Denny Ham­lin’s day has a much hap­pier end­ing than be­gin­ning

Cecil Whig - - SPORTS - By REID SPENCER

NASCAR Wire Ser­vice

— Con­sid­er­ing the way Sun­day started for Denny Ham­lin, a third-place fin­ish in the Goody’s Fast Re­lief 500 might have de­fied the omens from early in the day.

Ham­lin was on the way to an early-morn­ing ap­pear­ance when the driver in­tro­duc­tion stage, be­ing hauled by a trac­tor, col­lided with the golf cart in which Ham­lin was rid­ing. The golf car was to­taled, but Ham­lin saw the ac­ci­dent com­ing and leaped out of the ve­hi­cle be­fore the im­pact.

Be­fore the race, Ham­lin’s No. 11 Toy­ota fell off its jack, forc­ing the team to do ex­tra work to get it through in­spec­tion.

Con­sid­er­ing that he also had to over­come a speed­ing penalty on his first pit stop, Ham­lin’s even­tual third-place fin­ish might be con­sid­ered a bless­ing, even though the han­dling of Ham­lin’s car eroded over the fi­nal 100 laps.

“Yeah, I thought it was a great start of my day, for sure, get­ting wiped out on the golf cart, my car fall­ing off the jack,” Ham­lin said. “Even­tu­ally, the odds are that you’re go­ing to have some­thing go smooth. I thought as soon as we had that speed­ing penalty at the be­gin­ning, I knew I put our­selves back in a hole again.

“I knew pa­tience is what we needed to ex­er­cise there. We got through the pack clean, which was good. There were a few close calls. But it was a tough start to

MARTINSVILLE, VA.

the day, great mid­dle, and blah end­ing.”

Though Ham­lin es­caped in­jury in the golf car ac­ci­dent, the ve­hi­cle was de­stroyed.

“Ever seen Big Foot (a mon­ster truck) and those cars they set up for him to jump over?” Ham­lin quipped. “We were the car. I saw it com­ing, jumped out of the cart. (Martinsville Speed­way Pres­i­dent) Clay Camp­bell is go­ing to get a bill.”

Af­ter blown tire, Ed­wards faces up­hill bat­tle

A blown tire late in Sun­day’s race al­most cer­tainly put Carl Ed­wards in a win-or-bust po­si­tion for the next two races in the Round of 8 in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Ed­wards was run­ning ninth when the blown tire sent him hard into the out­side wall on Lap 358 of 500. Ul­ti­mately, Ed­wards finished 36th, 23 laps down and trails team­mate Kyle Busch by 32 points for the fi­nal spot in the Cham­pi­onship 4 fi­nale, set for Nov. 20 at Home­stead-Mi­ami Speed­way.

The best medicine for the driver of the No. 19 Toy­ota would be a vic­tory, ei­ther next Sun­day at Texas or Nov. 13 at Phoenix. Oth­er­wise, Ed­wards isn’t likely to have a shot at the series ti­tle at Home­stead.

“We had a re­ally good race go­ing and some­times that’s just what hap­pens in rac­ing. I think we had a top- three car. I was hav­ing a lot of fun, and now we just go to Texas and try to win there and Phoenix – we could win at ei­ther one of those race tracks.”

Gor­don en­joys (per­haps) his last run at Martinsville

Jeff Gor­don doesn’t plan to race again in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car – un­less team owner Rick Hen­drick twists his arm.

But Gor­don hopes cir­cum­stances won’t force him into an­other sub­sti­tute role. Com­pet­ing in place of ail­ing Dale Earn­hardt Jr. for the last time this sea­son, Gor­don finished sixth on Sun­day in his Martinsville swan song.

“Well, I had a lot of fun out there,” Gor­don said af­ter the race. “It’s great to be here in front of all th­ese awe­some short track and Martinsville NASCAR fans. It’s just a spe­cial place to me, and I had a lot of fun and had a great car. This No. 88 Na­tion­wide Chevro­let was re­ally good. I knew we didn’t have the short­run speed for some of those Gibbs cars…

“I would rather have won. I felt like we had a fourth-or-fifth-place car the run be­fore that (last run), so I al­ways wanted to get the most out of it. I was a lit­tle dis­ap­pointed it didn’t take off there at the last yel­low, but very proud of this team proud of my per­for­mance. Best fin­ish I’ve had in this car (sub­bing for Earn­hardt). Good way to fin­ish my run this year in the No. 88 Chevy.”

No­tice Gor­don said “my run this year” and not “my ca­reer.”

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY SEAN GROGAN

Ravens guard Mar­shal Yanda re­turned to prac­tice last week af­ter miss­ing two straight games and will like play Sun­day when Bal­ti­more hosts the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers in a bat­tle for first place in the AFC North.

GETTY IM­AGES FOR NASCAR

Denny Ham­lin, driver of the #11 FedEx Freight Toy­ota, leads Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M’s Hal­loween Toy­ota, dur­ing the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody’s Fast Re­lief 500 at Martinsville Speed­way on Sun­day in Martinsville, Va.

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