Hamlin delivers with a late momentous victory at Kansas

The momentum for Denny Hamlin and his No. 11 FedEx/Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota team continued in the midwest after the Virginia veteran overtook Kevin Harvick for the lead with 13 laps remaining and held off Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. for the remainder of the race to win the Super Start Batteries 400 at Kansas Speedway under the lights. The victory was Hamlin’s fifth of this season, his third at Kansas and the 42nd of his NASCAR Cup Series career.

The starting lineup was based on a random draw. Kevin Harvick started on pole position and was joined on the front row with Joey Logano. Josh Bilicki dropped to the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments.

When the green flag waved and the race started, Harvick and Logano battled against one another through Turns 1 and 2 before Logano prevailed on the outside lane entering Turn 4 to lead the first lap. A lap later, Ryan Blaney moved into the runner-up spot as Harvick was under attack by Alex Bowman and Martin Truex Jr.


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By the sixth lap, while Logano led teammate Blaney by four tenths of a second, Truex moved into third after passing Harvick with Bowman trailing the two former Cup champions. Brad Keselowski made his way into seventh after passing Kyle Busch while Matt DiBenedetto moved into 10th. In addition, rookie Tyler Reddick, who started 21st, was up to 11th.

On the 10th lap, Aric Almirola made his way back into the top five after passing Bowman. Shortly after, Bowman was overtaken by Keselowski and Kyle Busch for position. 

By the 20th lap, Logano was still ahead by six tenths of a second over teammate Blaney, who was starting to be challenged by Truex for the runner-up spot. Closing in on the top three were Keselowski and Kyle Busch while Harvick fell back to sixth. Almirola, Bowman, Denny Hamlin and Reddick were scored in the top 10 followed by Erik Jones. 

Two laps prior to the competition caution, Truex passed Blaney for the runner-up spot and he started to narrow his deficit from Logano for the lead. Logano, however, was able to maintain his advantage by Lap 25 when the competition caution flew.

Under the competition caution, all of the lead lap cars pitted and Truex exited pit road first followed by teammate Kyle Busch, Blaney, Harvick and Logano. Following the pit stops, however, Logano was sent to the rear of the field due to an uncontrolled tire violation. Chris Buescher, who was scored in 25th when he pitted, also fell back to the rear due to an uncontrolled tire violation.

When the race restarted on the 30th lap, Kyle Busch received a push from Blaney on the inside lane to move into the lead while Blaney and Truex battled for the runner-up spot. A lap later, Truex cleared Blaney for the runner-up spot while Harvick went to work in battling Blaney for third. Shortly after, Hamlin overtook Harvick and Blaney to move into third as Joe Gibbs Racing’s three of its four-car operation occupied the podium spots.

By Lap 40, Kyle Busch was still leading by above a second while Hamlin was in the runner-up spot followed by Truex. Blaney, who reported a vibration to his No. 12 Dex Imaging/Team Penske Ford Mustang, was in fourth followed by Keselowski and Harvick. Bowman and Almirola were in seventh and eighth followed by DiBenedetto while Jones was in the top 10. Reddick was back in 12th in between Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson while Chase Elliott was in 14th. Hometown hero Clint Bowyer was in 15th ahead of rookie Christopher Bell and Bubba Wallace while William Byron, racing with interim crew chief Keith Rodden, was in 20th ahead of rookie Cole Custer. Logano was in 22nd ahead of Matt Kenseth and Austin Dillon while Ryan Newman was in 26th.

Ten laps later, Kyle Busch and his No. 18 M&M’s Fudge Brownies Toyota Camry was still ahead by less than half a second over teammate Hamlin while his other teammate, Truex, was in third and trailing by above a second. Jones, the fourth JGR teammate, was in ninth behind Bowman. Blaney was still in fourth, trailing by more than three seconds, while Keselowski rounded out the top five and was behind by four seconds. 

