Lightning Fast: Denny Hamlin Scores SRX Series Win In Series Debut At Stafford

Denny Hamlin celebrates victory in the Camping World SRX Series event Thursday at Stafford Speedway (Photo: Jim DuPont/RaceDayCT)

STAFFORD – When it comes to grassroots motorsports, Stafford Speedway has long been a place that many drivers have found themselves perplexed in figuring out the tricky half-mile layout. 

When three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin turned his first laps in practice for the Camping World SRX Series Thursday he quickly realized what that trickiness was all about. 

So Hamlin turned to a former SRX Series winner for some pointers. 

Six-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Doug Coby won the inaugural SRX Series event on June 12, 2021 at Stafford Speedway. Thursday Hamlin gave Coby credit for helping him match the feat. 

Before a sellout crowd, Hamlin won the weather shortened 2023 season opening SRX Series event Thursday at Stafford. 

“[Coby] really helped me out a ton,” Hamlin said. “I met him for the first time today, but he really helped me with the line. I didn’t realize in practice how far off line I was. And he came over and said ‘You need to be here.’ And I got it to where he said I needed to be for the race and I was way faster.” 

Former Daytona 500 winner Ryan Newman was second and Clint Bowyer was third. 

The scheduled 80-lap main event was stopped after 57 laps with storms closing in on the speedway. Minutes after Hamlin celebrated in victory lane, torrential and extended downpours arrived on scene. 

Hamlin was making his first appearance with the 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.” 

Hamlin won the first 12-minute heat race. He finished seventh in the second heat race after contact late with Brad Keselowski. 

In between the second heat and the feature Hamlin had an inflated crew working on his car of not only the SRX series crew members led by crew chief Bronson Butcher, but also Coby, NASCAR Cup Series spotter Freddie Kraft, his former Cup Series crew chief Mike Wheeler and current Cup Series crew chief Chris Gabehart. Butcher was able to get the front end right for Hamlin to start the feature where he needed the car. 

“Really thanks to those guys for fixing it,” Hamlin said. “That last lap of the heat I had some pretty major contact [with Keselowski]. 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. 

“Freddie and those guys were out there banging on the car trying to get it right. It was fun, everybody was chipping in. I had Mike Wheeler and Chris Gabehart here. This is a track Mike Wheeler grew up racing at with Ron Silk. I was really happy to have him here and get a win with him here.” 

Reigning series champion Marco Andretti took the 12-car field to green from the pole for the main with Clint Bowyer quickly getting by Paul Tracy for second. Hamlin found the way under Bowyer for second off turn four on lap four. A six-car pileup in turn four on lap six sent Kevin Harvick and Bobby Labonte to the pits for repairs. 

On lap 12 Hamlin found the line under Andretti and overtook him for the lead off of turn four. 

From lap 17 to 21 Bowyer and Andretti swapped second place four times. After Bowyer got by Andretti for the position on lap 21, Andretti began to fade. 

“I think we had the race won and the brake pedal went to the floor on me,” Andretti said. “I had no brakes and somehow finished the race.” 

By lap 31 the skies were lighting in the distance with lightning while Hamlin and Bowyer were checking out. Newman, who was in a backup car after losing a motor in the second heat race, caught fire late. Newman got by Bowyer for second on lap 51 and was closing on Hamlin, but not as fast as the storms were closing on the track.

“Oh there was no doubt I was catching him and I was going to work on him when I got to him,” said Newman, who won last year’s SRX Series event at Stafford. “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.” 

Said Hamlin: “I think it was about to be pretty exciting with Ryan. 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.” 

Third place Bowyer was making his first career appearance with SRX. 

“Denny was for sure the class of the field, and by the way he should be,” said Bowyer, who will make two more starts with the series later this year. “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. I was in bad trouble. If that caution hadn’t come out, two more laps I would have had to pull off.” 


  1. Henry Lecomte says

    So now we got another event next week they should give the late models a start with SRX

  2. Thursday night thunder, literally. I’m 17 miles north of the track, and the storm hit here about 15 minutes before there, and it was brutal. Im surprised they didn’t call it sooner as you could see the lightning in the background of 1 and 2 when they threw the first caution. I’d be willing to say, that had it gone the full distance, Newman would have won driving away, he was flying. My heart goes out to all the people up in Vermont who’s communities have been devastated by flooding. I’m sure the race at Thunder Road would have been a must see event. Maybe the folks at Stafford Speedway could make a sizable donation to relief efforts from the proceeds of next week’s show.

