Denny Hamlin celebrates Stafford Springs SRX win

SRX: Hamlin wins rain-shortened Stafford Springs opener

Denny Hamlin became the third driver to win in his first Camping World SRX Series start Thursday night, taking the win in the rain-shortened SRX season opener at Stafford Motor Speedway.

Hamlin took the lead from 2022 SRX champion Marco Andretti on lap 12 and led the rest of the way in the main event. The checkered flag flew after 58 laps with a thunderstorm closing in on Stafford Motor Speedway, dampening post-race festivities.

After losing a motor in his primary car in the second heat race, Ryan Newman went to a backup car for the feature and rebounded to finish second. Newman won the Stafford SRX Series event in 2021. Clint Bowyer, making his series debut and the first of three series starts this year, was third.

“That last lap of the heat I had some pretty major contact [with Brad Keselowski]. I think the right front was hung on the tire there,” Hamlin related. “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 we wanted [the feature] to go the distance. 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.”

“It was eventful,” summed up Newman of his night. “We started last [in the first heat], we got spun out, we went back to last. Came back and passed a few and took the invert and won the next heat, but my motor was blowing up. I knew it was hot. I got it cooled down under caution, but the reason I got it cooled down was because there was no water left in it. It never spewed water out, it had a leak. Had a cracked fitting or something.

“We got in the backup car, fell back to sixth or seventh at least. I got a couple good restarts and we were able to work our way forward. I had a really good car in the end. Oh 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.”

Hamlin found the experience a refreshing change from his day job in the NASCAR Cup Series.

“This is a lot of fun,” he said of the series featuring identically prepared cars powered by Ilmor V8 396 engines similar to those used in the ARCA Menards Series. “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.”


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