Towards the 60-lap mark, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. made a pit stop under green after reporting fire in his cockpit. The mechanical issue was enough to end Stenhouse’s race early in the garage as his hopes to make the Playoffs took another hit. Stenhouse’s elimination marked his fifth DNF of the season and the fourth consecutive Cup race where a JTG-Daugherty Racing entry finished last in a Cup race after teammate Ryan Preece finished in last place the previous three races.

With five laps remaining in the first stage, Kyle Busch stabilized his advantage by nearly two seconds over teammate Hamlin while teammate Truex, Blaney and Keselowski were scored in the top five. Behind, Reddick, one of the fastest cars on the track, was up to sixth. With no challenges mounted upon him in the closing laps, Busch was able to claim the first stage on Lap 80 and grab his first stage victory of the season. Teammates Hamlin and Truex finished second and third followed by Blaney and Keselowski. Reddick settled in sixth followed by Harvick, Almirola, Bowman and Jones, who held off Johnson approaching the start/finish line. Logano was back in 17th following his early pit road penalty.

Under the stage break, the leaders pitted and Hamlin exited first ahead of Truex and Kyle Busch while Keselowski and Harvick were in the top five after exiting pit road. Following the pit stops, Byron was sent to the rear of the field due to an uncontrolled tire violation. 

The second stage started on Lap 86 and Hamlin launched ahead with the lead after receiving a push from Keselowski on the outside lane. With Hamlin clearing the field and sailing at the front, a multitude of battles ensued behind as Keselowski and Truex battled for the runner-up spot while Kyle Busch, Blaney and Harvick battled for fourth. Kurt Busch moved up to seventh followed by DiBenedetto, Reddick and Jones. By Lap 92, teammates Truex and Kyle Busch moved back into second and third as Truex went to work in narrowing his deficit from teammate Hamlin and challenge for the lead.

On Lap 97, Truex peaked ahead of Hamlin at the start/finish line and was able to clear him to emerge with the lead. A few laps later, the caution flew when Wallace spun his No. 43 Victory Junction/Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE entering Turn 4 below the apron near the pit road entrance and across the frontstretch grass. At the time of caution, Truex extended his advantage above a second over teammate Hamlin. 

Under caution, the leaders pitted and Keselowski exited first following a two-tire stop. Truex, the first on four fresh tires, followed pursuit ahead of teammates Kyle Busch and Hamlin followed by Harvick, Blaney and Byron, who also opted for a two-tire stop and gained 14 spots on pit road. 

On Lap 104, the race restarted and Keselowski and Truex battled against one another for the lead for a full circuit. Behind, a three-wide battle for third place ensued between Blaney, Kyle Busch and Hamlin through Turns 3 and 4. Keselowski was able to clear Truex for the lead shortly after while Blaney and Hamlin settled in third and fourth. Harvick made his way back into the top five in fifth followed by Kurt Busch and Almirola while Kyle Busch fell back to eighth ahead of Jones and Logano.

By Lap 110, with the battling for positions settling down, Keselowski stabilized his advantage to half a second over Truex. Five laps later, Truex reassumed the lead while Hamlin started to challenge Keselowski for the runner-up spot. Behind, Blaney was still in fourth while Kyle Busch worked his way back to fifth after passing Harvick.

Twenty laps later, Truex was ahead by less than two seconds over Hamlin while teammates Keselowski and Blaney were behind by more than four seconds. Kyle Busch trailed by less than five seconds with Harvick behind him. Behind, Johnson was in 10th as he was starting to challenge Kurt Busch for more while Reddick was in 11th ahead of Logano.

On Lap 143, the caution returned when Chris Buescher spun in Turn 2. Under caution, the leaders pitted and Blaney emerged with the lead following a two-tire stop. Johnson, Reddick and rookie John Hunter Nemechek followed Blaney after all four also took two tires while Hamlin, the first car on four fresh tires, was scored in fifth ahead of Truex, Kyle Busch, Keselowski and Harvick.

With 12 laps remaining in the second stage, the race restarted and Johnson and Blaney battled for the lead through Turns 1 and 2 before Blaney was shoved out with the lead with drafting help from Hamlin. In one lap, Hamlin went from fifth to second. Behind, Keselowski moved into third followed by Almirola and Kyle Busch as Johnson continued to lose positions. Reddick and Nemechek, both of whom restarted in the top five, were also shoved out of the top 10.

