Kansas City, Kan.,— Martin Truex, Jr., may have dominated the STP 400 at Kansas Speedway, but Denny Hamlin got by Truex on lap 246 and hung on for the final 31 laps to score win No. 2 win of the season.
“Great day for our race team, the pit crew did amazing there,” said Hamlin. “Darian [Grubb, crew chief] made the great call to bring me in a lap early and just a great team effort today.”
Hamlin had to hold off Truex for the final laps, and it wasn’t easy.
“The whole time I just kept thinking of Mikey (Michael Waltrip) because I’m good friends with him,” said Hamlin. “I would love to see one of his cars win.”
“I know how much he’s put into that program and Martin (Truex Jr.) was driving his heart out,” Hamlin added. “It’s disappointing not to win in those situations when you have a dominant car. At the end, we just tuned it in where it needed to be.”
Truex was tuned in for 176 laps until the final pit stop, and a new set of tires.
“We had them,” said Truex. “I don’t know what happened with that last set of tires, they were terrible.”
“I couldn’t go at all — was just dead sideways, wrecking,” Truex added. “At the end of the run, I was back to being okay again, but by then he (Denny Hamlin) had already passed me and clean air is everything.”
Jimmie Johnson raced Truex mid-race for the lead, but could never quite catch the No. 56.
“I was just watching from third spot, just hopeful that those guys would get a little aggressive and give me an opportunity,” Johnson said. “I watched the 11 [Hamlin] get by the 56 [Truex], work him for a while, and got his way by, and then the 22 seemed to lose a little bit of pace at the end and the 56 was right back to him.”
“I just wish I was closer to those guys to race for it,” added Johnson. “We really ran second to third all day long.”
Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle finished fourth and fifth, and Kevin Harvick was sixth. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., finished in the seventh position, Kasey Kahne was eighth. Carl Edwards quietly drove to a ninth place finish, and Kyle Busch rounded out the top-10.
Biffle remains on top the Sprint Cup points standings taking a 15 point lead over Martin Truex, Jr., who moved up two positions. Matt Kenseth takes over the third spot behind Biffle by 17 points, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (-21), drops to fourth. Hamlin (-23) gained a points position with the win to fifth, Harvick (-25) loses a spot to sixth. Johnson (-37) is seventh, Tony Stewart (-47) is eighth, Edwards (-61) is ninth, and Ryan Newman moves to the 10th spot 63 behind the leader.
Other notes from the STP 400:
Polesitter A.J. Allmendinger had engine issues. The team speculated a valve spring issue, and told Allmendinger to ride out the problem because it was not able to be fixed. Allmendinger returned to the track and finished 23rd.
Clint Bowyer had a heartbreaking homecoming with a 36th place finish after an engine expired on lap 139. Bowyer was unsure what happened under the hood, but said “I wish it wouldn’t have happened here, anywhere but here.”
Bobby Labonte also had engine issues and came to pit road in a plume of smoke before stopping on pit road and quickly exited the No. 47. Labonte said a terrible vibration forced a pit stop early, but returned to the track before the engine finally let go.
“The car filled up with smoke,” said Labonte, who finished 35th. “I’m figuring the rear tires were full of oil, oil from the oil tank and then the caution comes out and it blows up on pit road.”