Qualifying is normally considered important at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. Add to that the fact that Saturday’s Kroger 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series was only 200-laps long, and it would seem that starting near the front would be of utmost importance. But when you’re Denny Hamlin, apparently, starting up front at Martinsville isn’t necessarily a requirement for success.
It’s not that Hamlin didn’t qualify well for Saturday’s truck race in his home state of Virginia. He would have taken the green flag near the front of the field had his No. 18 team not had to change engines prior to the race. But an engine change was called for and Hamlin fell to the back of the field for the start of the race. That didn’t keep him out of victory lane at the end of the day, though.
“I don’t get to race these races very often, so I’ve got to make the best of them when I do,” Hamlin said of his drive from the back to victory lane over the span of 200 laps.
Nelson Piquet Jr. muscled his way to a second-place finish and the ire of a few of his fellow-competitors.
“Last year, one of my issues was not being hard enough,” Piquet said after the race. “Yeah, maybe I went over the line a few times. That’s a part of learning.”
Kevin Harvick dominated much of the race, taking the lead from pole sitter Timothy Peters on lap 49 and leading the way until losing the top spot to Matt Crafton with 39 laps to go. Harvick wound up pitting alone with a flat tire during a caution with 14 laps to go, dropping outside the top-10 and finishing the race in 12th position.
Crafton then led the way until he was passed by Hamlin, who made his way all the way to the front with six laps to go. Crafton lost a couple more positions to finish fourth. Joey Coulter was third.
Scott Riggs finished fifth, and James Buescher recovered from being a lap down at one point in the race to finish sixth. The sixth-place finish allowed Buescher to take the points lead from Ty Dillon and build up a 21-point cushion.
“The second half of practice we got better, and in the second half of the race we came back, too,” Buescher said.
Dillon wound up 28th after a tire issue and hard impact with the wall with 50 laps to go.
Peters was seventh, Ryan Blaney eighth, Parker Kligerman ninth, and Brian Scott rounded out the top-10.
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