Denny Hamlin Wins in Wild Finish at The Glen

by Tucker White On Sun, Aug. 07, 2016

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. - AUGUST 07: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International on August 7, 2016 in Watkins Glen, New York. Photo Credit: Kirk Schroll

As hell broke loose behind, Denny Hamlin piloted along and scored the victory in the Empire State.

The driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota took the lead with 10 laps to go and survived a myriad of late cautions to win the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen.

He said winning a road course race for the first time in his career “means a lot. I can’t tell you how disappointed I was we didn’t win the first one. I just tried the best I could and overshot the corner and I didn’t want to do it this time and so I probably under drove and let those guys be a little closer than I should’ve. But, hated to see the 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) turned around down there. They’ve been great Toyota teammates of ours and thanks to all of our teammates who tested here and obviously gave us a good baseline setup and a fast car.”

When asked how he was able to go 41 laps on fuel, he said “Cautions. I just felt like this has always tended to be a lot of cautions at the end and I felt confident that we were going to get the caution laps that we needed to make it on fuel and we did.”

He also described the final laps and restarts as “Hectic. Really, I didn’t do anything special. It was just the front two cars, the 2 (Brad Keselowski) and the 18 (Kyle Busch) just overshot the corner in that one restart and gave us an opportunity. And, then it was just about hitting my marks and making sure that I didn’t give those guys a chance like I gave Tony (Stewart) a chance at Sonoma. You know, really proud of this effort. This is a great sign of things to come. I feel like we’ll be a good threat in the Chase.”

It’s his 28th career win, the second of the season and first at Watkins Glen International.

Rounding turn 11, Martin Truex Jr. got turned by Brad Keselowski. This allowed Joey Logano, who led eight laps and had to overcome a speeding penalty early in the race, to finish runner-up in his No. 22 Team Penske Ford.

He said in his post-race media availability that the finish, be it the final lap or the final 15 laps, were “crazy anyway you look at it. Typical Watkins Glen. 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. Having those moments, I thought it was neat.”

Teammate Keselowski, who led a race-high of 28 laps, rounded out the podium in his No. 2 Penske Ford.

“I got right up to the bumper of the 78 and couldn’t do anything there and he made a move to get by the 11 on the inside and the 11 blocked him,” Keselowski said. “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. 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.”

AJ Allmendinger overcame a speeding penalty to finish fourth in his No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet. After overshooting the inner loop near the beginning of the race, Tony Stewart rounded out the top-five in his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet.

He said that he felt good about what he brought to Watkins Glen and that he “got some breaks there at the end. But our Haas Automation Chevy was really good. And that’s the great thing about Mobil 1, it helps with fuel mileage for sure, and that’s what got us the track position in the end. It is so chaotic here. You get under 10 laps and get restarts; you know it’s going to be a crash-fest there. But we were able to survive and got through a couple of them and got a couple of spots there coming to the line. I’ll take a top 5 here in the last run.”

Kyle Busch led four laps on his way to a sixth-place finish in his No. 18 JGR Toyota. Truex, who led one lap, recovered from his spin on the frontstretch on the final lap to bring his car home to a seventh-place finish in his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota. Jamie McMurray finished eighth in his No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. Trevor Bayne finished ninth in his No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford.

“This is a good weekend,” Bayne said. “A fifth and a ninth. That is a good road course weekend for me considering I am not a road course ace. The thought was to try to get better and I think we did that this weekend. We made progress and that is really good. We are excited. Hopefully, we can keep getting better at these and contend for a win one day.”

Matt Kenseth rounded out the top-10 in his No. 20 JGR Toyota.

Kurt Busch, who led three laps, finished 11th. Carl Edwards, who led 25 laps, finished 15th. Danica Patrick, who led 11 laps, finished 21st.

Coming to the finish, Allmendinger got onto the rumble strip on the inside of turn 11 that got his car loose, turned it into Kyle Larson’s car and sent the 42 car into the inside pit road wall.

“I turned him,” Allmendinger said. “Not on purpose. The No. 78 started to spin and Kyle and I were racing for fifth there. He defended on the inside, which he should have. And I tried to cut under him off of the last corner and the No. 78 was coming back across the race track. I was under him. He turned. And I just clipped him. I’m just not very happy with myself on that. I don’t want to do that, especially for fourth place. And he did a great job. It’s on me. I never meant to do it. It’s not going to help the case. I know he’s going to be pissed off and he should be pissed off. I’d be.”

Larson, as Allmendinger said, wasn’t happy.

“We were running sixth coming to (Turn) 7; the No. 47 was behind me,” Larson said. “He is always aggressive. I figured he would be smart. Obviously, the No. 78 was spinning in front of us. That is a free spot for both of us and just dumped me. He had already ran me down to the front stretch wall once with about 15 to go or so. Pretty dumb move right there too, but I was the smarter one racing for points, lifted, could have wrecked him, but didn’t. I don’t know. I don’t know. He wrecked me earlier in the year at Vegas.  He has ran me hard, but we always race pretty well, but today was flat out stupid. I love his crew chief (Randall Burnett) to death; he was our engineer last year. It just sucks they are going to have to start building some more race cars because he has got a few coming.”

The race lasted two hours, 27 minutes and 48 seconds at an average speed of 89.513 mph. There were nine lead changes among eight different drivers and eight cautions for 20 laps.

Keselowski leaves Watkins Glen International the new points leader with a nine-point lead over Kevin Harvick.

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