  3. Well I guess all that hard work and effort using lasers and angle finders to get the front end perfect is a waste of time…. Just a tape measure and a good eye works sometimes. No spotters make for a better show..

  4. Would like to see either Rocco or Pitkat in one of the SRX cars at the next Stafford race.

  5. It looks like the SK Lights are on the schedule for next Thursday. It would be a tough ask to have SKs go back-to-back on weeknights two weeks in a row with little notice. The decision kind of shows what Stafford thinks is the second-best weekly division. An acknowledgement most fans would probably agree with. Same 45 plus fees price tag. 50 fo camping and 10 to park. They are already for sale on the website. Ryan Preece is scheduled so assuming there is no changes it will be kind of a homecoming. Not sure Stafford will be able to sell out this one with such short notice. It would have been nice to have SRX say ThunderRoad will be on the schedule next year but I didn’t hear anything indicating that. It would be a great gesture if Stafford and or SRX did make a donation to VT relief efforts. Hopefully some of those in positions of power think the same thing.

  6. CSG,
    If you read the story specifically about the Thunder Road event getting cancelled (SRX Thunder Road Event Cancelled; Second Race Added At Stafford Next Week) it’s in there about how Thunder Road was promised a spot on the 2024 SRX Series schedule. It’s mentioned in both the statement from SRX and in a quote from Cris Michaud.

  7. Love these Monday morning quarterbacks Shawn.

    The crowds have been turning out for the SRX races so hopefully they turn out again this coming Thursday night. It’s also great Thunder Road is on the list for a 2024 date as that should be a great show.

  8. Earl,
    It will definitely be interesting to see how ticket sales go for this. Obviouly with the previous three SRX events they’ve had around six months each time to market the event and get the word out. Now you basically have six days to sell sell sell for an event on July 20 for a unique product that was at the track on July 13. That said, Stafford Speedway has been setting benchmarks for short track racing for decades and I’m sure they’re up to the challenge with this very unexpected situation.

  9. Thanks shawn. Great news that srx will be at troad next season. I dont think it was mentioned during last nights broadcast but I was also watching the eldora million during the srx broadcast. What a show that was. I would be surprised if stafford can sell out next week. Most people in the area who are interested in such a show already went to one last night.thursdays are tough for some people to travel long distances to attend race events. Hopefully they get a great crowd. The events look like good fun on tv.

  10. Just Saying says

    It should be a Stafford regular from Friday nights not a part timer,If I was to pick somebody it be Keith, his record speaks for itself, and he does more for Stafford than any of those guys do on a Friday night and that’s been for the last 14 years every Friday HELLO !

  11. I agree with you Earl, I’d love to see Woody take on these guy’s. Second choice would be Tom Fearn. Both are near the top of the all time win lists, but as much as I love Woody, I think Toms years of experience in those heavy late models could prove exciting to watch.
    As far as lazer gizmos, anyone who’s a good setup guy needs only a string, 2 jackstands , toe plates ( or a couple chunks of 4″ angle iron ) and 2 accurate tape measures to square a car and set toe.

  12. I actually set the toe on my wife’s sebring using the tools described in my anything but perfect driveway after replacing tie rods. The alignment shop said I was within a 1/16 of where it needed to be. Hardest part was stopping the cat from playing with the string.

  13. There should be some kind of gesture toward Thunder Road. I don’t know what it could be, maybe one of their most accomplished drivers filling a spot. Something meaningful.

  14. Tom Fearn or Woody in an SRX car might be really interesting!

  15. Just Saying says

    You’re all wrong, Kid Rock is the most experienced driver, set-up and mechanic of the he soon will be taking over 2nd place all time win list behind the Great One. Now that’s Interesting

  16. Just saying, Both Woody and Tom have way more experience in heavy full bodied cars. Tom is expected in setup too. Nothing against Keith, but his experience is mostly open wheel, a whole different animal. Maybe Bolles, because of the Busch North experience,but my top 4 are still Coby, Fearn, Pitkat and Gray who all have tons of experience at Stafford in full bodied heavy cars

  17. the numbers are in.

    395,000 viewers. About 550,000 less viewers than opening night last year.

    massive drop.

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