Denny Hamlin opted to start in the back but that didn't prevent him from winding up in Victory Lane at the end of the night.
Hamlin passed Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch on the final lap to claim the win in the fourth annual Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown Thursday at Richmond International Raceway. The non-points event was a benefit for the Denny Hamlin Foundation, and featured a mix of NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers, rising stars in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series, and some of the best Late Model drivers in the Southeast.
Michael Waltrip finished second, while 15-year-old Chase Elliott – the son of former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Bill Elliott – was third. Joey Logano and Frank Deiny Jr. rounded out the top five. Busch, who dominated the event before slowing on the final lap with a fuel pick-up issue, wound up sixth. Scott Turlington, Burt Myers, Matt McCall and Kyle Grissom rounded out the top 10.
Hamlin would have started on the pole by virtue of the race rules, which put the top qualifying national series driver in that spot. But after qualifying just 10th overall, Hamlin elected to drop all the way to the back of the 36-car field.
It nearly cost him when he flat-spotted his tires in a multi-car wreck on the race's first lap. He nursed it to the competition caution on lap 45, which provided a five-minute break for teams to make adjustments and change two tires. He was 10th at that point, and moved up to seventh at the race's second competition caution on lap 65.
It was Hamlin's first win in his own race, which was held for the first three years at nearby Southside Speedway in Midlothian, Va. Kyle Busch won in 2008 and 2009 when the race was contested in Limited Late Models. CE Falk III beat Hamlin on a green-white-checkered finish in last year's event.
Darrell Wallace Jr., who won the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race earlier in the evening, brought out the race's final caution on lap 70. He got loose in Turn 2 battling Busch for the lead and went around on the backstretch. Among those caught up in the accident were Falk and JGR development driver Max Gresham, who had swapped the lead with Busch earlier in the race.