Hamlin holds off Truex to win at Kansas Speedway
It seemed as if Denny Hamlin was out for a Sunday afternoon
drive at Kansas Speedway, hanging around the leaders most of the
day but never really giving anybody too much reason to worry.
Turned out that Hamlin was playing possum, just as he did at
Phoenix earlier this year.
His team kept making slight adjustments on every stop and had
his Toyota dialed in late in the race when Hamlin charged past
Martin Truex Jr. for the lead. He then held off Truex’s last-ditch
move with two laps remaining to win for the second time this
”It felt a lot like Phoenix in the sense of we kind of hung
around the top five all day,” said Hamlin, whose best finish at
Kansas had been third last year.
”At the end we just kind of make our charge, make our run, and
there were some things that had to happen the last run really for
us to work out, and those things happened.”
The victory gave his Joe Gibbs Racing team some momentum heading
to Richmond, where the Virginia driver has won twice before – and
where he certainly won’t sneak up on anybody.
”We’ve had good cars, we got the win at Phoenix, and we’ve had
consistent good performances,” crew chief Darian Grubb said. ”All
these details are starting to add up.”
Jimmie Johnson was third for Hendrick Motorsports, which has
failed in 14 tries to win the team’s milestone 200th race. Dale
Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne also finished in the top 10.
”I was just watching from the third spot, hoping those guys
would give me an opportunity,” Johnson said. ”I just wish I was
closer to those guys to race for it.”
Long green-flag runs on Sunday gave Hamlin the chance to sit
back and watch as the race unfolded, never pressing for the lead
until it mattered. When that happened, his team had made enough
right decisions that he powered to the front as the sun finally
”They didn’t panic,” team owner J.D. Gibbs said. ”They paced
themselves, and I’m glad the sun stayed out a little at the
Truex dominated most of the afternoon, leading a race-high 173
laps, but had to settle for second place. It was his third top-five
finish of the season, but he’s yet to win in 175 races.
”Sorry guys, I lost this one for you,” a despondent Truex
radioed to his team.
”Hey man, you did a great job,” came the reply. ”They know we
Truex said his final set of tires cost him. He was the loosest
he’d been all race, and that allowed Hamlin to charge into the
lead. Truex rallied within a car length, but he couldn’t make a
final move on the bottom side stick, allowing Hamlin to pull
”I guess if we can be this frustrated with second, it tells you
how close we are as a team,” said Truex, who hasn’t won since
Dover in 2007. ”The race car was really good. I’m just not really
sure what to think about that last set of tires. I was just
wrecking-loose that last set.”
Truex called the performance a statement moment for Michael
Hamlin is starting to have a statement season.
He won this year at Phoenix, started on the pole at California,
and led 31 laps a couple weeks ago at Martinsville before finishing
sixth. He was 12th last week at Texas.
”It’s hard to analyze your program by a one-week performance,”
he said. ”There are always areas that we need to work in. We feel
like we’ve identified those areas and we’ve gone to work on them.
So right now I feel like we’re bringing better race cars to the
Matt Kenseth finished fourth despite having a wild afternoon
trying to get into the pits, often sliding across the line at the
start of pit road. Greg Biffle followed up his victory last week at
Texas with a fifth-place run, though he didn’t have the car to
contend at Kansas.
”It was a tough day,” Biffle said. ”We were back and forth
all day, and we were off just a bit. When the track had a lot of
grip the car was unbelievable.”
Kevin Harvick was sixth, followed by Earnhardt and Kahne, giving
Hendrick Motorsports at least three cars in the top-10 for the
second straight week.
Jeff Gordon had engine trouble late in the race and finished
The 14-race drought for Hendrick is its longest since going 15
races without a win during the 2002 and ’03 seasons. The streak
began after Johnson’s win last October at Kansas.
”Everybody here needs a win for one reason or another,”
Earnhardt said. ”We’re all working really hard, but I’m not really
focusing on homing in on that too heavily. You’ve got to think
about what your car’s doing and what you need to do to help your
”Make your car faster, then the wins eventually take care of
The pressure will continue to mount on the four-car team,
though. And when Johnson was asked whether he’ll be relieved when
someone gets the win, his reply came through unvarnished: ”More
than you could ever imagine,” he said.