Denny Hamlin wins thriller with last lap pass on a historic day at Kansas Speedway

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS - MAY 07: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, and Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Advent Health 400 at Kansas Speedway on May 07, 2023 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Denny Hamlin is winless no more. After 33 races Hamlin was back in victory lane Sunday winning at Kansas Speedway on a last lap bump and run on Kyle Larson. It was the culmination of a battle that lasted over the course of the final 26 laps that saw Hamlin slowly reel Larson in.

With 10 to go Larson, who led the most laps on the day, 85, was less than a half second ahead. With two laps to go, Hamlin was on the bumper of Larson and trying to find an opening. After they crossed the line to take the while flag, Larson led coming out of Turn 2, but Hamlin dove underneath. Coming down the backstretch Larson began to stretch his lead out, but Hamlin slid up the track and into the rear quarter panel of Larson sending him into the outside wall. Larson was able to continue but with momentum Hamlin was able to charge ahead and win by 1.3 seconds. It was his fourth career Kansas win.

“I was just trying to side draft him there and miscalculated,” Hamlin said. “It was great for us to get back into position to get close to him and get him loose through (turn) one and two.

“I had such a fast car, just couldn’t get long enough runs for it to materialize. Finally, we had just enough time.”

For his part, Larson felt he had done all he could.

“I was really loose,” Larson said. “I was trying to do what I could to manage it, just was really loose at that end, and yeah, just he was a little bit better than me there at the end.

“I haven’t seen a replay either, but obviously he was side drafting really aggressively like you would, but he was like touching me it felt like, and it just had me kind of out of control.”

Polesitter William Byron overcame an early race meeting with the wall, along with a pit road speeding penalty and a 2-lap deficit to finish third with Bubba Wallace and Ross Chastain completing the top five.

For Chastain it was another race of controversy as was involved in several on-track incidents. One of which has Noah Gragson confronting him on pit road after the race, and ending after punches were thrown and the two drivers had to be separated.

After the last 1.5-mile race many complained about the aero package NASCAR used in the Cup series.  The Vegas race in March featured 13 lead changes; Sunday’s race at Kansas Speedway saw 37, including the first last lap pass for the win in a Cup race there ever.

That was the most lead changes in a 400-mile race on a 1.5-mile track in the history of NASCAR.

Hamlin led 34 laps on the day, most of those in the first part of the race, including winning Stage 2. He stayed in the mix in the closing stages however but only led 2 laps late in the going, lap 170, and 183. He also led the most important one, the final lap 267.

Joey Logano used pit strategy and a bit of luck to win Stage 2 and finish sixth, Chase Elliott was seventh. Last week’s winner Martin Truex Jr. led the second most laps on the day, 79, but managed only eighth. Tyle Reddick and Austin Dillon rounded out the top 10.

Logano was the highest finishing Ford.

“Well, if we had the right tires on, it’s pretty good.” Logano said. “Seems like it’s an inconsistency in tires. We’ve been fighting that the last few weeks. So we got to get to the bottom of that to understand it a little better. Overall, the stage points were big. Getting a stage win was a big one – decent points with the 10 points as well. Probably with a better restart, I could have finished top-two or three. But, oh well. We just need more horsepower – all of us.”

Three drivers failed to finish due to crashes among the races 11 cautions: Christopher Bell got loose coming out of Turn 2 on lap 159 and smacked the inside wall; Kyle Busch made contact with Brad Keselowski on lap 164 coming out of Turn 2 and also spun into the inside wall, and Ty Gibbs also spun coming out of Turn 2 and into the inside wall in lap 192. Those were the only drivers scored with a DNF.

VIDEO: Ross Chastain and Noah Gragson come to blows at Kansas

“I feel bad for my guys,” Busch said. “We’ve been fighting hard all day long to get ourselves up there and get further up with track position. We finally got it and then all of the cautions kind of came to kind of throw off strategy. We weren’t able to get stage points and then ruined our race there with getting clipped.”

Hamlin’s last win came in the Coca-Cola 600 on the 1.5-mile oval at Charlotte last May. Since then, Larson has won four races. Sunday’s win also marked the first time this season a team has won consecutive times with different drivers. Hendrick Motorsports has two consecutive wins from Byron at Vegas and Phoenix, and Larson as Martinsville and Talladega.

Joe Gibbs Racing saw Truex win at Dover, and Sunday Hamlin win at Kansas.

“This is a team win,” Hamlin said. “These team guys, this pit crew, stepped up in a huge way this week. I’m proud of them.”

Sunday’s win marked another milestone for JGR, it was the 400th win for the organization.

