option, and he took the latter, so I thank him for that.”
Keselowski ran Hamlin clean late in the going and finished second.
“I just couldn’t quite make the move I needed to to complete the pass,” Keselowski said. “I was right there. I would have loved to have had about five or 10 more laps to keep trying, but it didn’t work out.”
Finishing in the sixth position was Martin Truex Jr., with Danica Patrick coming home seventh. Kevin Harvick finished in the eighth position, marking the first time since Martinsville in October in which Harvick did not finish in the top-two positions. Jeff Gordon finished in the ninth spot and Jamie McMurray rounded out the top 10.
Gordon found himself in position to win, leading late in the going. However, during the final caution on lap 461 Gordon sped on pit road and found himself at the tail end of the field when the race restarted on lap 465. Gordon drove all the way up to the ninth position, but ran out of time to muster himself any closer.
It started with Elliott, who was making his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut driving the No. 25 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet. Early in the going Elliott and Brett Moffitt made contact, eventually sending both cars to the garage. Elliott finished 38th.
Earnhardt tried to defend his title from last October and had a strong car early. However, a broken shifter put Earnhardt deep in the field and on lap 229 Earnhardt was involved in a multi-car incident that heavily damaged his Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet. Earnhardt went to the garage but eventually continued. He finished 36th.
Johnson struggled all day in his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet. He was on the tail end of the lead lap early on the but the team worked on it and got to around 15th before an accident occurred on lap 368. Johnson would eventually continue but he finished 35th.
Regan Smith finished 16th in his substitute role driving the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Chevrolet. Smith was filling in for Kyle Larson, who missed the race after he fainted on Saturday. Larson was in the hospital on Sunday and could not race.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will have an off weekend during the Easter weekend before heading to the Texas Motor Speedway for the running of the Duck Commander 500 on April 11.
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