STAFFORD SPRINGS, Conn. — In his SRX debut, Denny Hamlin followed a heat win up with a main event win Thursday at Stafford Motor Speedway.
Hamlin passed Marco Andretti, then held off Ryan Newman just long enough to get a little help from Mother Nature.
Newman hounded Hamlin as the final 25 laps of the 75-lap main event approached.
That’s when the winds and lightning intensified and drew a race-ending caution.
Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman held off Clint Bowyer, Paul Tracy, Hailie Deegan, Marco Andretti, Ken Schrader, Bobby Labonte, Brad Keselowski, Tony Kanaan, Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick.
“This is a lot of fun. From a driver’s standpoint, knowing you’re in the same equipment as every else. They don’t let you do any changes to these cars that not every car has. There’s no spotters. A lot of the contact you see is because you just can’t see the people around you. Man this is so much fun. This is short track racing, the grassroots racing we want to showcase,” Hamlin said.
Hamlin and Newman were the class of the field as they also won the heats.
However, after Ryan Newman won heat two, he had to go to a backup car due to a leak that left his heat-winning car without water.
“We got in the backup car and fell back to sixth or seventh at least. I got a couple good restarts and we were able to work our way forward,” Newman said. “I had a really good car in the end. There was no doubt I was catching [Hamlin] and I was going to work on him when I got to him. I think I would have showed him something. He’s a pretty savvy driver. I think he might have been able to hold me up, but I still would have liked to have tried it.”
Between going to a backup car after winning heat two and nearly wining the main event, Newman had an eventful night.
In heat one, he moved down on Kevin Harvick and spun entering turn two.
It wasn’t the only spin in the heat, as Tony Stewart sent Brad Keselowski spinning into Harvick and Clint Bowyer in turn one.
Up against the 12-minute window after this spin, officials declared a two-lap shootout to finish the heat.
Heat One Results: Hamlin, Tracy, Andretti, Labonte, Kanaan, Stewart, Schrader, Bowyer, Newman, Deegan, Harvick, Keselowski
An inverted field didn’t lead to chaos in the second heat as it went caution-free for nine of the first 20-laps.
After a competition caution, though, Paul Tracy dove into turn three and spun Ken Schrader on lap 11. The rest of the heat finished cleanly.
Heat Two Results: Newman, Bowyer, Keselowski, Harvick, Tracy, Stewart, Hamlin, Kanaan, Andretti, Labonte, Schrader, Deegan
Main event lineup: Tracy, Hamlin, Bowyer, Newman, Andretti, Stewart, Kanaan, Labonte, Harvick, Keselowski, Schrader, Deegan
Paul Tracy started out in front of the main event but didn’t stay there long. Marco Andretti moved from fifth to first and took the lead.
The only incident in the main event involved Ken Schrader, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Bobby Labonte and Ryan Newman.
Harvick failed to finish the main event. Stewart also failed to finish due to fuel pump issues.
After a restart, Hamlin got to Andretti’s bumper and eventually passed him for the lead exiting turn four.
Clint Bowyer stalked Hamlin throughout the main event but couldn’t get by. After a competition caution on lap 41, Newman mounted a stronger charge but a storm hit before he could do anything with Hamlin.
Neither Hamlin nor Bowyer will run next week at Stafford but Newman will. He’s one of eight full-time SRX drivers and the current points leader.
- Ryan Newman: 38 points
- Paul Tracy: -1
- Marco Andretti: -10
- Bobby Labonte: -16
- Hailie Deegan: -18
- Ken Schrader: -18
- Brad Keselowski: -19
- Tony Stewart: -20
Part-time drivers Tony Kanaan, Greg Biffle, Daniel Suarez and Kenny Wallace are scheduled to join those eight drivers in the July 20 SRX race at Stafford. Ryan Preece is also scheduled to race.