Denny Hamlin took home his NASCAR Cup Series-best fifth victory and second straight at Kansas Speedway on Thursday night.
Joe Gibbs never had success as a head coach in the Kansas City area as a head coach, losing both career trips to Arrowhead Stadium as a head coach.
His drivers are ensuring his visits are a NASCAR team owner are going a lot better.
Denny Hamlin passed Kevin Harvick with 13 laps to go in the Super Start Batteries 400 at Kansas Speedway, earning his series-best fifth win of the NASCAR Cup Series season. It also marks Hamlin’s second straight win at Kansas, having won the playoff race there last fall.
“I think we’re doing a great job of putting ourselves in good position to win races. We really could have a boatload of wins right now. It’s incredible,” Hamlin said in a postrace Zoom call. “We’re executing. ‘m not making really many mistakes behind the wheel right now. We’re putting ourselves in contention.”
After Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski won the first pair of 80-lap stages, Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota avoided several big wrecks during the final 107-circuit segment to put himself in position for the win. When Corey LaJoie hit the wall to bring out the caution on lap 236 of 267, Hamlin was the first car off pit road with four fresh tires. Situated behind Alex Bowman and William Byron (the Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets having taken two tires), Hamlin fell behind Harvick and fellow Gibbs driver Martin Truex Jr. when another yellow came out for John Hunter Nemechek’s spin.
Hamlin got around the Hendrick cars and overtook fellow four-time winner Harvick. Keselowski made another push in the race’s dwindling laps, but the No. 11 held him off by a final margin of 0.510 seconds.
“This is a well-executed race. We won today with probably not the best car,” Hamlin admitted. “We’re doing a better job. We’re doing a really good job obviously of adapting to no practice.”
Thursday’s win was the 42nd in Hamlin’s Cup Series career and his 11th since teaming up with crew chief Chris Gabehart last season. Some feel like Hamlin’s dominant season won’t be complete without an elusive championship, as only Junior Johnson (50) has won more Cup races without a Cup title. The Kansas visit opened the second half of the premiere Cup Series’ 36-race slate.
Hamlin, however, is pleased with the progress he has made this season, even if he feels his Toyota is capable of so much more.
“We run well everywhere. There’s not one track we don’t run well at,” Hamlin said. “We can win every single week. I know my equipment is good enough to do it. I still need to get better at some racetracks. But, certainly, I think I go to the racetrack every week thinking that we can win. As long as I don’t make a mistake, we have what we call on our No. 11 team a green race, where no mistakes are made, we typically are always in the top five with a shot to win. It’s on me to make sure we have green races.”
Truex finished third in front of the pole-sitter Harvick, while another Gibbs Toyota, Erik Jones’ No. 20, came home fifth.
The NASCAR Cup Series returned to action on August 2 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, which will host the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN).
- Aric Almirola (6th) finished in the top-ten for the eighth consecutive race, continuing a career-best streak.
- The bottom of the NASCAR playoff standings saw some major tremors with Jimmie Johnson (32nd) and Matt DiBenedetto (36th) dropping out of the race due to separate incidents. Johnson fell out of the 16-driver playoff bracket, replaced by his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Byron (10th).
- The race briefly underwent a red flag after Ryan Preece took a hard hit to the wall in an accident also involving Ryan Newman and Christopher Bell. Preece emerged from the car unscathed.
- Byron took the lead after a Newman spin brought out another caution at lap 197. The No. 24 Chevrolet took over first-place after opting not to come down pit road with the rest of the leaders. Byron wound up leading a season-best 27 laps and holds the final playoff spots by 10 points over Tyler Reddick.
- Defending Cup Series champion Kyle Busch earned his first playoff point of the season by winning the first 80-lap stage. Busch finished 11th after dealing with a downed tire late in the race.
- Thursday marked the final weekday race on the Cup Series circuit this season. Kansas is set to host an Xfinity Series race on Saturday evening (5 p.m. ET, NBCSN) as well as a doubleheader in the Gander RV & Outdoor Truck Series.
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Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags