Kansas Race Recap
Denny Hamlin led Joe Gibbs Racing with a third-place finish today in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 400 at Kansas Speedway. Meanwhile teammates Kyle Busch and Joey Logano would finish 12th and 23rd respectively on a hot day in Kansas.
Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota in the 15th position and spent the early going of the race just outside the top 10 as he battled a car that was difficult to get to turn into the corners. Crew chief Mike Ford and the FedEx crew must have made the appropriate changes during pit stops under the caution because Hamlin vaulted in the top ten and took over fifth by lap 88. Under the day’s second caution a good stop would gain another couple spots on the leaders for Hamlin and shortly after the restart he would pass his teammate Kyle Busch for his first lead of the day on lap 117. Hamlin would lead three times on the day for a total of 34 laps. He was racing in the top five on lap 160 when he and Tony Stewart would make contact causing some damage to the rear of the No. 11 FedEx Camry. Hamlin would come down pit road just a few laps later for repairs and ironically the result proved to play a key role in the finish. With Hamlin off the pit cycle of the rest of the leaders and a final green flag run of over 100 laps to conclude the race, he would come down for one final fill up with about 50 laps to go, which allowed him to have plenty of gas to make it to the end. Many of the leaders however would have to come down pit road a final time with about 10 laps remaining. Unfortunately for Hamlin the handle on his FedEx machine was not nearly what it had been toward the middle of the race and he wasn’t able to contend for the victory, but was able to bring home a solid third-place finish.
Kyle Busch started his No. 18 M&Ms Toyota in the third position and didn’t waste much time moving into the top spot. Busch took his first lead of the day on lap two and would spend the opening segments of the race battling inside the top five. A great pit stop by his M&Ms team would allow Busch to restart first on lap 115, but it wouldn’t last too long as his teammate Hamlin would get past him just two laps later. Busch would battle loose handling conditions on his car for much of the second half of the race, but still managed to spend much of the day inside the top ten. As the final laps approached it was clear that this race would come down to fuel strategy and although most leaders would have to come down pit road one final time late, a few fortunate cars managed to make it to the end which dropped Busch just outside the top ten with a 12th-place finish.
Joey Logano started the No. The 20 Home Depot Toyota fifth after a strong qualifying effort on Saturday afternoon. Loose handling conditions entering the corners would cause Logano to drop several spots through the early going, although he remained inside the top 10 60 laps into the race. As the day progressed Logano would find the handle on his car was tightening up, but unfortunately the No. 20 Home Depot Camry was too tight in the center and on the exit of the turns. With few cautions crew chief Greg Zipadelli and The Home Depot crew would have very few opportunities to improve the handle and Logano would drop outside of the top 20 to finish 23rd.
Brad Keselowski captured the victory, while Dale Earnhardt, Jr. finished second, Hamlin was third, Jeff Gordon was fourth and Carl Edwards rounded out the top five. There were five cautions for a total of 22 laps and 17 lead changes among nine different drivers over the course of the 267-lap race.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series moves to Pocono Raceway in Pocono, PA next weekend. It will be the first of six races televised by TNT, with live coverage starting on Sunday, June 12 at Noon ET (race starts at 1 PM ET). The race will also be carried on Sirius Radio NASCAR channel 90.