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Kahne, Second-Fastest Car Win At New Hampshire

Mike Harris | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, July 15 2012

Kasey Kahne crosses the finish line at New Hampshire on Sunday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Brian Lawdermilk)

By Mike Harris | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

LOUDON, N.H. – Denny Hamlin never had a doubt that he had the best car in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor.

In fact, nobody watching the race doubted that, either.

But, like the old saw says, having the fastest car doesn’t mean you’re going to win the race.

Kasey Kahne grabbed the victory in the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 after Hamlin and crew chief Darian Grubb had what turned out to be a major miscommunication on a pit stop during the last caution period of the race.

“Track position was pretty big,’’ said Kahne, whose victory put him in the No. 1 wild card spot for the postseason Chase for the championship. “Denny was really fast throughout the race. I took two tires on that last pit stop to get track position and we came out in the lead. I wanted to get the biggest lead I could because I knew Denny would be coming at some point.’’

Hamlin, whose Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota led 150 of the 301 laps on the one-mile oval, held a lead of more than 5 seconds when NASCAR waved the yellow flag after spotting oil on the track on lap 235.

As the cars slowed to get behind the pace car and prepare to pit, Hamlin and Grubb were talking strategy.

“I just think it was a perfect storm,’’ Hamlin said. “The caution came out and we got the pace car right away. We just didn’t have enough time to be completely clear what we wanted to do. It was just a miscommunication. I told Darian all it needed was tires and that was it, and he took it that I needed four tires.’’

Kasey Kahne celebrates his second victory of the season. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

Most of the contenders, including Kahne, who took the lead, changed two tires, while Hamlin’s crew changed them all and started 14th on the restart with 61 laps to go.

The determined Hamlin made a charge toward the front, using those fresh tires and the fastest car on the track to slice through the pack, finally getting to second place 24 laps from the end. He cut into a 5-second margin by Kahne but faded in the final laps to finish 2.738 seconds _ about 10 car-lengths _ behind.

“We still had a shot at a win, we just didn’t get past the cars quick enough and just didn’t have enough there at the end,’’ Hamlin said. “But I’m still proud of our team. This is the best car I’ve had here and we’re going to win the one that counts, that’s in September.

Kahne said he definitely did not feel like he stole the race from Hamlin.

“I wouldn’t say `stolen.’ We ran in the top four the whole race,’’ Kahne said. “We were in pretty good shape. I was catching Denny on long runs. We we had a great car.’’

Still, he breathed a sigh of relief when the checkered flag waved.

“If he was good keep the track position, I never would have passed him,’’ Kahne admitted. And there were some tense moments at the end.

“I was definitely focused on the lapped cars I was going by and how I could clear them quick,’’ noted Kahne, who led 66 laps. “But I lost a ton of forward drive and I was getting pretty loose and Denny was coming on four (tires). So I was paying attention to where he was, but I felt pretty good about the lead we had.”

Clint Bowyer finished third, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and new dad Kevin Harvick.

Series leader Matt Kenseth finished 13th and saw his lead over runner-up Earnhardt cut to 16 points. Greg Biffle finished ninth on Sunday now remained third, 40 points behind Kenseth.

RACE RESULTS

1. (2) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 301, $220,275.

2. (3) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 301, $228,751.

3. (5) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 301, $161,549.

4. (9) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 301, $120,360.

5. (22) Brad Keselowski, Dodge, 301, $141,130.

6. (8) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 301, $142,721.

7. (7) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 301, $135,771.

8. (12) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 301, $136,721.

9. (11) Greg Biffle, Ford, 301, $97,735.

10. (6) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 301, $128,968.

11. (4) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 301, $114,399.

12. (10) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 301, $134,110.

13. (27) Matt Kenseth, Ford, 301, $134,071.

14. (16) Joey Logano, Toyota, 301, $91,060.

15. (15) Brian Vickers, Toyota, 301, $83,235.

16. (1) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 301, $132,168.

17. (13) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 301, $89,635.

18. (21) Carl Edwards, Ford, 301, $123,676.

19. (20) Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 301, $108,593.

20. (28) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 300, $112,593.

21. (25) Jeff Burton, Chevrolet, 300, $118,510.

22. (24) Sam Hornish Jr., Dodge, 300, $120,760.

23. (18) Bobby Labonte, Toyota, 300, $105,718.

24. (14) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 299, $103,418.

25. (31) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 299, $109,476.

26. (17) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 298, $100,818.

27. (39) David Gilliland, Ford, 298, $89,993.

28. (23) Aric Almirola, Ford, 298, $114,971.

29. (29) Landon Cassill, Toyota, 297, $104,005.

30. (30) Travis Kvapil, Toyota, 297, $96,457.

31. (37) Ken Schrader, Ford, 294, $84,710.

32. (43) Stephen Leicht, Chevrolet, 293, $83,435.

33. (26) David Reutimann, Chevrolet, Engine, 229, $73,735.

34. (19) David Ragan, Ford, Engine, 139, $73,535.

35. (40) David Stremme, Toyota, Vibration, 101, $73,335.

36. (33) Casey Mears, Ford, Vibration, 91, $73,110.

37. (32) Josh Wise, Ford, Brakes, 82, $72,905.

38. (34) Joe Nemechek, Toyota, Brakes, 71, $72,678.

39. (35) Dave Blaney, Chevrolet, Brakes, 68, $69,850.

40. (36) Michael McDowell, Ford, Vibration, 63, $69,700.

41. (41) Scott Riggs, Chevrolet, Vibration, 32, $69,525.

42. (42) Kelly Bires, Ford, Brakes, 19, $69,400.

43. (38) JJ Yeley, Toyota, Engine, 4, $69,767.

RACE STATISTICS

Average Speed of Race Winner: 116.226 mph.

Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 44 Mins, 24 Secs.

Margin of Victory: 2.738 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 3 for 15 laps.

Lead Changes: 16 among 8 drivers.

Lap Leaders: Kyle Busch 1-66; D. Hamlin 67; J. Gordon 68; J. Johnson 69; Kurt Busch 70-71; D. Hamlin 72-89; J. Gordon 90-93; D. Hamlin 94-153; J. Johnson 154; B. Keselowski 155-156; Kyle Busch 157; D. Hamlin 158-190; B. Keselowski 191; Kyle Busch 192-196; D. Hamlin 197-234; C. Bowyer 235; K. Kahne 236-301.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): D. Hamlin 5 times for 150 laps; Kyle Busch 3 times for 72 laps; K. Kahne 1 time for 66 laps; J. Gordon 2 times for 5 laps; B. Keselowski 2 times for 3 laps; J. Johnson 2 times for 2 laps; Kurt Busch 1 time for 2 laps; C. Bowyer 1 time for 1 lap.

Top 12 in Points: M. Kenseth – 707; D. Earnhardt Jr. – 691; G. Biffle – 667; J. Johnson – 656; D. Hamlin – 628; K. Harvick – 622; T. Stewart – 618; M. Truex Jr. – 617; C. Bowyer – 614; B. Keselowski – 613; C. Edwards – 567; K. Kahne – 547.

– Mike Harris can be reached at mharris@racintoday.com

Mike Harris | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, July 15 2012
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