Denny Hamlin holds off Brad Keselowski to win at Martinsville, snaps Toyota 31-race winless streak

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Denny Hamlin held off a last-lap surge, including a bump from behind coming out of the final turn from Brad Keselowski, to win Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

It was Hamlin’s fifth career win at the .526-mile southern Virginia bullring, and his first there since 2010. It was also his first win in nearly a year, having last won last May at Talladega.

“We just weren’t going to be denied today,” Hamlin said. “Hat’s off to Brad. He had an option and he took the latter (not to wreck Hamlin). I thank him for that.”

Keselowski plowed into Hamlin’s bumper with a hard lick coming out of Turn 4 on the final lap that caused Hamlin’s car to wiggle, but he managed to hold on for the win.

“We finished on a strong note, just not as quite as strong as we’d have liked to,” Keselowski said. “All in all, a real solid day and a fun day, just one spot short.

“I did everything I could other than wreck him. I hit him pretty good a couple times. He did a good job and chose not to wreck, which I give him credit for. I really don’t know what more I could have done, other than drove through him, but I feel pretty good about what I did do today.”

Keselowski’s Penske Racing teammate Joey Logano finished third, followed by Matt Kenseth and David Ragan.

Logano was hoping to make a weekend sweep of both poles and both wins in Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race and Sunday’s Sprint Cup race, only to come up short in the latter.

Kevin Harvick’s bid for a ninth consecutive top-2 finish came to an end, finishing eighth. Harvick led the most laps, leading eight times for 154 laps.

How Hamlin won: Hamlin led four times for 91 laps, with the key being taking the lead on Lap 473 and holding off late charges by Keselowski, Logano and Kenseth. He was able to hold on to his race car even after sustaining a hard lick from behind by Brad Keselowski coming out of Turn 4 on the final lap.

Who else had a good day: Brad Keselowski now has his own top-2 streak going, having won last week at Fontana and finishing second Sunday. … Logano rallied back to finish third after a spin pushed him back to 24th position. … David Ragan had his best finish since taking over for the injured Kyle Busch five races ago in the No. 18 Toyota, ending up fifth. Ragan’s best prior finish in place of Busch was a pair of 18th-place showings.

Who had a bad day: Chase Elliott was involved in two wrecks in the first 75 laps and had to return to the garage for lengthy repairs. Making his Sprint Cup debut, Elliott finished 38th, 73 laps off the lead lap. … Dale Earnhardt Jr. fought shifter problems during the first half of the race before being involved in a wreck. He returned to the race following repairs and finished 36th, 47 laps off the lead lap. … Jimmie Johnson failed in his bid to win a ninth race at Martinsville, making early contact that impacted his day, eventually finishing 35th, 32 laps off the lead lap. … Roush Fenway Racing continued to struggle. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. brought out three cautions by himself in the first 220 laps before taking his car to the garage for repairs. Stenhouse finished 40th and completed just 364 of the scheduled 500 laps. Teammate Trevor Bayne spun early in the race and finished 18th, followed in 19th by teammate Greg Biffle. … Kyle Larson was forced to miss the race due to further tests at a Charlotte hospital related to his fainting Saturday morning during a fan autograph session. Regan Smith replaced Larson and finished 16th.

Notables: Hamlin’s win snapped a 31-race winless streak for Toyota. Hamlin’s win equals half of Toyota’s two wins in all of 2014. … Danica Patrick finished seventh, her best finish since a sixth-place showing at Atlanta last September. It was Patrick’s fifth career top-10 finish, tying her with Janet Guthrie for most top-10 finishes by a female in Sprint Cup history. Patrick also made the biggest upward move of any driver in the points, gaining seven spots to jump into 16th place. … After 10 cautions in the first half of the race (250 laps), there were six more in the second half. The track record remains 21 cautions in a race. … Even though he finished 20th, Tony Stewart led eight laps, the first time he’s led a lap this season.

Quote of the day: “The shifter kept breaking. It was vibrating like a tuning fork.” – Dale Earnhardt Jr. on gear shifter problems that required him to pit several times for repairs or shifter replacement.

What’s next: The series takes a break for the Easter holiday next weekend, returning April 11th for a Saturday night race at Texas Motor Speedway.

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