Denny Hamlin outfoxes the competition for fifth win in 2020

Denny Hamlin outfoxes the competition for fifth win in 2020
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Following three mediocre finishes, Denny Hamlin regained his championship-contending form at Kansas Speedway.

In what could prove to be the battle for the Championship 4, Hamlin passed Kevin Harvick with 13 laps remaining in the Super Start Batteries 400. He then held off charges by Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. for his fifth win of the season and his third at the 1.5-mile track. 

Hamlin said he had to “outfox” the competition for his 42nd career Cup win.

“I don’t know that we had the best car, we definitely had a top-three car all day,” Hamlin said. “Just went and got it there at the end. I saw the 4 (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.”

Keselowski trailed Hamlin by .510-seconds at the line. Truex, Harvick, Erik Jones, Aric Almirola, Cole Custer, Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch and William Byron rounded out the top 10. 

 “I thought Denny and I were probably pretty close to equal the second half of the night,” Keselowski said. “It was just a matter of who got out in front. We didn’t get out in front on the restarts there and he was able to take advantage and bring home the win. All in all, it was still a really good day.”

Kyle Busch, who won his first stage of the season, finished 11th. Joey Logano, led the first 27 laps but after a tire violation by the No. 22 Penske team, he dropped to 33rd. Tyler Reddick also showed promise early coming from 23rd to ninth before the competition caution on Lap 25. While the rookie found tremendous speed while running the top lane—similar to the strategy he used to win two Xfinity Series titles at Homestead-Miami Speedway—he tagged the wall multiple times and finished 13th.

Truex was the first driver off of pit road for the Lap 31 restart, but Busch quickly took the lead. 

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was racing in the top 20 when the No. 47 Chevy burst into flames. He was forced to pit on Lap 59 and finished 40th—his fifth DNF of the year. 

Busch held serve through the remainder of the stage to win the first segment followed by his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Hamlin and Truex. Ryan Blaney, Keselowski, Reddick, Harvick, Almirola, Bowman and Jones collected points on Lap 80. 

Hamlin grabbed the lead on the Lap 87 restart. Truex regained the lead on Lap 97. Two laps later, Bubba Wallace triggered the third caution after spinning off of Turn 4 and into the grass while running 24th. A two-tire pit stop by the No. 2 Penske Ford thrust Keselowski to the lead on Lap 101. Although Truex recaptured the lead on Lap 115, once again a caution thwarted his ascent after Chris Buescher spun off of Turn 3 on Lap 143. 

Although Keselowski restarted eighth, with four tires he vaulted through the field and set his sights on race leader Ryan Blaney. With one lap remaining in the segment, Keselowski passed his Penske teammate for his fifth stage win of the year. Blaney, Almirola, Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Harvick, Jones, Truex, Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott completed the top 10 in Stage 2.

Despite Hamlin leading the field on Lap 166, a rash of yellows changed the complexion of the second half of the race. Four laps into the final stage, Chris Buescher tagged Matt Kenseth who collected Wallace in Turn 4. Six laps later, the race returned to green. As the field came into Turn 2, the left front tire went flat on Logano’s car and he slid across the nose of Harvick’s car and into the wall. The chain reaction collected Matt DiBenedetto, Jimmie Johnson and Austin Dillon in the process. 

Before the race returned to full speed, rookie Christopher Bell ignited the eighth caution after sliding up in front of Newman. Buescher was swept up into the melee and went airborne before violently pounding the inside wall on the backstretch. NASCAR red-flagged the race for three minutes to clear the wreck. Hamlin continued at the point but Truex passed him on Lap 193 just prior to Newman spinning in Turn 3. 

Byron remained on the track to take the lead for the Lap 199 restart. Hamlin led briefly before Byron muscled his way back to the lead. As Keselowski took the point with 62 laps to go, NASCAR black-flagged Jimmie Johnson for not maintaining minimum speed. He finished 32nd and fell eight points outside of the Playoff bubble. Blaney tagged the wall on Lap 218 and was forced to pit six laps later. He dropped to 22nd and finished 20th, one lap down. 

Kyle Busch was running third when he hit the wall after his right front went flat on Lap 227. He pitted and dropped to 21st. NASCAR called the 10th caution for Corey LaJoie, who grazed the wall on Lap 234. Byron and his teammate Bowman pitted for two tires and restarted first and second, respectively. Bowman took the lead after the Lap 239 restart. Two laps later, John Hunter Nemechek spun off of the backstretch for the 11th and final caution. 

When the race returned to green, Harvick pushed Byron up the track and shot through the middle of the two Hendrick cars while Hamlin went low. As Harvick complained of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Ford going “sideways”, Hamlin seized his opportunity. 

“He (Harvick) got loose there and when you get in clean air, I think it was probably the first time he was in clean air all day,” said Hamlin, who took the lead on Lap 255. “I saw him get loose and I saw kind of blood in the water there, so we just ran him down. 

“Obviously, I thought the 2 (Brad Keselowski) had a really, really fast car and there were a couple others. We just did a great job of getting it right when it really, really mattered. This is how you win them.”

As Hamlin crossed the finish line, crew chief Chris Gabehart radioed, “This race team is such a dream.” 

