SRX Stafford – Race Recap Story

When it comes to grassroots motorsports, Stafford Speedway has long been a place that many drivers have found themselves perplexed in figuring out the tricky half-mile layout. 

 

When three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin turned his first laps in practice for the Camping World SRX Series Thursday he quickly realized what that trickiness was all about. 

 

So Hamlin turned to a former SRX Series winner for some pointers. 

 

Six-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Doug Coby won the inaugural SRX Series event on June 12, 2021 at Stafford Speedway. Thursday Hamlin gave Coby credit for helping him match the feat. 

 

Hamlin won the weather shortened 2023 season opening SRX Series event Thursday at Stafford. 

 

“[Coby] really helped me out a ton,” Hamlin said. “I met him for the first time today, but he really helped me with the line. I didn’t realize in practice how far off line I was. And he came over and said ‘You need to be here.’ And I got it to where he said I needed to be for the race and I was way faster.” 

 

Former Daytona 500 winner Ryan Newman was second and Clint Bowyer was third. 

 

The scheduled 80-lap main event was stopped after 57 laps with storms closing in on the speedway. Minutes after Hamlin celebrated in victory lane, torrential and extended downpours arrived on scene. 

 

Hamlin was making his first appearance with the SRX Series. 

 

“This is a lot of fun,” Hamlin said. “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 won the first 12-minute heat race. He finished seventh in the second heat race after contact late with Brad Keselowski. 

 

In between the second heat and the feature Hamlin had an inflated crew working on his car of not only the SRX series crew members, led by SRX Director of Car Performance Bronson Butcher, but also Coby, NASCAR Cup Series spotter Freddie Kraft, his former Cup Series crew chief Mike Wheeler and current Cup Series crew chief Chris Gabehart. 

 

“Really thanks to those guys for fixing it,” Hamlin said. “That last lap of the heat I had some pretty major contact [with Keselowski]. I think the right front was hung on the tire there. I thought I had a rack broken. But they fixed it and the car was right back to where it was in the heat race. I was pretty happy with it for sure. 

 

“Freddie and those guys were out there banging on the car trying to get it right. It was fun, everybody was chipping in. I had Mike Wheeler and Chris Gabehart here. This is a track Mike Wheeler grew up racing at with Ron Silk. I was really happy to have him here and get a win with him here.” 

 

Reigning series champion Marco Andretti took the 12-car field to green from the pole for the main with Clint Bowyer quickly getting by Paul Tracy for second. Hamlin found the way under Bowyer for second off turn four on lap four. A six-car pileup in turn four on lap six sent Kevin Harvick and Bobby Labonte to the pits for repairs. 

 

On lap 12 Hamlin found the line under Andretti and overtook him for the lead off of turn four. 

 

From lap 17 to 21 Bowyer and Andretti swapped second place four times. After Bowyer got by Andretti for the position on lap 21, Andretti began to fade. 

 

“I think we had the race won and the brake pedal went to the floor on me,” Andretti said. “I had no brakes and somehow finished the race.” 

 

By lap 31 the skies were lighting in the distance with lightning while Hamlin and Bowyer were checking out. Newman, who was in a backup car after losing a motor in the second heat race, caught fire late. Newman got by Bowyer for second on lap 51 and was closing on Hamlin, but not as fast as the storms were closing on the track.

 

“Oh there was no doubt I was catching him and I was going to work on him when I got to him,” said Newman, who won last year’s SRX Series event at Stafford. “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.” 

 

Said Hamlin: “I think it was about to be pretty exciting with Ryan. My car was really good and I was able to kind of manage what I needed to, especially the brakes. It seems like the brakes are the biggest thing we’re fighting.” 

 

Third place Bowyer was making his first career appearance with SRX. 

 

“Denny was for sure the class of the field, and by the way he should be,” said Bowyer, who will make two more starts with the series later this year. “Newman, I don’t know what happened to him at the end. He took off. But for me, my brakes were done. I smoked my brakes off of it trying to run different lines behind Denny and trying to find something else where I could get some straight runs off [the corner]. Ultimately I just did it to myself. I was just pushing too hard trying to find something else to get around him for the lead and really paid the price with my brakes. I was in bad trouble. If that caution hadn’t come out, two more laps I would have had to pull off.” 

SRX Racing PR