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Denny Hamlin pulls out a win, when Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth take each other out

  Denny Hamlin, his right side tires shreaded, takes a victory lap after a surprising victory Monday at Martinsville Speedway (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   Maybe that upcoming knee surgery this week won't be quite that bad, if Denny Hamlin has as much good fortune in that venture as he did in Monday's rain-delayed Martinsville Goody's 500.
   Hamlin survived what looked to all like a bad pit call by crew chief Mike Ford with 10 laps to go – to make a four-tire stop under the yellow and giving up the lead to Jeff Gordon – and rallied to win his first race of the season in a dramatic overtime.
    And Hamlin said afterwards his right-front tire was cut and going down in those final miles.
    The four-hour race was between Hamlin and Jeff Burton all afternoon, the race opening under blue skies but ending under dark clouds.
    But Burton blew a right front tire in the final miles and tagged the wall. He was just one of several drivers who apparently had tires blow because of excessive brake heat.
    And with Burton out of it, the race appeared Hamlin's easily.
   However Burton's incident brought out the yellow, and Ford and teammate crew chief Dave Rogers both made the stunning decision to pit for fresh tires. And the rest of the field – with almost 20 men still on the lead lap – stayed on the track.
   That looked like a bad call....with Hamlin restarting eighth, with only a handful of laps to go.
   "I can't believe," a stunned Hamlin said. "I thought it was the end for us.
   "The knee hurt today. I'll be glad to get that over with (with surgery).
   "That's hard to do. I had to bully my way through at the end. Somehow we just made it work.
    "There was no way I could predict that was going to happen. Every hole had to open up."
    Gordon was the big loser at the end. He had the lead for the final restart with two to go, Hamlin behind him and on the outside, not the best lane.
   But Hamlin pushed Ryan Newman (on the outside of the front row for the final start) down into the first turn....and then Kenseth, right behind Gordon, pushed Gordon, who slid up the track. Gordon retaliated with Kenseth, and that opened the door for Hamlin, who scooted through the opening and ran away to the win.
   Kenseth wasn't happy with Gordon, claiming "He never gives me room. And the next time it will be different."
   "I have not seen the replay," Gordon replied. "All I know is he was behind me, and I got hit.
   "We've had our run-ins. The way he raced me today is not the way I would have raced him. We have had our ups and downs, but I thought we were past that.
   " But if somebody hits me, I'm going to hit him.
   "If somebody gives me a cheap shot like that, he doesn't deserve to win.
   "But I haven't seen the video, and if he wasn't the one who hit me, I'll call him and apologize.
   "We were just trying to hang on on old tires, but I was pretty happy with the way the day went, except with getting shuffled back on restarts if you were on the outside.
   "We were going to come home third, and then the last caution came out. When those two guys pitted (Hamlin and Kyle Busch), I felt we were definitely the car to beat.
   "And then we were 100 feet away from getting that white flag and the victory.....
   "I'm not sure exactly what happened on that last restart. I looked in my mirror, and Matt was pretty far behind me. I don't know who got into me, but I think it was Matt...so I made sure he didn't win the race down the back straightaway (by running Kenseth into the wall).
   "It was pretty clear NASCAR wanted a green-white-checkered because guys were blowing tires right and left and they didn't throw the yellow, but then a car spins (Kyle Busch) at the end and they throw the yellow."
                                       The results of Monday's Martinsville Goody's 500


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   Denny Hamlin: "If we hadn't pitted at the end for tires, everyone else would have pitted..." (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

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