Win Five for No. Eleven at Kansas

Hamlin celebrates with a burnout at Kansas

(KANSAS CITY, KS - JULY 23, 2020 - RIS) Denny Hamlin put emphasis on his 2020 season, winning the Super Start Batteries 400 NASCAR Cup Series race, powering around Kevin Harvick for the fifth win this year for the No. 11 Toyota. 

Kevin Harvick picked the inside line for the start of the Super Start Batteries 400 but Joey Logano pulled into a lead with Ryan Blaney assuming second place as Harvick drifted back to fourth place after 15 laps as Martin Truex Jr took third place. Truex moved to challenge Logano for the lead going into the competition caution after 25 laps, then Logano's crew had a tire loose on pit road during his stop, earning a drive-through penalty for the uncontrolled tire.

Ricky Stenhouse pulled his Chey into the pits with a fire inside the cockpit, retiring the No. 47 car. "Man, at the start of the race our Kroger Camaro was really good. We've had some really bad weeks as far as results go and drove up into 14th there on the first start," he said. "We lost the balance there a little bit, but it felt like we were still pretty close and then I don't know. A fire started in the cockpit. Something electrical under the dash. So, it's a bummer to end the day like that for our Kroger team. I felt like we had a really good shot at a top 10 if we kept dialing our car in. I really like Kansas. I'm glad we've got kind of an off-week now before New Hampshire so we can regroup.

"Yeah, I could see the fire. It was right beside me and then all up under the dash and by my left foot. The fuel pressure quit at first and then the whole screen went black after that. I don't know exactly what caused that or what can cause it, but a bummer of a day for sure."

Kyle Busch jumped into the lead at the restart and earned his first playoff point of 2020 by being in first place at the end of Stage One.

Denny Hamlin led the field early in the second stage until Truex used a side draft to move into first place at lap 98. Just a la later, Bubba Wallace spun in the fourth turn with a blown right front tire, bringing out the third caution of the race and calling the teams back down pit road just 20 laps into the stage. "It was a frustrating ending. I thought our Richard Petty Motorsports team could overcome our obstacles today at the Kansas Speedway. We were really free – I think we had a tire going down right before we spun. And then got it too tight, so we kind of went through the full end of the spectrum. Started to get our way back right and just got caught up in someone else's mess with nowhere to go. Unfortunate day for our Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 Victory Junction Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE team, but we'll go onto the New Hampshire Motor Speedway after this awesome off weekend."

At the restart, Brad Keselowski on new right side tires only and Martin Truex on four fresh tires, battled side by side for first place, allowing Ryan Blaney and Denny Hamlin to close until Keselowski got the lead for certain and moved ahead by a quarter of a second. The new tires finally paid dividends for Truex and he easily got the lead from Keselowski with Hamlin following a lap later, pushing Keselowski to third.

Chris Buescher's spin in the second turn sent Bubba Wallace around with the free pass in the resulting caution as the field almost all pitted for service with Ryan Blaney and Jimmie Johnson heading the field onto the track after stopping. Tyler Reddick, John Hunter Nemechek and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top five.

Blaney used a push from Denny Hamlin to move into the lead with Johnson falling back to fifth. At the end of the second stage, Keselowski had edged out fellow Penske racer Blaney for the stage win, followed by Almirola, Hamlin and Kyle Busch.

Hamlin, Elliott, Blaney, Keselowski and Kyle Busch held the top five positions on the restart. Matt Kenseth reported a bad vibration and slowed before Ryan Preece took the air off his rear spoiler or tapped him slightly, spinning the No 42 Chevy into the path of Bubba Wallace's No. 43 with Wallace retiring immediately with damage to his right front suspension. "It was a frustrating ending. I thought our Richard Petty Motorsports team could overcome our obstacles today at the Kansas Speedway," Wallace reported. "We were really free – I think we had a tire going down right before we spun. And then got it too tight, so we kind of went through the full end of the spectrum. Started to get our way back right and just got caught up in someone else's mess with nowhere to go. Unfortunate day for our Richard Petty Motorsports No."

