Denny Hamlin Wins Cheez-It 355 At Watkins Glen Despite Back Spasms

Denny Hamlin ended up on the pole this weekend at the wreck-filled Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International Speedway – the only road course on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule.

According to Fox Sports, Hamlin claimed to have woke up with back spasms that threatened to keep him out of the car.

Hamlin dodged a series of multi-car accidents that caused several cautions and subsequent restarts down the straightaway.

“I just woke up with back spasms this morning,” Hamlin told NASCAR. “Just hits me every three or four months or so. I just wake up and can’t move. Really doubted being in the race car today, to be honest with you, but can’t say enough about this whole FedEx Freight Toyota team,” he continued. “Should’ve won both road courses [Hamlin was second to Stewart at Sonoma], which is something we never would’ve predicted going into the year. Sold out crowd, two years in a row, this is a good time. I’ve finally won at all of the [types of] race tracks, so it’s a great accomplishment for us.”

In the end, it was a five-lap battle between Hamlin, Martin Truex, Jr., and Brad Keselowski. But, as soon as the checkered flag fell, Keselowski made contact with Truex, and the win went to Hamlin in four, intense final laps.

“I got right up to the bumper of the 78 (Truex) and couldn’t do anything there, and he made a move to get by the 11 (Hamlin) on the inside, and the 11 blocked him,” Keselowski told NASCAR. “I went high, and the 78 went high, and by then I was already deep in the corner and got into him and turned him. That was really unfortunate, and the last thing I wanted to see,” he continued.

Congrats to @dennyhamlin on getting the win after a wild race and finish! #CheezIt355

A photo posted by Watkins Glen International (@wgi1948) on

“This track here, when you drive into the corner, you commit, and sometimes you don’t know what will happen when you commit. The last thing I wanted to do was turn him. I’m proud of my guys for a really fast race car and it was another crazy Watkins Glen day.”

On the final lap, Hamlin, held a slight lead over Truex, Jr. and Keselowski, as the three ran nose-to-tail entering the final turns of the 90-lap race.

This win is Hamlin’s first road course win of his cup career – a feat considering 24 caution-laps and two, 30-minute red flags – and his second victory of the season after winning the Daytona 500 in February.

“This means a lot,” Hamlin said. “I can’t tell you how disappointed I was that we didn’t win the first one.”

Joey Lagano finished second, followed by Penske teammate Keselowski, AJ Allmendinger, and Tony Stewart rounding out the top five.

“Typical Watkins Glen,” Logano told NASCAR. “I mean, it’s just awesome, crazy racing, full contact. Just insane out there. So a lot of fun from the driver’s seat and I’m sure the fans loved it as well in front of a sold out grandstand. It was pretty cool when I pulled over for the red flag in front of the grandstands and I could hear just fans screaming and yelling and loving it. I thought, ‘Man, this is really cool to be in the driver’s seat right now.'”

Point leaders:

  1. Brad Keselowski
  2. Kevin Harvick
  3. Kurt Busch
  4. Kyle Busch
  5. Carl Edwards
  6. Joey Lagano
  7. Denny Hamlin
  8. Martin Truex, Jr.
  9. Matt Kenseth
  10. Jimmie Johnson
  11. Ryan Newman
  12. Chase Elliott
  13. Austin Dillon
  14. Jamie McMurray
  15. Kyle Larson
  16. Trevor Bayne
  17. Kasey Kahne
  18. Ryan Bayne
  19. AJ Allmendinger
  20. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.
  21. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  22. Paul Menard
  23. Greg Biffle
  24. Danica Patrick
  25. Clint Bowyer
  26. Tony Stewart
  27. Aric Almirola
  28. Casey Mears
  29. Landon Cassill
  30. David Ragan

[Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images]