HAMLIN GETS BY TRUEX LATE FOR STP 400 WIN AT KANSAS
KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Martin Truex Jr. had the dominant car in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup STP 400, leading 173 of 267 laps at Kansas Speedway.
But Denny Hamlin stayed within striking distance and pounced when Truex had problems late in the race, posting his first victory at Kansas and second of the year in front of approximately 75,000 fans.
"It felt a lot like Phoenix (his other 2012 win) in the sense of we kind of hung around in the top five all day and at the end we just kind of made our charge, make our run,'' said Hamlin, who won the 19th Sprint Cup race of his career.
"There were some things that had to happen, the last run really, for us to work out, and those things happened. We got our car a little bit better and it looked like the 56 (Truex) struggled a little bit more than what he had previous.''
Hamlin led two times for 32 laps, including the final 31 after overtaking Truex.
"The NAPA team was phenomenal today,'' said Truex, who moved into second place in the point standings, 15 behind Greg Biffle. "(I'm) just not really sure what to think about that last set of tires.
"The car has been really good all day, we put the last set on and I was wrecking loose for the first 20 laps of that last run. Denny was able to get by me and once he did, the race was over.''
Truex's car got better late in the race and he made a couple of what he called "desperation'' moves, but Hamlin held him off to win by 0.700 of a second.
Hamlin seemed to handle the changing track conditions better than some other drivers when the sun peaked out on a cool, cloudy day.
"Really I felt like all day I was behind the 56 and his car looked so superior to the field,'' he said. "We just needed some kind of change, weather or adjustments or something to get where he was at and we kind of got both of them.''
Sunday's win pushed Hamlin's No. 11 team from sixth to fifth in points, with Hamlin just two points behind Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the fourth spot.
"It's just big for the entire Joe Gibbs organization,'' said Darian Grubb, Hamlin's crew chief. "Everybody is working so hard, just trying to improve everything.
"We've had good cars, we got the win at Phoenix and we've had consistent good performances, but just not the wins that we wanted to get.''
Rick Hendrick Motorsports, which has not won since last October at Kansas, came up short in its most recent bid for the organization's 200th win, but five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson turned in another solid performance, finishing third.
"I was just watching from third spot, just hopeful that those guys would get a little aggressive and give me an opportunity,'' Johnson said. "I just wish I was closer to those guys to race for it, but we really ran second to third all day long and that seemed to be the pace that we had in the car.
"We kind of finished where we ran all day.''
Johnson, a two-time Kansas winner, led once on the day for two laps.
Matt Kenseth finished fourth Sunday, while points leader Biffle rounded out the top five.
"It was a tough day,'' said Biffle, also a two-time winner at Kansas. "We were back and forth all day and were just off a little bit.''
Kevin Harvick finished sixth while two other Hendrick drivers, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne, finished seventh and eighth.
Columbia, Mo., native Carl Edwards finished ninth while Kyle Busch got the final top-10 spot.
The race was relatively caution-free, with just three yellows for 18 laps.