A multi-car crash on the restart began with a flat left front tire for Joey Logano and the resulting confusion sent Matt DiBenedetto hard into the wall but Austin Dillon Harvick and Johnson were all involved too. Logano reported: "I felt it going into three right before we took the green and I felt it kind of landing on the splitter and honestly thought that the left front shock went bad. It wasn't like it was flat, it was just down a little bit. Maybe it was bad judgement on my part. I just thought it wasn't that bad and didn't want to lose all our track position for something I wasn't sure of. Hindsight is 20-20 and I apologize to everyone that was involved in it. It just stinks. It is one of those judgement calls. You are coming to the green and swerving your tires and something feels funny and you just aren't sure. I was pretty sure coming off of two and it loaded up and got on the splitter. Just a bummer. I felt like we got our Shell Pennzoil Mustang pretty good that last run. We felt loose that whole time but the last run we were close to where we needed to be. I wish we could have finished it out because I feel like we would have had something."

Matt DiBenedetto added that: "I couldn't tell what was going on. I just tried to go low. I saw guys checked up off of two. I didn't see it. I just got clipped in the right side. Nothing I could do different. I am not going to lie. I am pretty frickin irritated. We have had garbage luck the last couple of weeks. The Menards Dutch Boy Ford Mustang was fast and we deserve better. We are racing for the playoffs and this is just annoying.

"The restarts are just wild because we have no horsepower so it takes us 45 minutes to get going. The restarts are wild. It is part of racing. I am glad to see those guys are okay. I saw Ryan Preece's crash and Newman and those guys. I am glad to see they are okay. We have been so fast every week. We made 700 adjustments there and put about 40 rounds of wedge in it I think and just got the balance about right and then we crashed. I need an off weekend. I will watch the other guys race and go to one of my favorite tracks, New Hampshire, and rebound and get a dang finish that we deserve."

Another crash on this restart sent Ryan Preece hard into the inside wall, lifting the car almost into a flip. The crash started with contact between Christopher Bell and Ryan Newman, sending Newman into Preece's car and into the wall. "It's frustrating for all of us at JTG - I'm alright, just waiting for this season to turn around," said Ryan Preece later.

Another quick caution, this one for Ryan Newman's spin in the third turn.

William Byron, with Keith Rodden on the pit box as Chad Knaus stayed in Charlotte awaiting the birth of his second daughter, stayed on the track and held the lead on old tires for several laps until Keselowski took the lead. After putting some laps on the new tires Keselowski took on, his car's speed dropped off slightly and Byron's speed held up, allowing Byron to close to less than a length back and then draft around for the lead on lap 222. 

Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney both hit the wall and pitted with flat right front tires, with no caution resulting.

Corey LaJoie brought out the next caution, with a blown right rear tire, saving Byron's fuel strategy with 32 laps left to run. Fuel and four tires were the almost universal pit call, except Byron took only right side tires, going back on the track still in the lead.

Alex Bowman and Byron ran side by side, with Bowman taking the lead while Truex had a slip and packed up the rest of the field. Kevin Harvick moved around Byron into second place, then Byron returned to second as John Hunter Nemechek spun off the second turn, bringing out yet another caution flag.

Kevin Harvick pushed Bowman on the restart, then swept into the lead, followed by Denny Hamlin into second. Keselowski took third place, followed by Truex, Bowman and Erik Jones as Byron faded back to sixth. Hamlin moved easily into the lead with twelve laps to go, with Harvick's car not seeming to handle perfectly. The gap between Hamlin and Keselowski held steady for the final few laps, with Hamlin winning his fifth race of the season. "I tell you," Hamlin said, "this team is really hitting on all cylinders right now."

Keselowski could hold pace with Hamlin on track but said that his Team Penske car fell behind on restarts. "This is as good as we've been on the mile-and-a-halfs. We've been really consistent," Keselowski said. "This is good, a nice midweek race, leading laps, leading stages. Just came short of the win."

Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Wabash Ford Mustang -- "I thought Denny (Hamlin) and I were probably pretty close to equal the second half of the night. It was just a matter of who got out in front. We didn't get out in front on the restarts there and he was able to take advantage and bring home the win. All in all, it was still a really good day."

"It is hairy" to run the top of the track he commented. "No doubt about it. That is why we are supposed to be the best race car drivers in the world. We are supposed to be able to do it. You are sliding the car an inch from the wall and the closer you get to it the faster it goes and you have to be careful not to overstep it."

Kevin Harvick "needed a miracle. Our Busch Light Apple Ford Mustang was really loose. We got a couple good restarts and had a couple good laps but we were in trouble there regardless if it didn't just keep going yellow. Our guys did a good job keeping us in the fight all night but we definitely have some work to do."

Aric Almirola was "pretty eager to get a W. This race team has been doing a great job. We have been running really good. A long time ago I would have given anything to just run top-10 every week and run like we have been running but when you start tasting victory and run up front and race around those guys, you want to seal the deal and go to victory lane. Tonight we were just a little bit off. We didn't have as good of a car compared to the field as we have the last several weeks. I am proud of my guys. We keep chipping away and building up that points buffer to the cutoff which is nice but now we are ready to go get the W and some bonus points for the playoffs. I am proud of everybody, Smithfield, Ford, Mobil 1 and everyone that supports this program. Everybody back at Stewart-Haas Racing. Finally we will get to catch our breath for three or four days here and then head off to Loudon."

After the race, Hamlin commented that: "I don't know that we had the best car, we definitely had a top-three car all day. Just went and got it there at the end. I saw the 4 (Kevin Harvick) get loose and usually when you're loose, you're not able to run up high. That was a benefit for us to be able to get that momentum going. The pit crew did an amazing job getting us out there ahead of everyone else that had four tires. Proud of this whole FedEx team. We've had a rough three weeks. We were leading at Indy when we blew a tire and this team is really hitting on all cylinders right now.

"We can win any given week and that's something that is really hard to come by. This team is good at short tracks, intermediates, superspeedways. Have to thank FedEx, Toyota and the Jordan Brand, Coca-Cola and all of our partners at JGR. They've done a great job at building us fast cars.

"He (Kevin Harvick) got loose there and when you get in clean air, I think it was probably the first time he was in clean air all day. I saw him get loose and I saw kind of blood in the water there, so we just ran him down. Obviously, I thought the 2 (Brad Keselowski) had a really, really fast car and there were a couple others. We just did a great job of getting it right when it really, really mattered. This is how you win them.

"We just tried to keep track position at all costs. It was so hard to pass. It seems like this tire, for whatever reason, really has an aero-tightness. We were able to keep our car in clean air. We had to do lefts and then we had to rights. It just helped our cycle and we got an extra set of tires out of it as well for a late-race caution. Proud of this FedEx team. We're really doing a lot of things well and look forward to getting into these Playoffs.

"We want to bounce back and it's not like we ran bad by any means. Indy, we were leading the race and blew a tire with six (laps) to go and then Texas, we're going to come out with the lead and had that late-race caution that trapped us a lap down. We're really doing a lot of things well. Kentucky is kind of the only outlier where we really didn't run that well. Looking forward to downloading this and figuring out what we can do to be better."

"We had a fast race car, but it wasn't the night we were hoping for," said John Hunter Nemechek. "We weren't too bad to fire off, just a little on the tighter side, and the track freed up as the night went on. I didn't have a lot of front grip at the top, so couldn't really run the same line as some of those other guys. Restarts were crazy tonight and we managed to stay out of trouble for most of the race, but the car came around on me towards the end there. I'm still proud of the effort from everyone at Front Row Motorsports to still bring home a top-20 finish after the night we had. We'll shake it off and get ready for New Hampshire next week."

