Denny Hamlin expected the bump-and-run but it never came.
Kyle Busch got to the back bumper in the closing laps of the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown on Thursday night, but showed his teammate a ton of respect. That was enough for Hamlin to win his own charity Late Model race for just the second time in his career.
Regional star CE Falk briefly took the lead from Hamlin with 35 laps to go, but was victimized in lap traffic when he got stuck behind a slow Colin Garrett. The loss of momentum allowed Hamlin to retake the lead and hold serve for the remainder of the race.
Busch was able to get by Falk, but never gave Hamlin the hard shove it would have taken to win the race over the final five laps.
“If it were the Kyle Busch Foundation race, it might have been a different story,” Hamlin said in Victory Lane. “We knew we were going to race each other clean. He made a heck of a run to get to us there. We got bottled up in traffic there.
“I knew if I could break through, I’d have a good shot at it. But it’s when you let someone get to within half a car length that you get nervous.”
For his part, Busch had to come a long way to even make a race out of it. He struggled to get going on the final restart, at one point falling to fifth before methodically charging his way through the field. In the end, he ran out of time to make a respectful pass on his teammate.
When asked if the charity element made a difference in not putting the bumper to Hamlin, Busch offered a signature one-liner.
“Well, I didn’t did I?”
Busch said he was plagued by the start-and-stop nature of a race that featured three red flags and a seemingly endless chain of cautions.
“I just wish we could have had more long runs to show what we had,” Busch said. “This Nelson Motorsports Camry was really good. We just got knocked out of the way and ran out of time to make something happen once we got to the front.”
Fellow NASCAR notable Timothy Peters finished fourth, completing a 1-2-3 sweep for the Nelson Motorsports team that he presides over as General Manager. Falk finished fourth after sliding back over the final 10 laps.
Hamlin last won the Hamlin Showdown in 2011 at Richmond Raceway. Given the charity he represents, winning on Thursday night was especially gratifying.
“It’s just a good feeling all around,” Hamlin said. “I’m only behind Kyle now in wins in this race. But we’re doing some good things for people and I want to win to just hammer it home. To come back here, in front of these people where I first started my career, that’s even more special.”
Hamlin celebrated his victory with a 45-second burnout. He later told the crowd in attendance that he would “see you next year,” the first unofficial confirmation that the event would return to Langley in 2019. The event was witnessed by nearly 7,000 fans, with Speedway officials having to install temporary seats in Turns 3 and 4 to meet demand for the race.
Completing the top-10 were Myatt Snider, Justin S. Carroll, Ruben Garcia, Connor Hall and Nick Smith. The complete results can be found below.
1. 11 Denny Hamlin
2. 51 Kyle Busch
3. 12p Timothy Peters
4. 02 CE Falk
5. 26s Peyton Sellers
6. 2s Myatt Snider
7. 57c Justin S. Carroll
8. 6 Ruben Garcia
9. 77 Connor Hall
10. 12 Nick Smith -1
11. 22 Grayson Cullather -1
12. 18 Ty Gibbs -1
13. 03 Brenden Queen -1
14. 01 Philip Morris -1
15. 92 Casey Wyatt -2
16. 24g Colin Garrett -2
17. 57j Eddie Johnson -2
18. 24 Mason Diaz -2
19. 55 Mark Wertz OUT
20. 00 Chris Johnson OUT
21. 4 Chase Cabre OUT
22. 57 Justin T. Carroll OUT
23. 88b Doug Barnes OUT
24. 8 Tyler Hughes OUT
25. 26 Danny Edwards OUT
26. 98 Nicholas Sanchez OUT
27. 83 Matt Bowling OUT
28. 94 Cody Carlton OUT
29. 2 Ryan Vargas OUT
30. 16m Brett Moffitt OUT
31. 16 Bubba Johnston OUT
32. 90 Terry Carroll OUT
33. 41 Woody Howard OUT
Read more Short Track Scene:
- What we learned from the NWMT Thompson Icebreaker
- Steve Wallace, Mason Mingus brawl at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville
- Philip Morris sweeps Langley Twin 75s under protest from Connor Hall