Denny Hamlin Captures Fifth Victory Of 2020 At Kansas Speedway On Thursdayby Hunter Thomas July 24, 2020 0 comments
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Denny Hamlin became the first NASCAR Cup Series driver to win five races this season after he held off Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. in the final laps to win the Super Start Batteries 400 at Kansas Speedway on Thursday night.
On the final restart of the night on lap 245, Kevin Harvick pushed leader, Alex Bowman further out in front of the pack, but as the field rounded Turn 2, Harvick and Hamlin split the Hendrick Motorsports driver for the top-two spots. Harvick led the next nine laps before Hamlin chased down him down and completed the winning pass with just 13 laps to go.
“He (Kevin 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,” Hamlin said. “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.”
In the final laps, Hamlin had to hit his marks, because Team Penske’s Keselowski was right behind him waiting for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver to slip. As the laps ticked away, Hamlin’s teammate, Truex entered the picture in third as one of the fastest running cars on the track. While Hamlin may not have had the fastest car, he held on for the victory and captured his fifth win of the 2020 season. The win marked the 42nd of his NASCAR Cup Series career.
“We just tried to keep track position at all costs,” said Hamlin, driver of the No 11 FedEx Freight Toyota. “It was so hard to pass. It seems like this tire, for whatever reason, really has an aero-tightness. We were able to keep our car in clean air. We had to do lefts and then we had to rights. It just helped our cycle and we got an extra set of tires out of it as well for a late-race caution. Proud of this FedEx team. We’re really doing a lot of things well and look forward to getting into these Playoffs.”
Although Hamlin has won the most races so far this season and has finished within the top-10 in 11 of the 19 races, his team has endured a string of bad luck since winning at Pocono Raceway back in June. At Indianapolis, he blew a tire in the closing laps and finished 28th. The following weekend at Kentucky Speedway, Hamlin’s team wasn’t up to par and finished outside of the top-10 in 12th, and in Texas, Hamlin finished 20th after cautions didn’t fly his way.
“We want to bounce back and it’s not like we ran bad by any means,” Hamlin said. “Indy, we were leading the race and blew a tire with six (laps) to go and then Texas, we’re going to come out with the lead and had that late-race caution that trapped us a lap down. We’re really doing a lot of things well. Kentucky is kind of the only outlier where we really didn’t run that well. Looking forward to downloading this and figuring out what we can do to be better.”
Keselowski finished second, just .510 seconds behind Hamlin on Thursday. The driver of the No. 2 Wabash Ford has pieced together really strong finishes over the past few weeks. The runner-up effort marks his fourth consecutive top-10 finish and his second top-five effort over the past four races.
“I thought Denny (Hamlin) 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.”
Truex’s third-place finish comes as a relief after he crashed out of last weekend’s race at Texas Motor Speedway. His Joe Gibbs Racing team was running strong in Texas, and they backed up their season’s mile-and-a-half performance on Thursday with one of the fastest cars on the track in the closing laps.
“We were catching them; I just needed more time,” Truex said. “I don’t know, every time we got the lead, the caution would come out and guys with two tires (in front of us) and we would be sixth or seventh and battle our way back. That was really the difference tonight. Every time we got the lead, we gave it up on strategy and then had to battle back. At the end, ultimately, we just ran out of time.”
Kevin Harvick held on to finish fourth, followed by Erik Jones. Rounding out the top-10 was Aric Almirola, Cole Custer, Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch and William Byron.
Kyle Busch won Stage 1 but later slapped the wall and finished 11th. Keselowski won Stage 2.
There were 21 lead changes among nine drivers on Thursday night. Hamlin led on four occasions for a race high of 57 laps.
The caution flag flew on 11 occasions for 47 laps. Throughout the night, there were three multicar accidents.
The first multicar accident brought the caution out on lap 172. Contact from Ryan Preece sent Matt Kenseth spinning in Turn 4. With nowhere to go, Bubba Wallace ran into the side of Kenseth’s Chevrolet. Despite the crash, Kenseth went on to finish inside the top-20 in 17th.
On lap 122, Joey Logano blew a left front tire while exiting Turn 2. Logano was running at the front of the pack when his car took a sharp right into the outside wall. The chain reaction included last weekend’s winner, Austin Dillon, as well as Jimmie Johnson, and Matt DiBenedetto who endured several hard hits.
“I felt it going into three right before we took the green and I felt it kind of landing on the splitter and honestly thought that the left front shock went bad,” Logano said. “It wasn’t like it was flat, it was just down a little bit. Maybe it was bad judgement on my part. I just thought it wasn’t that bad and didn’t want to lose all our track position for something I wasn’t sure of.”
A scary accident occurred after the field took the green flag to restart the race. Another pile up exiting Turn 2 sent Preece hard into the inside wall. Preece’s car impacted the wall so hard that it went airborne and nearly flipped over. Other drivers involved included Ryan Newman, Chris Buescher and Daniel Suarez. The red flag was displayed for 2 minutes and 45 seconds.
“To be honest with you, we had a fast race car right there at the end,” Preece said. “It’s frustrating for all of us at JTG Daugherty 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.”
Harvick continues to lead Keselowski in the series standings. Keselowski trails by 97 points.
The NASCAR Cup Series will take this weekend off but will be back in action on Sunday, August 2 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301. The race will broadcast live on the NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) and the Performance Racing Network (PRN) at 3 p.m. ET.
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