Published May 03, 2016
Richmond, VA (SportsNetwork.com) - Denny Hamlin won Friday night's ToyotaCare 250 Xfinity Series race with a near perfect performance at Richmond International Raceway.
Hamlin, who grew up nearby this 0.75-mile oval in Chesterfield, Virginia, started on the pole and led all but two of the 250 laps. The driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota gave up the top spot first on lap 154 when Brian Scott had passed him and then second on lap 226 when he pitted during a round of green-flag stops, allowing Elliott Sadler to run in front for one circuit.
"It was a great day right from the start," Hamlin said. "Our car had great speed, and that's the key to victory. It's no tricks or anything like that. You just need to have a fast car, and (crew chief) Mike (Wheeler) and these guys (No. 20 JGR team) gave me something special tonight. We were able to dominate with it. You don't get these cars that often."
Hamlin scored his 12th career win in NASCAR's second-tier series. He also gave Toyota its 100th victory in the series.
"Toyota has been such a big part of Joe Gibbs Racing and NASCAR, and they've propelled this team to what it is, and I'm proud to get 100 for them," Hamlin said.
Hamlin competed in his first race since he missed most of last Sunday's Sprint Cup event at Bristol due to a neck spasm. Just prior to the Xfinity race at Richmond, Hamlin qualified second for Saturday night's Toyota Owners 400.
Joey Logano, who led all 300 laps in winning last Saturday's Xfinity race at Bristol, finished in the runner-up spot, 3.7 seconds behind Hamlin.
"I had a decent car, but it wasn't even close to that No. 20 car," Logano said. "I thought (Hamlin) was pretty fast in practice, and apparently it transferred over to the race."
This race featured a scary moment during a round of pit stops under caution on lap 113 when a large fire erupted in Brendan Gaughan's pit stall, sending two crew members from his No. 62 Richard Childress Racing team and one from Eric McClure's No. 24 JGL Racing team to a local hospital for observation.
According to Gaughan's crew chief, Shane Wilson, a malfunction in the gas head while refueling the No. 62 car was to blame for the fire. Rear-tire changer Anthony O'Brien and gas man Josh Wittman from the 62 team were involved in the incident. A television camera showed O'Brien awake and alert while laying on a stretcher, as he gave a thumbs up. He was wearing an oxygen mask at the time. Wittman walked away from the incident under his own power and did not appear to be injured.
"I just hope the best for them," Wilson said of his crew members, O'Brien and Wittman. "It's too bad. I guess we take this for granted sometimes."
Clifford Turner, a crew member from McClure's team, was sent to the hospital after inhaling fumes from one of the fire extinguishers used to put out the fire, but he was quickly treated and released. McClure's pit stall was right next to Gaughan.
Regan Smith finished third in the race, while Erik Jones placed fourth. Chase Elliott, the defending Xfinity champion, was fifth.
Daniel Suarez, Brian Scott, Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon and Landon Cassill completed the top-10.
Kevin Harvick's streak of 29 consecutive top-10 finishes in Xfinity came to an end with his 18th-place run. Harvick, driving the No. 88 car for JR Motorsports, experienced a bad vibration at the halfway point and fell back in the field. He ended up finishing two laps behind.
Ty Dillon reclaimed the lead in the point standings. He had been in a tie for the lead with Chris Buescher, but Buescher dropped 11 points behind following his 20th-place run.
Elliott moved to within eight points of the lead.