Sunday, July 15, 2012

Kahne Steals Hamlin's Victory

Denny Hamlin led half of the Lenox Industrial Tools 301, but a late-race pit road miscommunication sent him back in the pack, and he was never able to overcome it.  Kasey Kahne held off a late charge by the 11 car and fought some lapped traffic to win his second race of the season.

Kasey Kahne celebrates his win (Courtesy Getty Images)
Kyle Busch won the pole for the race, and he led the field to the green flag at New Hampshire.  Busch was able to get in front of Kasey Kahne heading into Turn 1 and he led lap one.  On lap nine, Denny Hamlin was able to get around Kahne for second place, and began working on Kyle Busch's back bumper.  On lap 28, Kasey was able to get back around Hamlin for second place.  While Kahne moved to second place, his teammates Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were able to work their way through the Top 10 and get spots 4-6. 

On lap 64, Brad Keselowski hit pit road to begin the first round of green-flag pit stops.  Kyle Busch was the leader when he came in to make his pit stop, but after a horrendous stop he came out 21st.  Busch's pit crew had two lug nuts hang on the right-rear tire, and he also had a speeding penalty during his stop.  When the stops cycled around, Busch's teammate Denny Hamlin was the leader.  Hendrick Motorsports rounded out the top 5 following the pit stops.

Jimmie Johnson and Hendrick Teammates Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne (Courtesy Getty Images)
The first caution came out on lap 89 for debris in Turn 3.  Jeff Gordon stayed out while the rest of the field pitted, and he was the leader when the race went back green on lap 94.  Gordon restarted on the outside, but Hamlin was able to get around him on the inside to retake the lead.  On lap 101, Kyle Busch began working on Martin Truex Jr. for ninth place, and he had overcome his pit road penalty. 

On lap 145, Jeff Gordon pitted before anyone else.  He had not pitted under the caution and had to come in for fuel.  Martin Truex Jr. also came in because his team did not fill the car up with fuel.  Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch pitted on lap 148, and the leader came in on lap 155 to begin another round of green-flag pit stops.  When the stops cycled around, Jeff Gordon was following Denny Hamlin once again, but Kahne was able to get around the 24 car.  On lap 169, Johnson was able to get around his teammate for third. 

On lap 181, Brad Keselowski began to show just how good his car really was, when he drove around Earnhardt Jr. for fifth when Earnhardt's car got loose heading into Turn 1.  Just five laps later, Keselowski was able to get around Gordon for fourth place. 

Denny Hamlin leads Kasey Kahne and Clint Bowyer (Courtesy Getty Images)
On lap 189, the day's second caution came out for debris.  Kyle Busch moved to the lead when the rest of the leaders pitted for fuel and tires.  The race restarted on lap 197, and Busch chose to restart on the inside of Denny Hamlin.  Hamlin and Busch raced side-by-side for the lead for the first lap, but Hamlin was able to prevail and regain the lead. 

On lap 231, Kyle Busch hit pit road to make his stop, and he once again made a mistake.  He slid through his pit stall, costing himself precious seconds.  While Busch was on pit road, the caution came out for David Reutimann, who's engine let go and put oil down on the track.  The field pitted for what was to be their final pit stops of the day.  Hamlin's team had some miscommunication under the stop; they gave him four tires instead of two, and Hamlin went from leading the race to being 13th.

Kasey Kahne led his teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the restart on lap 240.  Kahne was able to get ahead of Earnhardt, and so was Clint Bowyer, who shot down in front of Junior for second place.  By lap 272, Denny Hamlin was able to get around Earnhardt for third place on the track with 30 laps to go.  On lap 277, Hamlin got around Bowyer for second place, and set his sights on Kasey Kahne.  With 10 laps to go, Kahne began to run into some lapped traffic.  Hamlin was able to eat into Kahne's lead, but he ran out of time and could not catch him.  Coming to the White Flag, Hamlin charged hard into Turn 3, and his car went up the racetrack.  Kahne won his second race of the year, and all but locked himself into the Chase.

Kasey Kahne leads Clint Bowyer on the final restart (Courtesy Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin finished second after a dominating performance where he led 151 laps.  Clint Bowyer finished third, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was fourth, and Brad Keselowski finished fifth.  Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson finished sixth and seventh, respectively.  Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle, and Ryan Newman rounded out the Top 10.  Martin Truex Jr. ran in the Top 10 most of the day, and he finished 11th.  Tony Stewart finished 12th after holding off Matt Kenseth for the final ten laps.  Brian Vickers, stepping into the No. 55 car this week, finished 15th.  Kyle Busch could not overcome his last pit road mistake, and he finished 16th.  Carl Edwards finished 18th, after another uneventful day. 

The Lenox Industrial Tools 301 was an uneventful race, and it was only stopped three times by cautions.  Once again, a race this season was finished in under three hours.  Kasey Kahne unofficially locked himself into the Chase by winning his second race of the season; two wins will most likely win him a wild card spot if he cannot make the Top 10 by Richmond.  Next week, the Sprint Cup Series has its last off-week of the season, and they will be back at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  The race can be seen on July 29th at 12 p.m., only on ESPN. 

Courtesy Getty Images

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