Towards the front, Hamlin, who made contact with the wall, had fallen back to fourth while Keselowski and Almirola each gained a spot. With the laps dwindling in the second stage, Keselowski started to mount a challenge on his teammate Blaney for the lead. In the final laps of the stage, Keselowski was able to pass teammate Blaney for the lead and mount ahead by nearly four tenths of a second to win the second stage on Lap 160 and for his fifth stage victory of the season. Blaney settled in second followed by Almirola, Hamlin and Kyle Busch. Harvick, Jones, Truex, Johnson and Elliott were scored in the top 10.

Under the stage break, the leaders returned to pit road and Hamlin exited pit road first following a two-tire stop. Elliott exited second followed by Keselowski, the first on four fresh tires. Behind Keselowski were Blaney, Kyle Busch, Truex and Harvick.

With 101 laps remaining and the track settling into night conditions, the final stage commenced. At the front, Elliott threw a huge block on Blaney on the bottom lane before he challenged Hamlin for the lead. In Turn 3, Hamlin retained the lead followed by Kyle Busch and Elliott as Truex, Blaney and Keselowski went three wide for fourth. The battle for positions expanded to three and four wide behind the leaders as Hamlin maintained a narrow lead over Elliott. 

With 96 laps remaining, the caution returned when Kenseth was barely clipped by Ryan Preece as Kenseth spun entering Turn 4 and was hit by Wallace, who had nowhere to go. The incident broke Wallace’s right-front suspension as he took his car to the garage. The wreck hampered Wallace’s quest towards reaching the top-16 cutline. Under caution, the majority of the leaders remained on track while some like Preece, Reddick, Nemechek Newman, Bowman, Michael McDowell and Daniel Suarez pitted.

The race restarted under green with 91 laps remaining and Hamlin received a push from teammate Kyle Busch to maintain the lead through Turns 1 and 2. Shortly after, the caution returned when Logano, who was losing speed and appeared to have sustained a flat left-front tire, was bumped by Harvick entering Turn 2 and made hard contact with the outside wall. Logano’s incident sparked a multi-car wreck that involved Austin Dillon, Johnson and DiBenedetto, who also made hard contact with the outside wall and sustained heavy damage to his No. 21 Menards/Dutch Boy/Wood Brothers Racing Ford Mustang. Under caution, the majority of the leaders remained on track while some like Byron, Bowyer, Ty Dillon, Austin Dillon, Johnson, Kenseth and Logano pitted. Logano would eventually retire from the race.

With 85 laps remaining, the race restarted and Hamlin retained the lead ahead of Blaney and Elliott. The caution shortly returned for another multi-car wreck on the backstretch that started when Bell moved in front of Newman as was bumped by the veteran as he made contact with the outside wall and both Bell and Newman started coming back across the track wrecking. During the ensuing wreck that also involved Buescher, Preece veered left and slid toward the inside wall at full speed before taking a vicious head-on hit with the wall, nearly flipping in the process, before coming to rest on all four tires with a destroyed No. 37 Bush’s Beans Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. Though Preece survived the vicious accident, the incident was his fourth in a row and after finishing last the previous three races. 

“To be honest with you, we had a fast race car right there at the end,” Preece said after exiting the infield care center on NBCSN. “It’s frustrating for all of us at JTG Daugherty [Racing] because we’ve been working really hard and probably had a top-10 car there at the end. I’m alright, just ready for this year to turn around. We’ll be back next week.”

The race went under a red flag period for nearly three minutes before it proceeded under caution. With 81 laps remaining, the racing under green resumed and Hamlin maintained the lead followed by teammate Truex and Blaney while Jones overtook Elliott to move into fourth. Four laps later, with the top three of Hamlin, Truex and Blaney separated by four tenths of a second, Jones was in fourth ahead of Keselowski while Kyle Busch, Elliott and Harvick were running in sixth through eighth. 

