Spin ‘n Win: Denny Hamlin Rallies to Win at Chicagolandby Kyle Pokrefky September 20, 2015 0 comments
JOLIET, Ill. — A miraculous recovery drive by Denny Hamlin placed the driver of the No. 11 FedEx Toyota into the Contender Round of the Chase after winning the MyAFibRisk.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.
After spinning on the second lap after making an aggressive move into Turn 3 to advance his way forward from a 29th-place starting position, Hamlin lost a lap while under caution and appeared to be on the way to not even being a factor in the race.
Several opportune cautions provided Hamlin and his Joe Gibbs Racing crew a chance to take a wavearound and eventually reclaim their status on the lead lap.
At the end of the race, Hamlin started fourth on the final restart, Hamlin powered his way to the lead in a hurry and held on to take the checkered flag by 962 thousandths of a second.
“It feels great, this is a great day for us,” Hamlin said. “We obviously came back from adversity and did a lot of great things throughout the day with the exception of Lap 2. It’s amazing that we were able to come back the way we did and do the things we were able to do.
“I knew we had a really fast car, but I didn’t think starting in the second row with old tires we were going to have a chance. The opportunity came in Turn 1 to make a move and we capitalized and our car took off.”
With the win, Hamlin has the opportunity to plan ahead for the Contender Round of the Chase – a round that consists of Kansas, Charlotte and Talladega – now that he’s safe from elimination at the next two races at New Hampshire and Dover.
“Maybe it changes the way we plan our race cars,” Hamlin stated. “A Dover car is very similar to a Charlotte car so maybe we take what we thought would’ve been an elimination car and maybe apply it to the next race track.
“It could change things for sure, it will make us focus a little more on the next round. Now we’ve got two weeks to do that. It definitely will be an advantage for us to have a couple weeks to just focus on those particular race tracks.”
Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Carl Edwards, also made a recovery drive of his own to finish second.
Losing a lap due to a pit road speeding penalty in the early stages of the race, Edwards warded off possible engine gremlins and also took advantage of a wavearound to get back on the lead lap.
From there, it was all about positioning himself properly to make a charge towards the front – and charge towards the front he did on the final restart.
“We knew if we’d get our lap back and got back up there we’d be alright,” Edwards said. “I had a speeding penalty so I set us back there. Overall, we planned on the race track changing a lot and I felt like my guys did a great job getting the car tuned in for the end.
“I felt like all of us at JGR worked well together this weekend and we got great results. I’m happy with the day.”
Kurt Busch showed some life with a strong third-place finish that came after leading three times for 37 laps. Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top-five while Joey Logano, Kyle Larson, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch and Aric Almirola completed the top-10.
Chase drivers took positions 11-through-14 with Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex Jr. and Jeff Gordon holding those respective positions as Jamie McMurray, Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer respectively took the 16th, 17th and 19th positions in the finishing order.
Johnson was involved in a Lap 135 incident with fellow Chase driver Kevin Harvick that came on a restart. Receiving a bump from Logano, Johnson went below the apron on the frontstretch and bumped door panels with Harvick as he returned to the racing surface.
The contact resulted in a cut tire for Harvick just two laps later that sent his car spinning around and backing into the Turn 3 wall.
Finishing 58 laps off the lead, Harvick was credited with a 42nd-place finish and voiced his displeasure with Johnson following the race in the driver lot, engaging in an argument with the six-time series champion and then shoving him.
Kyle Busch led the most laps of the race – leading four times for 121 total laps spent in the lead. Gordon, entering his final Chase, found a new form that featured the 92-time race winner leading 41 laps – his most of the year since Talladega in May.
Other drivers to spend time in the lead on Sunday other than Hamlin, Edwards, Gordon and the Busch brothers were Truex Jr. (39), Harvick (10), Larson (2), Kenseth (1) and Logano (1)
Six caution flags flew throughout the two hours and 51 minute race – three for debris and three for accidents on Lap 3 (Hamlin, Allmendinger), Lap 131 (Austin Dillon) and Lap 139 (Harvick.)
Moving into the next race of the Chase’s Challenger Round, Kenseth will take a two-point lead over Hamlin and a three-point lead over both Edwards and Kyle Busch into the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway – completing a lockout of the top-four positions in the points for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Top-10 Finishers of the MyAFibRisk.com 400
- 11 – Denny Hamlin* – Toyota – Joe Gibbs Racing
- 19 – Carl Edwards* – Toyota – Joe Gibbs Racing
- 41 – Kurt Busch* – Chevrolet – Stewart-Haas Racing
- 31 – Ryan Newman* – Chevrolet – Richard Childress Racing
- 20 – Matt Kenseth* – Toyota – Joe Gibbs Racing
- 22 – Joey Logano* – Ford – Team Penske
- 42 – Kyle Larson – Chevrolet – Chip Ganassi Racing
- 2 – Brad Keselowski* – Ford – Team Penske
- 18 – Kyle Busch* – Toyota – Joe Gibbs Racing
- 43 – Aric Almirola – Ford – Richard Petty Motorsports
Chase Standings after Round 1 of 3 of the Challenger Round
- 20 – Matt Kenseth – Joe Gibbs Racing – 2052 | Leader
- 11 – Denny Hamlin – Joe Gibbs Racing – 2050 | -2
- 19 – Carl Edwards – Joe Gibbs Racing – 2049 | -3
- 18 – Kyle Busch – Joe Gibbs Racing – 2049 | -3
- 41 – Kurt Busch – Stewart-Haas Racing – 2048 | -4
- 22 – Joey Logano – Team Penske – 2048 | -4
- 48 – Jimmie Johnson – Hendrick Motorsports – 2045 | -7
- 31 – Ryan Newman – Richard Childress Racing – 2040 | -12
- 2 – Brad Keselowski – Team Penske – 2039 | -13
- 88 – Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Hendrick Motorsports – 2038 | -14
- 78 – Martin Truex Jr. – Furniture Row Racing – 2035 | -17
- 24 – Jeff Gordon – Hendrick Motorsports – 2031 | -21
- 1 – Jamie McMurray – Chip Ganassi Racing – 2028 | -24
- 27 – Paul Menard – Richard Childress Racing – 2027 | -25
- 15 – Clint Bowyer – Michael Waltrip Racing – 2025 | -27
- 4 – Kevin Harvick – Stewart-Haas Racing – 2009 | -43
* = Chase driver.
Photo Credit: Josh Hedges/Getty Images