The Harvick-Hamlin Show Was Boffo At Pocono

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, June 29 2020

Denny Hamlin and his team celebrate in Victory Lane at Pocono on Sunday.

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

LONG POND, Pa. – Since NASCAR resumed its 2020 season in mid-May, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick have dominated victory lane with Pocono Raceway’s doubleheader weekend merely reinforcing the two as this year’s top title contenders.

Hamlin emerged victorious over Harvick by 3.068 seconds on Sunday, a reversal of Saturday’s finish at the 2.5-mile track. The Hamlin-Harvick duo has now won six of the 11 NASCAR Cup races held since May 17. They split the first two races at Darlington, then Harvick won Atlanta and Hamlin was victorious in Homestead before they divided Pocono.

“There’s a lot of the race tracks that both of us and our teams do a really good job at,” Harvick said. 

“Denny has been consistent over the last couple years with (crew chief) Chris (Gabehart). That’s what it takes. It takes that chemistry between crew chief and driver and team. You just never know when it’s going to be like that.

“Both of our crew chiefs are just really old school racers that do a good job in the engineering era of being able to look at the car, come at it from a driver’s perspective.” 

  Hamlin now leads the season victory total with four. His sixth Pocono victory tied him with Jeff Gordon for the most at the unique triangle-shaped speedway. In career victories, Hamlin now totals 41, moving him into 19th on the all-time list, one ahead of Mark Martin and three shy of Bill Elliott, both NASCAR Hall of Fame members.

“Put them (names) all on a sheet of paper, all these legends, Hall of Famers, everything, I think my own name sticks out there as one that doesn’t fit,” said Hamlin, who admitted Elliott was his childhood hero and the reason he got into racing at age 5.

“I also can’t downplay the accomplishments that I’ve had in my career. I’ve been really blessed to be with a fantastic race team that continues to keep getting better. I just don’t see the end in sight right now We had dominating races in 2011 when we won eight, but there’s something about how … things are going right now, the execution we’re having that just feels a little different.”  

Sunday’s race repeated Saturday’s script with final pit strategy the deciding factor in the event’s outcome. Sixteen laps separated Harvick’s and Hamlin’s final stops on Sunday. Both received fuel and two right-side tires, but while Harvick maneuvered his way through traffic after pitting on lap 105, Hamlin increased the distance between them by leading.

“About 10 laps after Harvick pitted, I asked (Gabehart) what had been our gap the whole time,” Hamlin said. “He said, ‘You’ve been a couple tenths faster. Why don’t you stay as long as you can?” 

When Hamlin made his final stop with 20 laps remaining, he was able to return to the track ahead of Harvick. With 10 laps remaining in the 140-lap race, the 3.064-second deficit was too much for Harvick to overcome in the waning laps. 

“I think we kind of played it perfectly there,” said Hamlin, who led three times for 49 laps, including the final 15. “It’s not like we had a whole lot of different strategy than a lot of the guys in the top five. We just had a car that was that much faster.”

  Hamlin averaged 122.879 mph in the race that was slowed by eight caution flags for 32 laps.

NASCAR’s top two national touring series now travel to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Fourth of July weekend. It’s the first time in the sport’s history it hasn’t been at Daytona for the summer holiday. It’s also the first time NASCAR and IndyCar will share Saturday’s billing. The Xfinity Series and IndyCar will conduct events on The Brickyard’s road course that day. 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, June 29 2020
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