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

season.

”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

broke through.

”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

end.”

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

were here.”

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

away.

”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

Waltrip Racing.

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

track.”

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

21st.

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

car.

”Make your car faster, then the wins eventually take care of

themselves.”

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.