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Hobbled Hamlin Sprints To Win At Chicagoland

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, September 20 2015
Denny Hamlin opened the 2015 Chase with a victory. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

Denny Hamlin opened the 2015 Chase with a victory. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

Denny Hamlin may have been a casualty on a basketball court two weeks ago but he was a winner on Sunday as he opened the 2015 Chase for the Sprint Cup playoffs with a victory at Chicagoland Speedway.

sprint-logo-08The Joe Gibbs Racing driver – who not only suffered severe damage to his right knee in the basketball incident, but also spun and lost a lap on Lap 2 Sunday – opted not to pit on a late caution, took the lead on a restart with five laps to go and pulled away to get his second win of the season.

“I was going to drive in there and hope that everything worked out,” Hamlin said of his race-winning restart. “This is unbelievable. This Camry was so fast today.”

The victory assures that Hamlin will advance to the second-round of the elimination-format Chase.

“We’re ready to go have fun” in the next two races of Round 1 of the playoffs, Hamlin said.

His teammate, Carl Edwards finished second. That, despite being penalized for speeding and
fall a lap off the pace for it.

“We fought back,” Edwards, in his first year at Gibbs, said. “We did a good job. Everybody at JGR is working together. This is cool, an awesome day for everybody — just unbelievable. Denny hung on tough at the end. I thought I had him. Great race with Kurt (Busch) — that was fun. I don’t think we could be more aggressive there. I just couldn’t clear him. I thought I was going to get him.”

Third was Kurt Busch of Stewart-Haas Racing, who also had to make up a lap.

“This Chevy was fast,” he said. “It was fast enough to win. When the caution came out there at the end, I thought we had the right strategy, but we didn’t. But this is a point’s day. This is a long journey through these next 10 weeks. We weren’t given a hall pass now, through Loudon and through Dover. We’ve just got to work hard as a team and saddle-up. This isn’t just a win and take a couple of weeks off, but we had a winning car today. It’s kind of a shame. We had a good run at Fontana earlier this year and it kind of ended up the same way.”

Ryan Newman of Richard Childress Racing was fourth and JGR driver Matt Kenseth fifth.

The finishing order for the remainder of the Chase drivers were: Joey Logano (sixth), Brad
Keselowski (eighth), Kyle Busch (ninth), Jimmie Johnson (11th), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (12th), Martin Truex Jr. (13th), Jeff Gordon (14th), Jamie McMurray 16th), Paul Menard (17th), Clint Bowyer (19th) and Kevin Harvick (42nd).

Harvick started from the pole and led the first six laps. But on a Lap 7 restart forced by an incident involving Hamlin, Truex Jr. moved to the front in his Furniture Row Racing Chevy and stayed there until he was passed by Kyle Busch on Lap  46.

Six laps later green flag pit stops began. When the pitting cycled through, Busch maintained the lead over Harvick.

The biggest casualty of the sequence was Edwards, who flagged for speeding. His drive-through penalty took him off the lead lap, where he joined fellows Hamlin and Bowyer.

On Lap 71, Menard was passed by Busch and put a lap down.

By Lap 90, Busch had put two more Chasers a Lap down – Kurt Busch, who pitted out of sequence for new tires, and McMurray on the track.

By Lap 100, Busch’s lead over Harvick had grown to 3.5 seconds.

A couple of laps later, green-flag stops began. Once again, Kyle Busch emerged from the sequence with the lead – which was 2.5 seconds over Harvick. Kurt Busch was third, Truex Jr. fourth and Gordon fifth.

On Lap 123, a yellow flag waved because of debris on the back stretch and lead-lap cars, led by Busch, hit the pits. Busch also led the field out of the pits and to the restart, which was on Lap 129.

Busch did not lead the field back to the start line after the restart as he was passed by Harvick.

A lap later, Austin Dillon, running top-10, blew his right front tire, whacked the wall and out came the yellow.

On the Lap 135 restart, Johnson was pushed onto the apron and alongside of Harvick by Logano. Johnson and Harvick then made fender-to-fender contact and soon afterward tire smoke began to pour out  of Harvick’s wheel well. A lap after that, Harvick’s car blew its left-rear tire, his car spun and slammed the wall.

“Good God,” Johnson screamed into his radio, “what the hell is Logano doing?”

The defending series champion steered his car to the garages and his shot at a fast start to the this year’s Chase was over.

After the race, Johnson went to Harvick’s motorhome to explain what happened. Harvick emerged and attacked Johnson.

Johnson said, He didn’t leave me any space. He was pinning me down, and I had to get back up on the track. I wouldn’t say that what he did was any different than other situations I’ve been in like that.  When you are in his position, you want to get the inside car in a bad angle so they have to lift. I was fine with lifting, but I had to get back on the race track, so I worked my way back up on the track.”

Meanwhile, Busch took advantage by streaking to the lead as Johnson and Harvick banged doors.

But on the Lap 145 restart, Gordon blew to the lead.

Gordon held the lead until he kicked off a round of green-flag pit stops on Lap 184.

On Lap 192, with Chasers Edwards, Hamlin and Keselowski running first, second and third respectively but out of pitting sequence, debris forced another caution. Those three plus Gordon pitted under yellow leaving Kyle Busch to lead the field to the restart on Lap 197 of the 267-lap race.

