Sunday, April 22, 2012

Victory Slips Through Truex's Fingers

Martin Truex Jr.'s only career victory came at Dover in 2007.  He came as close as he could come to his second career victory, but Denny Hamlin proved too strong to overcome.  Hamlin was able to hold on to get his second win of 2012.

Hamlin celebrates his first win at Kansas (Courtesy Getty Images)
AJ Allmendinger led the field to the green flag at Kansas.  He jumped out to an early lead, but was soon dogged by Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr.  Harvick was not able to get around Allmendinger, and Truex Jr. decided to try his chances at getting around Allmendinger.  When the first round of green flag pit stops took place around lap 43, AJ Allmendinger had some trouble on pit road and when stops cycled around, Martin Truex Jr. found himself in the lead.  Less than 10 laps later, on lap 52, Clint Bowyer spun trying to get to pit road.  Bowyer, who had been having engine troubles, took his car to the garage under the caution.

Clint Bowyer's day didn't go as planned; his engine began to lose power just 50 laps into the race (Courtesy Getty Images)
Martin Truex Jr. jumped out to a big lead on the restart.  While Truex drove away, Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne had a tough battle for second place.  Kahne was able to get beside Harvick, but he was unable to pass him, and Harvick was able to hold onto second place.  Pole-sitter AJ Allmendinger began to experience engine problems, much like Clint Bowyer.  Truex Jr. eventually lapped Allmendinger, and his promising day turned sour before lap 100.

On lap 87, Kevin Harvick began to run out of fuel, so he came in for a green flag pit stop.  That soon forced everyone else to pit.  On lap 92, one lap before he was scheduled to come in, Kasey Kahne also ran out of fuel.  Martin Truex Jr. was able to hold onto the lead, and he held an 8-second lead over Matt Kenseth when the second caution of the race came out on lap 132.  Jamie McMurray was caught on pit road by the caution, but he was able to take the wave around under the caution.  The rest of the field pitted under the caution, and Martin Truex Jr. was able to beat everyone off pit road.  During pit stops, AJ Allmendinger's crew went under the hood to look at his failing engine.  Bobby Labonte's engine also let go while the cars came onto pit road.  Right as the field was about to go green, Clint Bowyer's engine officially let go, and he took it to the garage for the second time today.

Martin Truex Jr. was on top of his game at Kansas (Courtesy Getty Images)
The race went green again at lap 142, and Martin Truex Jr. wasted no time in pulling out to a one-second lead over second-place Denny Hamlin.  By lap 163, Jimmie Johnson got up to the back bumper of Truex and was looking to take the lead.  Johnson's spotter told Johnson to not push the issue because Truex "will mess up."  Unfortunately for Johnson, Truex never messed up and was able to hold off Johnson.  Green flag pit stops happened again at lap 177, and Martin Truex Jr. found himself in the lead once again when the field cycled around.  The caution came out 10 laps later on lap 187, when Juan Pablo Montoya slapped the wall and dropped some debris on the track.  Under the caution, only a few drivers pitted, including Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle, Kyle Busch, and Mark Martin.

The race restarted on lap 192, and Martin Truex Jr. led Denny Hamlin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. to the line, and he jumped out to another one-second lead.  Truex held the lead for the entire green flag run, and the final round of pit stops came on lap 220.  Hamlin came in a lap before Truex, and Hamlin was right there when the 56 came out of the pits.  Following the pit stop, Hamlin's car began running .2 seconds faster than Truex Jr.'s.  With 31 laps to go, Hamlin was able to take the lead from Truex, who began to complain that the car was "wrecking loose" when the sun finally came out.

The 56 pit crew was on top of it's game at Kansas (Courtesy Getty Images)
At around the same time that Hamlin took the lead, two Hendrick engines began to fail; Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch both believed that they were only running on 7 cylinders.  The engine woes continued on lap 262; Mark Martin began to complain of his engine losing power.  Martin's MWR teammate Clint Bowyer lost his engine early on in the race.

Martin Truex Jr. began to find something with about 10 laps to go, and he started to eat into Hamlin's lead.  Truex got within .3 seconds of Hamlin, and he dive-bombed it into the corner with 3 to go, but his car didn't stick and it slid up the track.  Hamlin won his second race of the year, and his first at Kansas.  Truex Jr., who hasn't won since 2007, will have to continue looking for his second career win.  He led 179 laps today, while Hamlin only led 32 laps on his way to victory.

Denny Hamlin takes the checkered flag (Courtesy Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson finished third, and Roush Fenway teammates Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle finished fourth and fifth, respectively.  Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne, Carl Edwards, and Kyle Busch rounded out the top 10.  Jeff Gordon limped home in 21st, 3 laps down.  AJ Allmendinger, who won the pole and lead early, finished 32nd after having engine problems, 10 laps down.  Mark Martin ran in the top 10 all day, but a blown engine about 10 laps from the end relegated him to a 33rd-place finish.  Martin's teammate Clint Bowyer finished 36th after engine problems.  

The STP 400 had long green flag runs for the second race in a row, and the ending was once again an exciting finish.  Next week hopes to be even more exciting when the Sprint Cup Series rolls into Richmond International Raceway for 400 miles under the lights.  The next race can be seen on Saturday night, at 7 p.m., only on FOX.

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