With a solid run in the lead and a tenth-place finish, William Byron reported "It was a solid finish for us – we needed that for sure for the playoffs. We started the race way off. We were really loose – just really struggling. The guys, Keith (Rodden, filling in as Crew Chief) and everybody made a lot of great adjustments throughout the race. It really got us in a position where we could attack. As soon as we got probably 10 laps on our tires, the car felt pretty good. We just stayed out there on no tires, really ran there with the 2 (Brad Keselowski) and was able to pass him back for the lead. I thought we were looking really good. Unfortunately, the two tires didn’t really work out for us there at the end. I think we just had too many laps on the left side and struggled there. But overall, was really happy with probably 40 to go in the race. I thought we were in a really good position leading the race. We’ll take a top-10 with what we had there at the end and move forward to the next race. Looking forward to it."

Unofficial Results, Super Start Batteries 400, Kansas Speedway - Kansas City, KS

Fin, St, Driver, Car, Laps, St1, St2, Tms Led, Laps Led, Playoff Pts, Pts, Status
1) 10, Denny Hamlin, No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota, 267, 2, 4, 4, 57, 5, 56, Running
2) 7, Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Wabash Ford, 267, 5, 1, 4, 30, 1, 51, Running
3) 5, Martin Truex Jr., No. 19 Auto Owner's Insurance Toyota, 267, 3, 8, 5, 44, , 45, Running
4) 1, Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Busch Light Apple Ford, 267, 7, 6, 1, 9, , 42, Running
5) 21, Erik Jones, No. 20 Reser's Fine Foods Toyota, 267, 10, 7, , , , 37, Running
6) 3, Aric Almirola, No. 10 Smithfield Hometown Original Ford, 267, 8, 3, , , , 42, Running
7) 24, Cole Custer #, No. 41 HaasTooling.com Ford, 267, , , , , , 30, Running
8) 6, Alex Bowman, No. 88 ChevyGoods.com/Adam's Polishes Chevrolet, 267, 9, , 1, 6, , 31, Running
9) 9, Kurt Busch, No. 1 Monster Energy Chevrolet, 267, , , , , , 28, Running
10) 15, William Byron, No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet, 267, , , 3, 27, , 27, Running
11) 8, Kyle Busch, No. 18 M&M's Fudge Brownie Toyota, 267, 1, 5, 1, 52, 1, 42, Running
12) 11, Chase Elliott, No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, 267, , 10, , , , 26, Running
13) 23, Tyler Reddick #, No. 8 I Am Second Chevrolet, 267, 6, , , , , 29, Running
14) 19, Clint Bowyer, No. 14 One Cure Ford, 267, , , , , , 23, Running
15) 36, Ty Dillon, No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet, 267, , , , , , 22, Running
16) 27, Michael McDowell, No. 34 Dockside Logistics Ford, 267, , , , , , 21, Running
17) 14, Matt Kenseth, No. 42 McDelivery Chevrolet, 267, , , , , , 20, Running
18) 37, * Daniel Suarez, No. 96 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Toyota, 267, , , , , , 19, Running
19) 30, John Hunter Nemechek #, No. 38 Digital Ally Ford, 266, , , , , , 18, Running
20) 4, Ryan Blaney, No. 12 DEX Imaging Ford, 266, 4, 2, 2, 15, , 33, Running
21) 31, Corey LaJoie, No. 32 Plan B Sales Ford, 266, , , , , , 16, Running
22) 28, JJ Yeley(i), No. 27 Ford, 265, , , , , , 0, Running
23) 22, Christopher Bell #, No. 95 Rheem Toyota, 264, , , , , , 14, Running
24) 32, Quin Houff #, No. 00 Creek Enterprises Inc. Chevrolet, 260, , , , , , 13, Running
25) 33, Josh Bilicki(i), No. 53 RBR Aviation Chevrolet, 260, , , , , , 0, Running
26) 26, Garrett Smithley(i), No. 77 Formula One Imports Chevrolet, 260, , , , , , 0, Running
27) 16, Austin Dillon, No. 3 American Ethanol Chevrolet, 251, , , , , , 10, Running
28) 18, Ryan Newman, No. 6 Wyndham Rewards Ford, 251, , , , , , 9, Running
29) 34, Joey Gase(i), No. 51 Page Construction Ford, 251, , , , , , 0, Running
30) 29, Brennan Poole #, No. 15 Spartan Mosquito Chevrolet, 219, , , , , , 7, Running
31) 39, * Reed Sorenson, No. 7 TBR Chevrolet, 216, , , , , , 6, Electrical
32) 20, Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Ally Chevrolet, 200, , 9, , , , 7, DVP
33) 13, Chris Buescher, No. 17 Fifth Third Bank Ford, 182, , , , , , 4, Accident
34) 35, Ryan Preece, No. 37 Bush's Beans Chevrolet, 181, , , , , , 3, Accident
35) 2, Joey Logano, No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, 176, , , 1, 27, , 2, Accident
36) 12, Matt DiBenedetto, No. 21 Menards/Dutch Boy Ford, 175, , , , , , 1, Accident
37) 17, Bubba Wallace, No. 43 Victory Junction Chevrolet, 170, , , , , , 1, Accident
38) 38, * Timmy Hill(i), No. 66 RoofClaim.com Toyota, 116, , , , , , 0, Electrical
39) 40, * BJ McLeod(i), No. 78 Axele.com Chevrolet, 66, , , , , , 0, Rear Gear
40) 25, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 47 Kroger Chevrolet, 58, , , , , , 1, Electrical
(i) Ineligible for driver points in this series, (#) Rookie, (DVP) Damaged Vehicle Policy

