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Hamlin Finally Gets A Victory At Phoenix

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, March 4 2012

Denny Hamlin takes the checkered flag at Phoenix Sunday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)


Denny Hamlin won the Subway Fresh Fit 500 Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday.

The victory was assured when Kevin Harvick, who had closed to within a car length of Hamlin with three laps to go, ran out of fuel with about two laps to go.

The victory was the first for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver at PIR.

It was the first for Darian Grubb – who won the Cup championship last year with Tony Stewart – as crew chief for Hamlin.

The victory gave Hamlin the points lead.

Richard Childress Racing’s Harvick sputtered to a satisfying second-place finish.

“They told me were nine laps short when we came back out and the cautions got us to within five,” Harvick said, “and we were able to save a little and they figured it a little bit close on those numbers. But I’m so proud of these guys. When you figure fuel mileage like that, that’s the chances and the things you’ve got to do to race for championships. I know we didn’t win the race today but we came here and struggled here last year at this particular race. And to come here and race for a win and make a total 180 was great.”

Greg Biffle of Roush Fenway Racing was third.

“Well, certainly I don’t want to be greedy but I thought myself or the 5 would have won the race today,” Biffle said. “My car was just so good. Qualifying, you know, I got high in 3 and 4 and was in that fuzz, and came back and I wasn’t very fast crossing the white, and the second lap I come back and qualified seventh. I knew my car was just super fast. But I went a little more aggressive on the front end, I was a little nervous about it with the heat today and how warm it was, if what I was going to do was going to work out.

“I was trying to keep the front end right on the track real good, and it slid the nose and shattered the front tire. I fought that all day. It would be loose in and then shatter the tire when I’d try to go to the gas, so I made a little bit of a mistake probably, but I guess we could have only been two spots better.”

Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top five.

“We’ll take it,” Johnson, who finished 42nd a week ago at Daytona, said. “I’m not really satisfied. I really felt like we had a car to win the race with. Unfortunately things didn’t work out there. We had a little hiccup early in the race, but we still rebounded back and got a very strong finish. So I am proud of the fight this team has and the race car we brought to the track and I passed a lot of race cars on a track that’s tough to pass and still got back to fourth.”

Kyle Busch finished sixth, Martin Truex Jr. seventh, Jeff Gordon eighth, Mark Martin ninth and Joey Logano 10th

Martin started the race from the pole but lost his lead on lap 2. Taking over was Tony Stewart, who held it until lap 11 when he was passed by Johnson.

Johnson held it until he pitted under caution on lap 17. Harvick, who did not pit, took the lead and held it until the field headed into the pits under caution on lap 60. Johnson came out first and took the lead for the second time.

Johnson quickly lost the lead to Kurt Busch, who re-started next to him. Johnson quickly took the lead back from Busch, who took just two tires during the pit stop. Johnson began to separate from the field, building lead of over 3 seconds.

Johnson’s lead was over 3.5 seconds over Kyle Busch when Casey Mears wrecked on lap 110 to bring out the third caution of the day. Busch took just two tires on the ensuing pit stop and took over the lead. Next to him on the lap 118 restart was Harvick.

Busch was able to expand his lead to almost 2 seconds but a wreck on lap 133 involving Paul Menard, Jamie McMurray and AJ Allmendinger brought out a caution. Busch kept the lead and restarted next to Harvick on lap 141.

Harvick quickly blew past Busch and took the lead. On lap 145, Busch passed Harvick on the outside and had the lead once again. On lap 168, Harvick pulled even with Busch and then moved past for the lead.

On lap 184, Harvick and second-place Martin pitted under green for scheduled stops. When that series of stops cycled through on lap 209 – 113 laps from the end – Harvick had the lead back and Martin was second.

With 85 laps to go, debris brought out the fifth caution of the day and a 2.7-second lead by Harvick over Hamlin was history.

Truex Jr. opted not to pit and had the lead on the restart, which came with 79 laps to go. Harvick was second and Martin was third. Fourth was Keselowski and Johnson was fifth.

With 66 laps to go, David Reutimann’s engine blew to bring out caution No.6. Truex pitted, handing the lead back to Harvick. Starting next to him on the restart, which came with 59 laps to go, was Hamlin. Hamlin quickly took the lead on the outside. Behind him was Harvick.

With five laps to go, Hamlin’s lead over Harvick was .55 seconds. With two laps to go he was almost on Hamlin’s back bumper. But then, Harvick ran out of fuel and slowed.

(This story will be updated shortly)

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, March 4 2012
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