Originally written for CLNS Radio.
Denny Hamlin won the Ford 400 on Sunday after pulling away from Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the closing laps.
|Denny Hamlin poses with the Ford 400 trophy. The win was Hamlin's first victory of the season, and it keeps his streak of eight consecutive seasons with at least one win alive. (Photo courtesy NASCAR via Getty Images)|
Hamlin had to outrun his teammate Kenseth, who led the most laps on Sunday. Kenseth was chasing Jimmie Johnson for the Sprint Cup Championship, but he fell 19 points shy of the title.
The victory was Hamlin's first of the season after a year of struggles for the team. Hamlin missed a month with back problems early in the season, and he said he was happy to be back in victory lane.
"It's amazing," Hamlin told ESPN. "The whole FedEx team stuck with us. It's a heck of a way to go out."
Kenseth started on the pole, and he quickly pulled away from the field. On lap 10, the first caution of the day came out for debris on the track.
Hamlin stayed out while the rest of the field pitted, and he led the field back to the green flag on lap 15. Hamlin quickly lost the lead to Kevin Harvick, who was on fresher tires.
On lap 17, Kenseth took the lead back from Harvick. He led until lap 24, when Travis Kvapil spun to bring out the second caution of the day. Harvick won the race off pit road once all the leaders made pit stops.
Kurt Busch was able to take the lead away from Harvick when the race restarted on lap 28. Kenseth took the lead away from Busch on lap 32.
Jamie McMurray hit pit road on lap 66 to begin a round of green-flag pit stops. During the round of stops, the third caution of the day came out for debris on lap 68.
Kenseth led the field back to the green flag on lap 73, and the race stayed green until Dave Blaney spun on lap 90 to bring out the fourth caution of the race.
Kenseth led when the race restarted on lap 95, and he pulled away from Jimmie Johnson during the run.
Mark Martin, in his final Sprint Cup Series race, hit pit road on lap 140 to start a round of green-flag pit stops.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the lead on lap 141, but he pitted the same lap.
When pit stops had cycled around, Earnhardt was back in the lead ahead of Kenseth.
The caution came out on lap 152 for debris. The leaders pitted for tires and fuel, and Kenseth won the race off pit road.
Kenseth took the green flag on lap 158, and he led until his teammate Hamlin took the lead on lap 167.
The sixth caution of the day came out for debris on lap 189. Hamlin won the race off pit road to keep the lead.
When the race restarted on lap 194, the field stacked up. Johnson and Kenseth got together, and the contact dropped Johnson outside the top 20.
The caution came back out on lap 207 for a flat right-rear tire from Paul Menard. Harvick won the race off pit road, and he led the field back to the green flag on lap 212.
Brad Keselowski got around Harvick for the lead on lap 214, but he only held onto the top spot until Earnhardt passed him on lap 224.
The final caution of the day came out on lap 232 when a small fire erupted under Menard's car. Once he brought his car to the pits, his tire blew up from the heat, but no one was injured.
Hamlin won the race off pit road, and he led the field back to the green flag on lap 240. Going through Turn 2, Earnhardt was able to get around Hamlin for the lead.
Hamlin took the lead again on lap 243 and he held off Kenseth and Earnhardt to win the Ford 400.
Here are the unofficial results:
1. Denny Hamlin
2. Matt Kenseth
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
4. Martin Truex Jr.
5. Clint Bowyer
6. Brad Keselowski
7. Kyle Busch
8. Joey Logano
9. Jimmie Johnson
10. Kevin Harvick
11. Jeff Gordon
12. Carl Edwards
13. Kasey Kahne
14. Elliott Sadler
15. Kyle Larson
16. Aric Almirola
17. Ryan Newman
18. Juan Pablo Montoya
19. Mark Martin
20. Danica Patrick
21. Kurt Busch
22. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
23. Jeff Burton
24. Greg Biffle
25. Parker Kligerman
26. Marcos Ambrose
27. David Gilliland
28. Casey Mears
29. David Ragan
30. Jamie McMurray
31. David Reutimann
32. J.J. Yeley
33. Landon Cassill
34. Ken Schrader
35. Joe Nemechek
36. AJ Allmendinger
37. Travis Kvapil
38. Dave Blaney
39. Paul Menard
40. Trevor Bayne
41. Josh Wise
42. Tony Raines
43. Michael McDowell