Dale Jr. Holds off Hamlin; Earnhardt Posts First Win of NASCAR Nextel Cup Season

By Coble, Don | The Florida Times Union, May 7, 2006 | Go to article overview

Dale Jr. Holds off Hamlin; Earnhardt Posts First Win of NASCAR Nextel Cup Season


Coble, Don, The Florida Times Union


Byline: DON COBLE

RICHMOND, Va. -- Denny Hamlin has raced against Dale Earnhardt Jr. so many times he lost count. And most of the time, Hamlin wins.

But those races are on computer games. Saturday night's race at the Richmond International Raceway was the real thing.

Hamlin got a bumper inside Earnhardt's back bumper twice in the final five laps of the Royal Crown 400, but both times Earnhardt held off his friend to win the race.

"A little part of me wanted to see him win here, but I didn't want to be the one he passed to do it," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I'm real glad to be able to race him. You want to race your friends and have fun."

Hamlin grew up in nearby Chesterfield, Va., and is a rookie in the Nextel Cup Series. The sellout crowd of more than 110,000 fans roared when Hamlin climbed from his Chevrolet, but the fans took it to another level when Earnhardt parked in Victory Lane.

"Actually, I've raced him like this a bunch of times," Hamlin said. "And I usually beat him [on the computer]. I gave it everything I had."

"I was real proud of the car we brought to the racetrack," Earnhardt said after winning his first race of the season. "We really didn't have to work real hard. I was real proud of the job everyone did back at [Dale Earnhardt Inc.]. The motor was real good. Everything's working great. I couldn't ask for any position on this race team to be any better."

Earnhardt saved his best for last. He let Kevin Harvick dominate most of the race before leading his first lap. In fact, Earnhardt waited until there were 47 laps remaining to take his first lead. Once he got the lead, he never gave it back.

The first 300 laps were tough on some of the drivers who came into the race ranked among the top four in the Nextel Cup Series standings. Kasey Kahne, who won his first career race at Richmond one year ago and was fourth in the standings, lost a cylinder in the first 50 laps and dropped several laps down. …

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