Three laps later, Truex reassumed the lead. Shortly after, the caution returned when Newman, running with patches to his No. 6 Wyndham Redwards/Roush Fenway Racing Ford Mustang, spun in Turn 3 as he was able to make his way back to pit road. Under caution, nearly the entire lead lap cars pitted except for Byron, who remained on track to inherit the leader. Following the pit stops, Hamlin exited first followed by Blaney, Kenseth, Reddick and Bowman, all of whom opted for a two-tire stop. Truex was the first with four fresh tires followed by Keselowski, Jones, Kyle Busch, Elliott and Harvick.

With 68 laps remaining, the race restarted and Byron and Hamlin battled dead even for one full lap before Hamlin emerged with the lead by a nose the following lap. Afterwards, Byron and the No. 24 AXALTA/Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE emerged out front while Keselowski moved into the runner-up spot over Hamlin. With the battling for positions ensuing behind, Byron was still ahead by nearly three tenths of a second over Keselowski while Hamlin, Blaney and Kyle Busch were in the top five. 

With 61 laps remaining, Keselowski returned to the lead and stabilized his advantage to three tenths of a second over Byron. By then, Johnson took his No. 48 Ally/Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE to the garage and retired after he failed to meet the minimum speed requirement to continue with the damage sustained from his late multi-car incident.

Eleven laps later, Keselowski was still ahead by three tenths of a second over Byron, who was still keeping pace with Keselowski on four old tires. Kyle Busch moved into third after passing teammate Hamlin while Bowman was in fifth ahead of Blaney, Truex, Harvick, Jones and Elliott. Blaney, who made contact with the wall, stabilized his running position in sixth.

Four laps later, Byron reassumed the lead and he started to extend his advantage by a second over Keselowski. Shortly after, Blaney and Kyle Busch made an unscheduled pit stop under green after both made contact with the outside wall. Their misfortunes allowed Hamlin, Truex and Bowman to move into the top five while Jones, Elliott, Harvick, Kurt Busch and Bowyer were scored in the top 10.

With 32 laps remaining, with Byron still leading by nearly three seconds and with everyone on the track skeptical on making it to the finish on fuel, the caution flew when Corey LaJoie made contact with the wall. Under caution, all of the lead lap cars pitted for fuel. Following the pit stops, Byron and Bowman exited first and second after both Hendrick Motorsports teammates opted for a two-tire stop. Hamlin, the first on four fresh tires, exited third followed by Keselowski, Harvick and Truex. During the caution, Kyle Busch took the wave-around to return to the lead lap as he was scored in 17th.

The race restarted under green with 28 laps remaining as teammates Byron and Bowman battled dead even for the lead for one full lap before Bowman emerged with the lead the following lap in Turn 3. Just as Harvick was about to mount a challenge on Byron for the runner-up spot, the caution returned when Nemechek spun on the backstretch. Under caution, the front runners remained on the track while some like Kyle Busch pitted.

With 22 laps remaining, the race restarted and Bowman received a push from Harvick to retain the lead through Turn 1. In Turn 2, however, Harvick bolted on the outside lane to move into the lead followed by Hamlin while Bowman fell back to third. Behind, Keselowski was in fourth while Byron fell back to fifth.

Two laps later, Harvick was ahead by four tenths of a second over Hamlin as Keselowski was in third and started to pursue Hamlin for the runner-up spot. Truex moved his way into fourth over Bowman, Jones moved into sixth and Byron was back in eighth ahead of Almirola. 

As the laps continued to dwindle under 20 to go, Harvick was still ahead, but Hamlin and Keselowski were trailing by nearly half a second while both continued to battle. With 13 laps remaining, Hamlin gained a huge run on the outside of Harvick to emerge with the lead.

With 10 laps remaining, Hamlin was still in the front by four tenths of a second over Harvick, who was starting to be pressured by Keselowski for the runner-up spot, as the leaders were starting to approach lapped traffic. Two laps later, Keselowski moved into the runner-up spot as Harvick was starting to be challenged by Truex for third. At this time, Bowman had fallen back to eighth after being passed by Custer while Byron was in ninth ahead of Kurt Busch.