Race Length: 267 Laps, 400.5 Miles
Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 17 Mins, 14 Secs.
Average Speed: 121.835 MPH
Margin of Victory: .510 Seconds

Stage 1 Top 10: 18, 11, 19, 12, 2, 8, 4, 10, 88, 20
Stage 2 Top 10: 2, 12, 10, 11, 18, 4, 20, 19, 48, 9

Race Comments: Denny Hamlin won the Super Start Batteries 400 Presented by O'Reilly Auto Parts at Kansas Speedway, his 42nd victory in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Prior to the start, the following vehicle(s) dropped to the rear of the field under penalty for the reasons indicated: No. 53 (unapproved adjustments).

Caution Flags: 11 for 47 laps:
Laps: 27-30 (Competition [27]);
82-86 (Stage 1 Conclusion [42]);
101-104 (No. 43 Incident Turn 4 [6]);
144-148 (No. 17 Spin Turn 2 [43]);
162-166 (Stage 2 Conclusion [17]);
172-175 (No. 37, 42, 43 Incident Turn 4 [13]);
177-181 (No. 3, 48, 21, 22, 4, Incident Turn 2 [27]);
183-186 (No. 6, 17, 37, 95 Incident Backstretch [Red: 00:02:45] [27]);
196-199 (No. 6 Spin Turn 3 [95]);
236-239 (No. 32 Incident Turn 2 [96]);
243-245 (No. 38 Incident Backstretch [42]).

Lead Changes: 22 among 9 drivers;
J. Logano 1-27;
M. Truex Jr. 28-30;
K. Busch 31-82;
D. Hamlin 83-96;
M. Truex Jr. 97-101;
B. Keselowski 102-104;
M. Truex Jr. 105-106;
B. Keselowski 107-114;
M. Truex Jr. 115-144;
R. Blaney 145-158;
B. Keselowski 159-162;
R. Blaney 163;
D. Hamlin 164-192;
M. Truex Jr. 193-196;
W. Byron 197-199;
D. Hamlin 200;
W. Byron 201-205;
B. Keselowski 206-220;
W. Byron 221-239;
A. Bowman 240-245;
K. Harvick 246-254;
D. Hamlin 255-267.

American Ethanol Green Flag Restart Award: Denny Hamlin, No. 11 
Sunoco Rookie of the Race: Cole Custer, No. 41 

John Davison

Long-time RIS staffer, beginning in the mid-80s. Charlotte, NC area local contact.

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Volume 2020, Issue 7, Posted 12:28 AM, 07.24.2020