This week, SPEED.com counts down the five best NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races of the 2010 season. No. 4 is the Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville.
Jeff Gordon was in the lead and only about 30 yards away from taking the white flag when a caution came out for Kyle Busch's spin in Turn 3. Had Gordon made it to the white flag before the yellow waved, he would have been declared the winner of the race and broken a nearly year-long winless streak.
Instead, the race finished under green-white-checkered conditions, and Hamlin was on fresher tires, thanks to a pit stop he had made on Lap 493 of the race.
When the green flag flew for the final two-lap sprint to the finish, Gordon was leading on the inside lane, with Newman to his outside. Matt Kenseth was third, with Hamlin fourth right behind Ryan Newman.
As they headed into Turn 1 on Lap 507, Kenseth put the chrome horn to Gordon, using his front bumper to move the No. 24 Hendrick Chevrolet to the middle of the track, where it was sandwiched between Kenseth and Newman.
On the backstretch, Gordon and Kenseth made contact again, and when the field rushed into Turn 3, Gordon put his left-front fender into the right rear of Kenseth’s No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, sending it up the track towards the outside wall. But the contact broke Gordon’s momentum just enough to let the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas of Hamlin and Joey Logano dive underneath to take over the top two spots. And that’s how they finished, with Gordon third, followed by Newman and Martin Truex Jr. Kenseth ended up 18th.
The race was rain delayed and run on Monday, which also delayed Hamlin’s pending surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament on his left knee by one day. Still, it was more than worth it for Hamlin, who won his first race of the season and ninth of his still-young NASCAR Sprint Cup career.
“This is probably the most gratifying win I’ve had, simply because we came through adversity so many times, whether it be because of pit road (dropping the jack too soon on an early pit stop) or that dash at the end,” said Hamlin, a Virginia native. “We just flat out drove through ’em at the end and got the win. I’m not sure we’ve gotten a win like this before.”
As for Gordon, he was understandably less sanguine about the outcome.
“We were a hundred feet away from getting that white flag, getting the victory,” Gordon said. “So that’s frustrating. But I shouldn’t be too upset. We were a third-place car before that, and we finished third. I’m not exactly sure what happened on that last restart. I got an OK restart. Spun the tires a little bit, got going. I looked at my mirror, 17 (Kenseth) was pretty far behind me. … Next thing I know, I got nailed. I don’t know who got into me. I thought it was the 17. If it wasn’t, I apologize to him. I made sure he didn’t win the race down the straightaway.”
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEED.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100 and e-mail him at Jensen is the author of “Cheating: The Bad Things Good NASCAR Nextel Cup Racers Do In Pursuit of Speed,” and has appeared on numerous television and radio shows. Jensen is the past President of the National Motorsports Press Association and an NMPA Writer of the Year.