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Hamlin Gets Back On Winning Track At MIS

Info Manager | , RacinToday.com Sunday, June 19 2011

Denny Hamlin got his first victory of the season on Sunday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

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Denny Hamlin took the lead coming out of the pits on the final pit stops of the day, held off Matt Kenseth over the final five laps and won the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400 at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday afternoon.

Kenseth finished second and Kyle Busch, Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, was third.

The victory was the first of the season for Hamlin. It was just the third top-five finish for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver, who finished second in points last year and who won the race at MIS a year ago.

The victory was No. 17 in Hamlin’s Cup career and first since he won at Texas last fall.

“I think everyone knows that we’ve been strong and today we didn’t look as strong as what we normally do here, but we got it working there at the end,” Hamlin said. “We made a magic adjustment and just the car took off.  This is the point in the season where we really need to start hitting our stride and hopefully we got another good 10 weeks before the Chase starts.”

JGR president J.D. Gibbs, who had suffered through tough weekend after all three of his team’s Cup cars were ruled to have oil pans that were not approved by NASCAR, said the victory was very welcome.

“It was real encouraging,” Gibbs said. “The way the day played out, kind of struggled at the start, worked hard, it paid off at the end. Overall, the 11 (Hamlin) car, each year that it’s been in existence, has been a strong-performing car.  You kind of start the year off not as quickly and successfully as we would like.  To watch them kind of come together and lift each other up, be a team, that was kind of for me I get a lot of satisfaction watching those guys rally around each other and look for some great momentum for the rest of the year.”

Kurt Busch started the race from the pole but quickly surrendered it to Greg Biffle. Biffle led most of the first half of the race.

At about the half way point, Busch took the lead and held it until a caution came out with 40 laps to go. On the ensuing pit stops, Kenseth came out first as he opted not to take tires while most of the others at the front of the field took four.

Edwards moved to the lead just after the start-finish line and Hamlin moved to second. Edwards began to build a big lead but that evaporated when a caution came out with nine laps to go after Dale Earnhardt Jr. blew a tire and hit the wall.

All the leaders pitted for two tires and fuel. Hamlin came out first, Kenseth second and

Matt Kenseth came up a car length or two short at Michigan on Sunday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

Edwards third.

Hamlin had a great restart and kept the lead. Behind him a lap later were Kenseth, wo spun his tires on the restart, and Kyle Busch, who had a good restart.

Kenseth got back to the rear bumper of Hamlin with two laps to go but could not get around.

“I just couldn’t quite get Denny,” Kenseth said. “After restarts we were kind of slow and tight in the middle which isn’t a good thing to be in a short shootout. We had a great car in the long run though. I tried what I could to get around him but I slipped on the restart. I just needed more laps to get it going.”

Edwards finished fifth and increased his point lead from 6 to 20 over Kevin Harvick.

A victory by Edwards would have given him the weekend sweep as he won the Nationwide race on Saturday.

“I was going to go all the way to the top of the grandstands today,” Edwards sadi. “I just appreciate all the fans coming out here. This is a great race track and track position is so important. Sadly, down force is such a big factor in these cars and I am really hoping that NASCAR will take the opportunity in 2013 to take down force away so the fans can see the guys race race cars and not race down force.  That would be cool.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 21st for his first non-top-20 finish since the season-opener. His problem was he a late-race skirmish with the wall and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Mark Martin.

Earnhardt said Martin ran him into the wall and that “really pissed me off,” Earnhardt said.

Paul Menard finished fourth, giving him his best day of the season.

“We’ve had a rough month, no doubt about that,” the Richard Childress Racing Chevy driver said. “My guys needed a good run. We’ve had a fast car for the most part, just been struggling to put together a full race. Wasn’t really sure what we had in practice. The car drove good, it seemed like we lacked a little bit of speed.

“Qualified in the top 10 and that’s so important at these intermediate tracks, track position. Slugger made a good call to take two tires at the end. Kind of went back and forth, two verses four. A lot of people took two, we did. A little too tight at the end but the Pittsburg Paints/Menards Chevy was just a really solid weekend and that’s what we needed.”

Info Manager | , RacinToday.com Sunday, June 19 2011
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