Kyle Busch cleared brother Kurt on the backstretch and was back where he was for 96 laps previously – in the lead.

On Lap 221, Kurt Busch went low on his brother in traffic and passed Kyle for the lead.

With 30 laps to go, Edwards, running sixth, opted to pit under green. Others on the lead lap began to follow him in, including leader Kurt Busch with 27 laps to go.

When pitting cycle through, Kurt Busch had the lead, Kyle Busch was second but three seconds behind. Gordon was third, Hamlin fourth and Logano fifth.

With 10 laps to go, Kurt Busch’s big lead was erased by a debris caution. Kurt Bush, Gordon and Hamlin stayed out during the caution while Kyle Busch and the other 10 drivers on the lead lap pitted for tires.

The restart came with five laps to go. Hamlin emerged from a scrum of restarters to grab the lead.

“It was ballsy, but I’d been stuck so many times three-wide in the middle,” Hamlin said of his restart. “The front cars almost have a disadvantage to the back cars the way it all plays out. We got a great restart and I just held it wide open through (turns) one and two and it stuck. We were able to get in that clean air and take off.”

(This story will be updated shortly)

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race – myAFibRisk.com 400

Chicagoland Speedway

Joliet, Illinois

Sunday, September 20, 2015

  1. (29) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 267, $306315.
  2. (14) Carl Edwards, Toyota, 267, $213655.
  3. (9) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 267, $195005.
  4. (6) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 267, $180280.
  5. (12) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 267, $170641.
  6. (2) Joey Logano, Ford, 267, $162903.
  7. (18) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 267, $144478.
  8. (3) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 267, $158111.
  9. (7) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 267, $163361.
  10. (20) Aric Almirola, Ford, 267, $146381.
  11. (11) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 267, $152321.
  12. (19) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 267, $122025.
  13. (4) Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 267, $131670.
  14. (10) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 267, $148986.
  15. (28) David Ragan, Toyota, 267, $131664.
  16. (13) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 266, $138141.
  17. (16) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 266, $110350.
  18. (27) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 265, $110250.
  19. (26) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 265, $135108.
  20. (24) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 265, $126903.
  21. (17) Greg Biffle, Ford, 265, $131078.
  22. (21) Brian Scott(i), Chevrolet, 265, $115003.
  23. (31) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 265, $120278.
  24. (8) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 264, $112320.
  25. (23) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 264, $124034.
  26. (25) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 264, $104095.
  27. (36) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 263, $95495.
  28. (30) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 263, $136470.
  29. (33) Cole Whitt, Ford, 263, $105853.
  30. (22) Sam Hornish Jr., Ford, 262, $119290.
  31. (38) Brett Moffitt #, Ford, 262, $92745.
  32. (35) David Gilliland, Ford, 262, $108592.
  33. (40) Josh Wise, Ford, 261, $90845.
  34. (37) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 261, $90645.
  35. (34) JJ Yeley(i), Toyota, 261, $90410.
  36. (15) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 260, $108220.
  37. (32) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 259, $89953.
  38. (41) Jeb Burton #, Toyota, 259, $84528.
  39. (39) Matt DiBenedetto #, Toyota, 258, $80465.
  40. (42) Reed Sorenson, Ford, 258, $76465.
  41. (43) Timmy Hill(i), Chevrolet, 255, $72465.
  42. (1) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 209, $126690.
  43. (5) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 198, $101901.


Average Speed of Race Winner:  140.117 mph.

Time of Race:  2 Hrs, 51 Mins, 30 Secs. Margin of Victory:  0.962 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  6 for 28 laps.

Lead Changes:  17 among 10 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   K. Harvick 1-5; J. Logano 6; M. Truex Jr. 7-45; Kyle Busch 46-128; K. Harvick 129-133; Kyle Busch 134-143; J. Gordon 144-183; Kurt Busch 184; Kyle Busch 185; K. Larson 186-187; C. Edwards 188-193; Kyle Busch 194-220; Kurt Busch 221-239; D. Hamlin 240-243; M. Kenseth 244; Kurt Busch 245-261; J. Gordon 262; D. Hamlin 263-267.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Kyle Busch 4 times for 121 laps; J. Gordon 2 times for 41 laps; M. Truex Jr. 1 time for 39 laps; Kurt Busch 3 times for 37 laps; K. Harvick 2 times for 10 laps; D. Hamlin 2 times for 9 laps; C. Edwards 1 time for 6 laps; K. Larson 1 time for 2 laps; M. Kenseth 1 time for 1 lap; J. Logano 1 time for 1 lap.

Top 16 in Points: M. Kenseth – 2,052; D. Hamlin – 2,050; C. Edwards – 2,049; Kyle Busch – 2,049; Kurt Busch – 2,048; J. Logano – 2,048; J. Johnson – 2,045; R. Newman – 2,040; B. Keselowski – 2,039; D. Earnhardt Jr. – 2,038; M. Truex Jr. – 2,035; J. Gordon – 2,031; J. Mcmurray – 2,028; P. Menard – 2,027; C. Bowyer – 2,025; K. Harvick – 2,009.


| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, September 20 2015
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