“Yeah, it’s a thrill,” team owner Joe Gibbs said. “When we started in racing, our very first year in ’91, we had 17 people and raced one car. We just kept building and building and building. I didn’t dream that it would be anything like where we are today.

“I’m just thrilled for all of our people that helped build our race team. That’s the people back in town. I appreciate obviously all of our sponsors that meant so much to me. Today to be able to call Fred Smith and talk to him, as we know in our sport, the thing that’s really different is our sponsor partners, and I call them partners.

“The other wild thing that I’m not sure this has been done before, but I called Norm Miller at Interstate Batteries. He’s been here for all 400. Can you imagine that? I just thanked Norm so much for getting us started. If it hadn’t been for him, we may not be in racing.

“We love it, and just really appreciate everything today and appreciate the crowd here and everybody.”

NASCAR now heads to Darlington Raceway for its Throwback weekend. Logano is the defending winner of next Sunday’s Goodyear. 400.

Photos: NASCAR at Kansas Speedway Sunday May 7, 2023

NASCAR Cup Series Race Results AdventHealth 400

Kansas Speedway

Kansas City, Kansas

Sunday, May 7, 2023

1. (8)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 267.

2. (2)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 267.

3. (1)  William Byron, Chevrolet, 267.

4. (17)  Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 267.

5. (3)  Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 267.

6. (6)  Joey Logano, Ford, 267.

7. (21)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 267.

8. (4)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 267.

9. (5)  Tyler Reddick, Toyota, 267.

10. (11)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 267.

11. (13)  Kevin Harvick, Ford, 267.

12. (33)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 267.

13. (18)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 267.

14. (27)  AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 267.

15. (9)  Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 267.

16. (10)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, 267.

17. (14)  Chris Buescher, Ford, 267.

18. (30)  Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 267.

19. (20)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 267.

20. (24)  Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 267.

21. (19)  Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 267.

22. (26)  Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 267.

23. (35)  JJ Yeley(i), Ford, 266.

24. (32)  Todd Gilliland, Ford, 266.

25. (29)  Josh Berry(i), Chevrolet, 266.

26. (23)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 266.

27. (28)  Ryan Preece, Ford, 266.

28. (34)  Brennan Poole(i), Ford, 264.

29. (22)  Noah Gragson #, Chevrolet, 262.

30. (25)  Harrison Burton, Ford, 261.

31. (15)  Austin Cindric, Ford, 260.

32. (31)  Chase Briscoe, Ford, 260.

33. (36)  Josh Bilicki, Chevrolet, 260.

34. (7)  Ty Gibbs #, Toyota, Accident, 176.

35. (16)  Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, Accident, 162.

36. (12)  Christopher Bell, Toyota, Accident, 157.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  117.564 mph.

Time of Race:  3 Hrs, 24 Mins, 24 Secs. Margin of Victory:  1.307 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  11 for 57 laps.

Lead Changes:  37 among 12 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   W. Byron 1-2;R. Chastain 3-4;T. Reddick 5-27;M. Truex Jr. 28-39;C. Bell 40-42;M. McDowell 43;C. LaJoie 44-46;D. Hamlin 47-48;M. Truex Jr. 49-71;D. Hamlin 72-83;M. Truex Jr. 84;D. Hamlin 85-88;M. Truex Jr. 89-93;D. Hamlin 94;M. Truex Jr. 95-97;D. Hamlin 98-109;M. Truex Jr. 110;B. Wallace 111-112;R. Chastain 113;B. Wallace 114-117;M. Truex Jr. 118-140;K. Larson 141-154;B. Wallace 155;K. Larson 156;B. Wallace 157-158;J. Logano 159-166;K. Larson 167-169;D. Hamlin 170;K. Larson 171-182;D. Hamlin 183;K. Larson 184-186;C. Elliott 187-191;M. Truex Jr. 192-202;K. Larson 203-208;C. LaJoie 209-212;W. Byron 213-220;K. Larson 221-266;D. Hamlin 267.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Kyle Larson 7 times for 85 laps; Martin Truex Jr. 8 times for 79 laps; Denny Hamlin 8 times for 34 laps; Tyler Reddick 1 time for 23 laps; William Byron 2 times for 10 laps; Bubba Wallace 4 times for 9 laps; Joey Logano 1 time for 8 laps; Corey LaJoie 2 times for 7 laps; Chase Elliott 1 time for 5 laps; Ross Chastain 2 times for 3 laps; Christopher Bell 1 time for 3 laps; Michael McDowell 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 11,19,54,45,99,20,23,12,1,5

Stage #2 Top Ten: 22,34,42,43,16,17,3,77,5,11

Greg Engle