The only certain thing in the closing laps of Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race at Kansas was uncertainty.
When the dust settled, Denny Hamlin wasn’t the only driver celebrating. Hamlin led a race high 153 laps and survived two overtime finishes to win his fifth race of the season and lock himself into the next round of NASCAR’s Playoffs.
Hamlin’s win came after a second green-white-checkered flag finish following a crash involving Playoff contender Joey Logano while racing to the white flag. Daniel Suarez spun entering the frontstretch and shot up the track into polesitter Daniel Hemric. Behind them Austin Dillon slowed, came down and got into Logano, who had won Stage 1, was sent spinning through the frontstretch grass.
The yellow flag came out a half a car length before Hamlin got to the line. That half a car length made all the difference in the world for Chase Elliott.
Elliott had struggled all race long spending much of the race trying to stay far enough ahead of Brad Keselowski to advance to the next round. For Keselowski Sunday’s race was a struggle and the winner of this race in May spent much of the day one lap down. When the final caution came out, Elliott was third, Keselowski was 18th. Having taken the wave-around during the caution before, Keselowski pitted for fresh tires and came out 15th with just enough of a cushion to keep Elliott from advancing.
On the restart however, Elliott charged to second on the final lap while Keselowski faded to 19th. Elliott will move on to the Round of 8, Keselowski will not.
Kyle Busch was third, Kurt Busch fourth. William Byron was fifth, Martin Truex Jr. sixth with Erik Jones, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson rounding out the top 10.
The first overtime attempt came after a crash with five laps to go started by Bubba Wallace who lost an entire rear wheel exiting turn 2 and ending with the car on the inside of the backstretch wall after sweeping up Matt Tifft.
On the outside Kyle Busch tried to get around his teammate on the restart but Elliott just behind Hamlin was able to push Hamlin to the lead.
“I just had to hold the bottom and get a good push,” Hamlin, who won Stage 2 said. “It was all about the push that I got from the 9 (Chase Elliott) and really the 18 (Kyle Busch) those last couple of restarts. That was the most important thing for us – to get a good restart. Once we got out front, we could hold it wide open. Our car was built for downforce, so it worked out that it was just fast enough to win.”
Elliott meanwhile was able to smile at his hard earned second place finish.
“The good news was the bottom lane rolled good enough on the last restart to at least get back to second,” Elliott said. “So, I appreciate the effort. We were really struggling there at one point in the race. You have to stay fighting in these things, especially with these late‑race restarts.”
In addition to Keselowski, Byron, Bowyer and Alex Bowman who finished 11th were eliminated.
“We didn’t make it,” Keselowski said. “I pushed as hard as I knew how and didn’t quite do good enough on the last restart and that was it. We clawed as hard as we could and there were times it looked like we were going to be fine and times it didn’t. In the end it didn’t work out.”
It was the second win at Kansas for Hamlin and the 36th of his career.
“I knew track position was the biggest factor for us,” Hamlin said. “As long as we could keep our car out front, it was the most important thing beyond tires. We made the right call and took two lefts there and that turned out to be the best call there.”
The Round of 8 will be led by Kyle Busch followed by Martin Truex Jr. who finished sixth Sunday. Hamlin is third in the Playoffs, Logano who held on to a 17th place finish is fourth, Kevin Harvick fifth, Elliott sixth, with Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney grabbing the final spots.
The first race in the Round of 8 will be at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia next Sunday. Logano is the defending winner of that race while Virginia native Hamlin has five wins.
“It’s step-by-step, week-by-week,” Hamlin said. “We are not getting too far ahead of ourselves. We concentrate every week as if it’s the most important one, and this win here shows that.”
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Annual Hollywood Casino 400
Kansas City, Kansas
Sunday, October 20, 2019
1. (23) Denny Hamlin (P), Toyota, 277.
2. (14) Chase Elliott (P), Chevrolet, 277.
3. (18) Kyle Busch (P), Toyota, 277.
4. (15) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 277.
5. (25) William Byron (P), Chevrolet, 277.
6. (11) Martin Truex Jr. (P), Toyota, 277.
7. (20) Erik Jones, Toyota, 277.
8. (21) Clint Bowyer (P), Ford, 277.
9. (40) Kevin Harvick (P), Ford, 277.
10. (12) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 277.
11. (16) Alex Bowman (P), Chevrolet, 277.
12. (28) Ryan Preece #, Chevrolet, 277.
13. (26) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 277.
14. (5) Kyle Larson (P), Chevrolet, 277.
15. (27) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 277.
16. (19) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 277.
17. (29) Joey Logano (P), Ford, 277.
18. (22) Paul Menard, Ford, 277.
19. (4) Brad Keselowski (P), Ford, 277.
20. (9) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 277.
21. (3) Ryan Blaney (P), Ford, 277.
22. (24) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 276.
23. (13) Aric Almirola, Ford, 274.
24. (6) Michael McDowell, Ford, 274.
25. (17) Matt Tifft #, Ford, 273.
26. (2) David Ragan, Ford, 273.
27. (33) Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 272.
28. (31) Corey LaJoie, Ford, 272.
29. (32) Parker Kligerman(i), Toyota, 271.
30. (36) JJ Yeley(i), Ford, 271.
31. (1) Daniel Hemric #, Chevrolet, Accident, 270.
32. (8) Daniel Suarez, Ford, Accident, 270.
33. (34) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 268.
34. (35) Garrett Smithley(i), Ford, 267.
35. (10) Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, Accident, 263.
36. (37) Josh Bilicki(i), Ford, 262.
37. (30) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, Vibration, 203.
38. (39) Joey Gase, Toyota, Accident, 107.
39. (38) Timmy Hill(i), Chevrolet, Too Slow, 95.
40. (7) Ryan Newman, Ford, Accident, 72.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 136.491 mph.
Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 2 Mins, 39 Secs. Margin of Victory: .128 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 7 for 32 laps.
Lead Changes: 15 among 12 drivers.
Lap Leaders: D. Hemric # 1-4;K. Larson (P) 5-6;B. Keselowski (P) 7-8;K. Larson (P) 9-48;W. Byron (P) 49;D. Hamlin (P) 50-58;K. Larson (P) 59-76;R. Blaney (P) 77-78;J. Logano (P) 79-82;C. Elliott (P) 83-86;D. Suarez 87-92;M. Truex Jr. (P) 93-125;D. Hamlin (P) 126-218;A. Bowman (P) 219-225;R. Stenhouse Jr. 226;D. Hamlin (P) 227-277.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Denny Hamlin (P) 3 times for 153 laps; Kyle Larson (P) 3 times for 60 laps; Martin Truex Jr. (P) 1 time for 33 laps; Alex Bowman (P) 1 time for 7 laps; Daniel Suarez 1 time for 6 laps; Chase Elliott (P) 1 time for 4 laps; Daniel Hemric # 1 time for 4 laps; Joey Logano (P) 1 time for 4 laps; Brad Keselowski (P) 1 time for 2 laps; Ryan Blaney (P) 1 time for 2 laps; Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 1 time for 1 lap; William Byron (P) 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 22,9,41,19,18,2,12,11,20,17
Stage #2 Top Ten: 11,12,19,24,9,4,22,21,14,18
2019 Round of 8
|1. Kyle Busch||4046|
|2. Martin Truex Jr.||4042|
|3. Denny Hamlin||4037|
|4. Joey Logano||4030|
|5. Kevin Harvick||4028|
|6. Chase Elliott||4024|
|7. Kyle Larson||4011|
|8. Ryan Blaney||4009|