Denny Hamlin Emerges from Chaos to Win at Kansas

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS - JULY 23: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Office Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Super Start Batteries 400 Presented by O'Reilly Auto Parts at Kansas Speedway on July 23, 2020 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Denny Hamlin got a much needed boost of confidence Thursday night at Kansas Speedway.  After finishing outside the top 12 on the last four races, Hamlin emerged from a chaotic restart with less than 21 laps to go and overtook Kevin Harvick with 12 to go to score his fifth win of the pandemic ridden NASCAR Cup season.

“I don’t know that we had the best car, but we had a top-3 car all day,” Hamlin said. “Just went and got it there at the end.”

Hamlin, who won at Kansas Speedway last October, came out third as the first car with four tires on the race’s final round of pit stops after a caution for Corey LaJoie who had gotten into the wall on lap 235.

He lined up behind William Byron and Alex Bowman who had each taken two tires. On the restart, Harvick, who had only been running in the fifth through 10th spots all race long, and restarted fifth, made a bold move first pushing Bowman to the lead on the inside then passing him on the outside for Harvick’s first lead of the night.

Harvick held the lead until lap 255 when Hamlin who had been stalking him, took the top spot.

“I saw the 4 (Kevin Harvick) get loose and usually when you’re loose, you’re not able to run up high,” Hamlin said. “That was a benefit for us to be able to get that momentum going.. 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.”

Brad Keselowski took second a few laps later and although he tried to close in the final laps, had nothing for Hamlin who won by .510 of a second.

“This is as good as we’ve been on the mile-and-a-halfs. We’ve been really consistent,” Keselowski, who won Stage 2 said. “This is good, a nice midweek race, leading laps, leading stages. Just came short of the win.”

Martin Truex Jr. was able to get by Harvick in the final laps for third, Erik Jones rounded out the top five behind Harvick to give Joe Gibbs Racing three finishers in the top five.

“We needed a miracle,” Harvick said. “Our Busch Light Apple Ford Mustang was really loose. We got a couple good restarts and had a couple good laps, but we were in trouble there regardless if it didn’t just keep going yellow. Our guys did a good job keeping us in the fight all night, but we definitely have some work to do.”

The first midweek race since May for the series after the season was postponed due to the COIVD-19 pandemic featured mixed pit strategies and two crashes that took out several contenders.

Joey Logano’s led 27 laps early on but a tire got loose on pit road during pit stops after the first stage, sending him to the back. He was working his way forward early in the final stage when his left front tire went down, sending his Ford into the outside wall and collecting Matt DiBenedetto and Jimmie Johnson, playoff hopefuls who were the last two drivers above the cut line. both picked up heavy damage as the field checked up behind Logano as did Austin Dillon, the surprise winner last weekend at Texas.

“I’m pretty freaking irritated. We’ve had garbage luck the last few weeks,” DiBenedetto said.

Another crash just after a wild restart collected Ryan Preece, Chris Buescher, Ryan Newman and Christopher Bell. Bell running just outside the top 15 got loose just out of turn 2 in front of Newman and both slid across the track as did Preece  who hit the inside SAFER barrier with such force that his car went airborne before coming to rest on all four wheels. NASCAR immediately threw the red flag to stop the field on the frontstretch.

Despite fearing the worst, Preece quickly exited the car under his own power.  The red flag was quickly lifted.

Kyle Busch won the first stage earning him his first playoff point of the season after taking the lead following a competition caution and leading the second most laps of the night 52. But a flat tire sent him to pit road under green flag conditions on lap 227 and he could only rally back to 11th.  Busch’s misfortunes came a lap after a flat tire sent Ryan Blaney, who led 15 laps and was contending for the win to the pits. Blaney finished 20th.

Aric Almirola was sixth, Cole Custer, Bowman, Kurt Busch and Byron completed the top 10.

Hamlin led the most laps on the night, 57, and now has a series leading five wins on the season.

“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.”

Following a rare weekend off after Thursday night’s race, the NASCAR Cup Series heads next to New Hampshire Motor Speedway, for the Foxwood Resorts Casino 301 on Sunday, Aug. 2. Race coverage begins at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, and coverage can also be heard on PRN and SiriusXM Channel 90.
NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Super Start Batteries 400 presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts

Kansas Speedway

Kansas City, Kansas

Thursday, July 23, 2020

1. (10)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 267.

2. (7)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 267.

3. (5)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 267.

4. (1)  Kevin Harvick, Ford, 267.

5. (21)  Erik Jones, Toyota, 267.

6. (3)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 267.

7. (24)  Cole Custer #, Ford, 267.

8. (6)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 267.

9. (9)  Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 267.

10. (15)  William Byron, Chevrolet, 267.

11. (8)  Kyle Busch, Toyota, 267.

12. (11)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 267.

13. (23)  Tyler Reddick #, Chevrolet, 267.

14. (19)  Clint Bowyer, Ford, 267.

15. (36)  Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 267.

16. (27)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 267.

17. (14)  Matt Kenseth, Chevrolet, 267.

18. (37)  Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 267.

19. (30)  John Hunter Nemechek #, Ford, 266.

20. (4)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, 266.

21. (31)  Corey LaJoie, Ford, 266.

22. (28)  JJ Yeley(i), Ford, 265.

23. (22)  Christopher Bell #, Toyota, 264.

24. (32)  Quin Houff #, Chevrolet, 260.

25. (33)  Josh Bilicki(i), Chevrolet, 260.

26. (26)  Garrett Smithley(i), Chevrolet, 260.

27. (16)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 251.

28. (18)  Ryan Newman, Ford, 251.

29. (34)  Joey Gase(i), Ford, 251.

30. (29)  Brennan Poole #, Chevrolet, 219.

31. (39)  Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, Electrical, 216.

32. (20)  Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, DVP, 200.

33. (13)  Chris Buescher, Ford, Accident, 182.

34. (35)  Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, Accident, 181.

35. (2)  Joey Logano, Ford, Accident, 176.

36. (12)  Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, Accident, 175.

37. (17)  Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, Accident, 170.

38. (38)  Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, Electrical, 116.

39. (40)  BJ McLeod(i), Chevrolet, Rear Gear, 66.

40. (25)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, Electrical, 58.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  121.835 mph.

Time of Race:  3 Hrs, 17 Mins, 14 Secs. Margin of Victory:  .510 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  11 for 47 laps.

Lead Changes:  22 among 9 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   J. Logano 1-27;M. Truex Jr. 28-30;K. Busch 31-82;D. Hamlin 83-96;M. Truex Jr. 97-101;B. Keselowski 102-104;M. Truex Jr. 105-106;B. Keselowski 107-114;M. Truex Jr. 115-144;R. Blaney 145-158;B. Keselowski 159-162;R. Blaney 163;D. Hamlin 164-192;M. Truex Jr. 193-196;W. Byron 197-199;D. Hamlin 200;W. Byron 201-205;B. Keselowski 206-220;W. Byron 221-239;A. Bowman 240-245;K. Harvick 246-254;D. Hamlin 255-267.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Denny Hamlin 4 times for 57 laps; Kyle Busch 1 time for 52 laps; Martin Truex Jr. 5 times for 44 laps; Brad Keselowski 4 times for 30 laps; Joey Logano 1 time for 27 laps; William Byron 3 times for 27 laps; Ryan Blaney 2 times for 15 laps; Kevin Harvick 1 time for 9 laps; Alex Bowman 1 time for 6 laps.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 18,11,19,12,2,8,4,10,88,20

Stage #2 Top Ten: 2,12,10,11,18,4,20,19,48,9

Greg Engle