Harvick holds a 97-point lead over Keselowski in the NASCAR Cup standings. 

Following three mediocre finishes Denny Hamlin regained his championship-contending form at Kansas Speedway.

In what could prove to be the battle for the Championship 4, Hamlin passed Kevin Harvick with 13 laps remaining in the Super Start Batteries 400. He then held off charges by Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. for his fifth win of the season and his third at the 1.5-mile track. 

Hamlin said he had to “outfox” the competition for his 42nd career Cup win.

“I don’t know that we had the best car, we definitely had a top-three car all day,” Hamlin said. “Just went and got it there at the end. I saw the 4 (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.”

Keselowski trailed Hamlin by .510-seconds at the line. Truex, Harvick, Erik Jones, Aric Almirola, Cole Custer, Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch and William Byron rounded out the top 10. 

 “I thought Denny and I were probably pretty close to equal the second half of the night,” Keselowski said. “It was just a matter of who got out in front. We didn’t get out in front on the restarts there and he was able to take advantage and bring home the win. All in all, it was still a really good day.”

Kyle Busch, who won his first stage of the season, finished 11th. Joey Logano, led the first 27 laps but after a tire violation by the No. 22 Penske team, he dropped to 33rd. Tyler Reddick also showed promise early coming from 23rd to ninth before the competition caution on Lap 25. While the rookie found tremendous speed running the top lane—similar to the strategy he used to win two Xfinity Series titles at Homestead-Miami Speedway—he tagged the wall multiple times and finished 13th.

Truex was the first driver off of pit road for the Lap 31 restart, but Busch quickly took the lead. 

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was racing in the top 20 when the No. 47 Chevy burst into flames. He was forced to pit on Lap 59 and finished 40th—his fifth DNF of the year. 

Busch held serve through the remainder of the stage to win the first segment followed by his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Hamlin and Truex. Ryan Blaney, Keselowski, Reddick, Harvick, Almirola, Bowman and Jones collected points on Lap 80. 

Hamlin grabbed the lead on the Lap 87 restart. Truex regained the lead on Lap 97. Two laps later, Bubba Wallace triggered the third caution after spinning off of Turn 4 and into the grass while running 24th. A two-tire pit stop by the No. 2 Penske Ford thrust Keselowski to the lead on Lap 101. Although Truex recaptured the lead on Lap 115, one again a caution thwarted his ascent after Chris Buescher spun off of Turn 3 on Lap 143. 

Although Keselowski restarted eighth, with four tires he vaulted through the field and set his sights on race leader Ryan Blaney. With one lap remaining in the segment, Keselowski passed his Penske teammate for his fifth stage win of the year. Blaney, Almirola, Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Harvick, Jones, Truex, Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott completed the top 10 in Stage 2.

Despite Hamlin leading the field on Lap 166, a rash of yellows changed the complexion of the second half of the race. Four laps into the final stage, Chris Buescher tagged Matt Kenseth who collected Wallace in Turn 4. Six laps later, the race returned to green. As the field came into Turn 2, the left front tire went flat on Logano’s car and he slid across the nose of Harvick’s car and into the wall. The chain reaction collected Matt DiBenedetto, Jimmie Johnson and Austin Dillon in the process. 

Before the race returned to full speed, rookie Christopher Bell ignited the eighth caution after sliding up in front of Newman. Buescher was swept up into the melee and went airborne before violently pounding the inside wall on the backstretch. NASCAR red-flagged the race for three minutes to clear the wreck. Hamlin continued at the point but Truex passed him on Lap 193 just prior to Newman spinning in Turn 3. 

Byron remained on the track to take the lead for the Lap 199 restart. Hamlin led briefly before Byron muscled his way back to the lead. As Keselowski took the point with 62 laps to go, NASCAR black-flagged Jimmie Johnson for not maintaining minimum speed. He finished 32nd and fell eight points outside of the Playoff bubble. Blaney tagged the wall on Lap 218 and was forced to pit six laps later. He dropped to 22nd and finished 20th, one lap down. 

Kyle Busch was running third when he hit the wall after his right front went flat on Lap 227. He pitted and dropped to 21st. NASCAR called the 10th caution for Corey LaJoie, who grazed the wall on Lap 234. Byron and his teammate Bowman pitted for two tires and restarted first and second, respectively. Bowman took the lead after the Lap 239 restart. Two laps later, John Hunter Nemechek spun off of the backstretch for the 11th and final caution. 

When the race returned to green, Harvick pushed Byron up the track and shot through the middle of the two Hendrick cars while Hamlin went low. As Harvick complained of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Ford going “sideways”, Hamlin seized his opportunity. 

“He (Harvick) got loose there and when you get in clean air, I think it was probably the first time he was in clean air all day,” said Hamlin, who took the lead on Lap 255. “I saw him get loose and I saw kind of blood in the water there, so we just ran him down. 

“Obviously, I thought the 2 (Brad Keselowski) had a really, really fast car and there were a couple others. We just did a great job of getting it right when it really, really mattered. This is how you win them.”

 As Hamlin crossed the finish line, crew chief Chris Gabehart radioed, “This race team is such a dream.” 

Harvick holds a 97-point lead over Keselowski in the NASCAR Cup standings. 

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