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Placing a bet: put some money on Denny Hamlin. He's due, way overdue, particularly here at Richmond


Denny Hamlin well remembers Richmond 2008....remembers all too well....(Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)



   By Mike Mulhern

   Denny Hamlin, that's the dude to keep an eye on here this weekend.
   He's becoming extremely frustrated with all these good runs but no victories, and this is his hometown, so he'll likely be armed for bear.
   Hamlin grew up only 15 miles from Richmond International Raceway, and he well remembers his first race here – in 1992, from the turn four grandstands, where he watched Bill Elliott versus Alan Kulwicki. That, of course, was the season when underdog independent Kulwicki pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the sport's history, beating the power-packed Elliott- Junior Johnson team by just 10 points to win the Winston Cup championship. But that afternoon here it was Elliott winning the race, part of his four-in-a-row streak, with that trick rear end.
    Hamlin is now one of the tour's top drivers, though he hasn't won since last spring's Martinsville 500.
   It is last spring's race here that really sticks in his craw: He set the track record for laps led, in a dominating performance….only to suffer a flat tire with 120 laps to go. He finally stopped on the track, rather than pitting, which brought out the caution and earned him a two-lap NASCAR penalty.
   That left the race to Dale Earnhardt Jr. versus Kyle Busch, and they put on a heck of a show – until spinning with two laps to go, giving the race to Clint Bowyer.
   "I thought it was 10 years ago," Hamlin says of that bitter defeat. 
    "It definitely replays in your mind, for sure. 
    "There's obviously nothing we could have done. It's just one of those things that bad luck strikes.
    "But the good part is knowing we're going back to the same track hopefully with the same weather conditions and we'll have a car that is just as strong. 
    "Races like that just slip away sometimes….It takes a little time to get over them.
   "The Nationwide race that I won there the night before was the biggest win, pretty much, of my career, Cup or Nationwide.  Just winning at home, it didn't matter what series.
    "And we had a shot at back-to-back.
   "But it seemed like it overshadowed everything that did go good that weekend just in those last 10 laps."


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