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Hamlin Gets the Victory At Kansas Speedway

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, April 22 2012

Denny Hamlin takes the checkered flag at Kansas on Sunday afternoon. He held off Martin Truex Jr. to get the win. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Denny Hamlin passed Ryan Truex Jr. with 31 laps to go and held on to win the STP 400 Sprint Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway on Sunday.

The victory was the second of the year for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver as he won at Phoenix International Raceway the second race of the season.

The two victories in the first eight races of 2012 come a year after he and his No. 11 FedEx Toyota won just one race and finished a disappointing ninth in Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.

“It felt a lot like Phoenix,” Hamlin said, “in the sense of we kind of hung around in the top 5 all day, and at the end we just kind of make our charge, make our run, and there were some things that had to happen the last run really for us to work out, and those things happened. We got our car a little bit better and it looked like the 56 struggled a little bit more than what he had previous.”

The victory was the first for Hamlin at the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway and comes on the last race before repave work begins on the 11-year-old track.

Truex, who has not won a race since 2007 but who led the most laps at Kansas Sunday – 107 – finished second.

Truex said he was “a little bit frustrated” with his second-place finish, but he also said, “I felt like today was the day I said I was back.”

He now has six top-10 finishes in eight races and five in a row.

Finishing third was Jimmie Johnson of Hendrick Motorsports.

Matt Kenseth in a Roush Fenway Racing ford was fourth while his teammate and points leader Greg

Denny Hamlin celebrates his second victory of the season. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

Biffle was fifth.

Rounding out the top 10 were Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch.

Truex took the lead on lap 97 and ran with it. He was challenged by Johnson in the mid portions of the race but managed to stay ahead and had the lead when a caution flag waved on lap 186.

During that stop, Truex and seven other cars stayed out while Johnson and most of the rest of the lead-lap field pitted.

When the race went green on lap 193, Truex had the lead and again pulled away. Johnson restarted 12th but worked his way up to third when the field started to pit under green with 47 laps to go.

When that series of stops cycled through with 34 laps to go, Truex had the lead but Hamlin had a faster car and was on his bumper.

With 31 laps to go, Hamlin cleared Truex out of Turn 2 and had the lead and was able to pull away to a lead of over a second. The pass looked surprisingly easy.

“We were both running right around the wall,” Hamlin said. “I knew that the only advantage that I had is when his car got so loose that last run, I was able to make up a lot of time on entry and a lot of time on exit because he was really fighting his car. So really, as the driver behind you can manipulate his car and make it worse for him by getting up close to him, and that’s what I kind of did a few laps leading up to when we passed him is that I tried to run as close up to him on entry as I could and as close on exit. So it takes away rear grip, and to a car that was as loose as what his was, they have no choice really but to back off and not wreck their car.

“We made that run, but what is negative about it is then now you’re the lead car, and typically the second place car is a little tighter so you’ve fixed his adjustments by taking over the lead. They got their car better it looked like as the run went on, and luckily we just barely had enough to beat them.”

A second behind Truex was Johnson, who just couldn’t get any close to the lead and the shot at giving Hendrick Motorsports its 200th win.

“I got wot within three or four lengths and then I’d pick up the aero push,” Johnson said.

Truex moved into with a couple of car lengths in the final laps. He made a banzai move with three to go, getting sideways, and then again on the final lap, but could not get back to the front.

Truex said his problem was likely a bad set of tires which were put on during the final pit stop.

The margin of victory was .7 seconds.

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, April 22 2012
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