As the most prolific player in the history of the National Basketball Association, Michael Jordan introduced many defenders to his devastating spin move that ended with a thunderous slam. Unfortunately his iconic Jordan Brand’s first primary sponsorship of a NASCAR Camping World Series truck, came out on the wrong end of a ‘spin and slam’ and Denny Hamlin went from challenging for his third consecutive Truck Series victory at his home-state track to scratching and clawing his way to a sixth-place finish.
After starting from the pole, Denny Hamlin put his Jordan Brand Tundra out front for 65 of the first 105 laps in the Kroger 200 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and appeared to have a truck capable of ending the day in victory lane. The No. 51 Tundra was on point for the lap-105 restart, but shortly after going back green Kevin Harvick tried to split the top two trucks and knocked Hamlin into the rubbish on the high side of the track. By the time the Virginia native was able to get back in line, he had subsided to the ninth position.
Slowly but surely, Hamlin maneuvered his way back into the top five and was running in the fourth spot on lap 143 when Matt Crafton drove into his left rear off of Turn 4, stayed in the gas and sent the No. 51 Tundra spinning rear-end first into the inside wall down the frontstretch. Following two trips down pit road to repair the damage, the Carolina blue and grey machine restarted from the tail end of the field in the 21st position with 50 laps remaining. Twenty laps later he had only advanced to the 16th spot when the eighth caution of the race occurred.
Hamlin communicated that his Goodyear tires had “no rubber left,” so crew chief Rudy Fugle summoned his driver to pit road. With no sticker tires left in the arsenal, the over-the-wall crew put on a set of used tires from Friday’s practice sessions and returned their truck to the track scored in the 18th position for the ensuing restart with 25 laps remaining.
With a damaged Jordan Brand Tundra, Hamlin was having a hard time gaining any ground until a four-truck accident occurred on lap 189. The talented wheelman took the final restart from the ninth position with seven laps remaining and was able to weave his way around three more competitors in the closing laps and ended the day with a sixth-place finish.
Darrell Wallace Jr., Hamlin’s KBM teammate, led a race-high 96 laps en route to his first career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory. With the win, Wallace Jr. became the second African-American driver to collect a victory in a NASCAR National Series race. Brendan Gaughan crossed the stripe 1.673 seconds behind Wallace Jr. in the runner-up spot. Turner Scott Motorsports drivers Jeb Burton and Ben Kennedy finished third and fourth, respectively and Ryan Blaney rounded out the top-five finishers. Joey Coulter finished 12th in KBM’s third entry.
There were 10 caution periods for 52 laps. Five different drivers led a lap, exchanging the lead seven times. Five drivers failed to finish the 200-lap event.
The No. 51 team remained second in the owner’s championship standings, but were able to gain 12 points on the series-leading No. 88 team. With three races remaining, the difference sits at just 15 markers.
Owner-driver Kyle Busch will be back behind of the wheel of the No. 51 ToyotaCare Tundra when the Truck Series returns to action next Friday, Nov. 1, at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth for the Winstar World Casino 350. Live Television coverage on Fox Sports 1 beings at 8 p.m. ET with the NCWTS Setup Show.
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