Five laps later, Hamlin was ahead by less than half a second over Keselowski as the leaders continued to encounter lapped traffic. Though Keselowski and Truex got within less than a second to Hamlin’s rear bumper, Hamlin was able to maintain his advantage to cross the finish line in first and grab his fifth victory of the season as he continues to pursue his quest to win his first elusive Cup championship.

In addition to becoming the first five-time Cup winner of this season, Hamlin recorded his 11th series win with crew chief Chris Gabehart as both Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota recorded their sixth victory of the 2020 Cup season.

“I don’t know that we had the best car,” Hamlin said on NBCSN. “We definitely had a top-three car all day. [I] Just went and got it there at the end. I saw [Harvick] get loose and usually when you’re loose, you’re not able to run up high. That was a benefit for us to be able to get that momentum going. The pit crew did an amazing job getting us out there ahead of everyone else that had four tires. Proud of this whole FedEx team. We’ve had a rough three weeks. We were leading at Indy when we blew a tire and this team is really hitting on all cylinders right now. We can win on any given week. That’s something that is really hard to come by, so this team’s good at short tracks, intermediates, superspeedways. Great engines, great help from them…all of our partners at JGR. They’ve just done a great job of building us fast cars.”

Keselowski settled in the runner-up spot followed by Truex while Harvick ended his night in fourth ahead of Jones.

“We just didn’t have a very good night with our Busch Light Apple Ford Mustang,” Harvick said on NBCSN. “It wouldn’t turn in the corners and was dead sideways on the exit of the corner. I was able to have a couple of good restarts there. We got to the lead, but we just went dead sideways there after about four to five laps. We were just holding on, hoping for another restart, because we could run for a couple of laps, but that was about it. Our pit crew did a great job tonight of keeping us in the game. We just stay in there and keep fighting, and hope for good restarts and good pit stops and in the end, you’re around the front and have a good night.”

Almirola, Custer, Bowman, Kurt Busch and Byron rounded out the top 10. Kyle Busch settled in 11th ahead of Elliott while Blaney ended his race in 20th, a lap down.

There were 21 lead changes for nine different leaders. The race featured 11 cautions for 47 laps.

With his top-five result, Harvick continues to lead the regular-season series standings by 97 points over Keselowski, 100 over Blaney and 129 over Hamlin.

Results.

1. Denny Hamlin, 57 laps led

2. Brad Keselowski, 30 laps led, Stage 2 winner

3. Martin Truex Jr., 44 laps led

4. Kevin Harvick, nine laps led

5. Erik Jones

6. Aric Almirola

7. Cole Custer

8. Alex Bowman, six laps led

9. Kurt Busch

10. William Byron, 27 laps led

11. Kyle Busch, 52 laps led, Stage 1 winner

12. Chase Elliott

13. Tyler Reddick

14. Clint Bowyer

15. Ty Dillon

16. Michael McDowell

17. Matt Kenseth

18. Daniel Suarez

19. John Hunter Nemechek, one lap down

20. Ryan Blaney, one lap down, 15 laps led

21. Corey LaJoie, one lap down

22. J.J. Yeley, two laps down

23. Christopher Bell, three laps down

24. Quin Houff, seven laps down

25. Josh Bilicki, seven laps down

26. Garrett Smithley, seven laps down

27. Austin Dillon, 16 laps down

28. Ryan Newman, 16 laps down

29. Joe Gase, 16 laps down

30. Brennan Poole, 48 laps down

31. Reed Sorenson – OUT, Electrical

32. Jimmie Johnson – OUT, DVP

33. Chris Buescher – OUT, Accident

34. Ryan Preece – OUT, Accident

35. Joey Logano – OUT, Accident, 27 laps led

36. Matt DiBenedetto – OUT, Accident

37. Bubba Wallace – OUT, Accident

38. Timmy Hill – OUT, Accident

39. B.J. McLeod – OUT, Rear gear

40. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – OUT, Electrical

The NASCAR Cup Series will return to action in the East Coast at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on August 2 with the race to air at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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