Denny Hamlin wins in his SRX debut at Stafford

SRX Racing / Wayne Riggle

Denny Hamlin scored a dominating victory in his first appearance with the Superstar Racing Experience at Stafford Speedway winning the feature Thursday night.

The scheduled 80-lap feature was stopped after 57 laps due to storms in the area. Hamlin won the first heat race and finished seventh in the second heat race.

“That last lap of the heat I had some pretty major contact [with Keselowski],” Hamlin said. “I think the right front was hung on the tire there. 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.

“For sure we want [the feature] to go the distance. I think it was about to be pretty exciting with Ryan [Newman]. 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.

After losing a motor in his primary car in the second heat race, Ryan Newman went to a backup car for the feature and finished second. Newman won the Stafford SRX Series event in 2021.

“We got in the backup car. We fell back to sixth or seventh at least,” Newman said. “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.”

Clint Bowyer, making his series debut and the first of three series starts this year, was third.

“The heat races started off and I was like ‘Oh my god, I’m not ready for this.’” Bowyer said. “Kind of just beating the hell out of one another. I kind of got frustrated in the first heat and got shuffled back and taken advantage of, but learned quick. You can either be pissed at them or pissed at yourself. I put that to good use.

“I had a good race with Marco [Andretti in the feature]. Denny was for sure the class of the field, as by the way he should be. Newman, I don’t know what happened to him at the end. He took off. But for me, my brakes were done. I smoked my brakes off of it trying to run different lines behind Denny and trying to find something else where I could get some straight runs off [the corner]. Ultimately I just did it to myself. I was just pushing too hard trying to find something else to get around him for the lead and really paid the price with my brakes.

Newman took second from Bowyer on lap-51 as Hamlin continued to lead the race.  Just as Newman caught Hamlin, the caution came out with 56 laps complete as rain began to fall with lightning off in the distance.  The cars were shown the white flag on lap-57 and Hamlin took the checkered flag under caution on lap-58 to score the victory in the opening round of the 2023 SRX Series.

“This is a lot of fun,” Hamlin said. “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.”

Paul Tracy, and Hailie Deegan rounded out the top 5.

SRX was set to visit Thunder Road Speedbowl in Barre, Vermont next week, but due to heavy rains and flooding SRX was forced to cancel the visit. Due to the cancellation Stafford Motor Speedway will host back-to-back events.

Photos: SRX at Stafford Speedway Thursday July 13, 2023



Race Results:

Finish # Driver Heat 1 Heat 2
1 11 Denny Hamlin 1 7
2 39 Ryan Newman 9 1
3 07 Clint Bowyer 8 2
4 3 Paul Tracy 2 5
5 5 Hailie Deegan 10 12
6 1 Marco Andretti 3 9
7 52 Ken Schrader 7 11
8 18 Bobby Labonte 4 10
9 6 Brad Keselowski 12 3
10 66 Tony Kanaan 5 8
11 14 Tony Stewart 6 6
12 4 Kevin Harvick 11 4
Greg Engle