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Hamlin smokes the field in Michigan

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Sunday, June 13, 2010

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Denny Hamlin in the MIS Victory Circle
Mark Scheuern/AR1.com
Denny Hamlin sucked the drama right out of Sunday’s Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway—because his car was so vastly superior to the 42 others in the field.

“All we do is win, baby—two in a row,” Hamlin radioed to his crew just before crossing the finish line 1.246 seconds ahead of Kasey Kahne, the only other driver who could stay in the same zip code with Hamlin. “I can’t tell you how good this car is, man.”

Hamlin was more than good enough to win for a career-best fifth time this season and for the 13th time in his career. He backed up last week’s victory at Pocono with his fifth win in the past 10 races.

Polesitter Kurt Busch ran third, followed by Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart. Jimmie Johnson finished sixth, with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. behind him in seventh. Jeff Burton, Greg Biffle and Joey Logano completed the top 10.

Hamlin’s victory tightened the Cup points race because of mediocre results from the top two drivers in the standings, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch. Harvick finished 19th, one spot ahead of Busch, and leads Busch by 22 points and third-place Hamlin by 47.

Stewart gained two positions to 11th in the standings. 

If Hamlin stole the suspense from the race, a debris caution on Lap 182 of 200 threatened to restore it. At that point, Hamlin had a lead of more than nine seconds over Kahne.

“That’s what a nine-second lead will get you,” crew chief Mike Ford radioed laconically to Hamlin after the yellow flag flew.

The caution bunched the field for a restart on Lap 187, but after Kahne dogged Hamlin for the next five laps, Hamlin began to pull away by more than a tenth of a second per lap. All told, Hamlin led 123 laps. Kurt Busch led 60 laps but showed his strength early while Hamlin was moving forward from the seventh starting position.

“We had a strong car early on,” Busch said. “It seems like we lost a little bit of speed as the race went on, lost a little grip when the track rubbered in. … Denny Hamlin, once halfway rolled around, his car had really good grip.

“The track got rubbered in, and his car just kept gaining speed, and ours lost a little bit of speed.”

To Hamlin, the final caution was inevitable. Kahne said he saw a big piece of debris on the backstretch. Hamlin said he saw no debris.

“I knew a caution was coming, so I might as well back off and save my tires,” Hamlin said. “I knew that debris caution was coming. We’ve got to do what’s right for the fans, and they need to see a great race at the end. The best car won—and that’s all you can ask for.”

Nine Ford teams were running the new FR9 engine Sunday. Kahne said it made a difference.

“We had the new Ford engine, and it was night and day difference to what I had last week,” he said. “I’m really happy with the FR9 engine. For our first time racing it, it was a nice improvement. I think that bodes well for all the Ford teams. I think we will all run better now.”

Notes: Earnhardt’s seventh-place finish was his best since late March at Bristol, where he also ran seventh. Earnhardt climbed two positions to 14th in the standings, 81 points behind 12th-place Mark Martin. … Clint Bowyer ran 22nd, the last car on the lead lap, and fell from 12th to 13th in the standings, 43 behind Martin.

Results

FIN ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 1 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Ground 195/10 200 Running
2 2 9 Kasey Kahne Ford Budweiser 175/5 200 Running
3 3 2 Kurt Busch Dodge Miller Lite / Vortex 170/5 200 Running
4 5 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet National Guard Job Skills / DuPont 160/0 200 Running
5 6 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Old Spice / Office Depot 155/0 200 Running
6 9 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's 150/0 200 Running
7 11 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet Amp Energy / National Guard 146/0 200 Running
8 4 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Caterpillar 142/0 200 Running
9 8 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M 138/0 200 Running
10 14 20 Joey Logano Toyota The Home Depot 134/0 200 Running
11 15 43 A.J. Allmendinger Ford Insignia HDTV / Best Buy 130/0 200 Running
12 7 99 Carl Edwards Ford Aflac 127/0 200 Running
13 17 42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet Target 124/0 200 Running
14 13 17 Matt Kenseth Ford Crown Royal Black 126/5 200 Running
15 18 47 Marcos Ambrose Toyota Clorox / Kleenex 118/0 200 Running
16 21 5 Mark Martin Chevrolet GoDaddy.com 115/0 200 Running
17 23 56 Martin Truex Jr. Toyota NAPA Auto Parts 112/0 200 Running
18 19 00 David Reutimann Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine 109/0 200 Running
19 20 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Shell / Pennzoil 106/0 200 Running
20 12 18 Kyle Busch Toyota M&M's Pretzel 103/0 200 Running
21 28 19 Elliott Sadler Ford Stanley 100/0 200 Running
22 22 33 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet Cheerios / Hamburger Helper 97/0 200 Running
23 26 78 Regan Smith Chevrolet Furniture Row Companies 94/0 199 Running
24 25 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet GE Reveal 96/5 199 Running
25 24 98 Paul Menard Ford Sylvania / Menards 88/0 199 Running
26 10 77 Sam Hornish Jr. Dodge Mobil 1 90/5 199 Running
27 27 12 Brad Keselowski Dodge Penske Racing 82/0 199 Running
28 34 82 Scott Speed Toyota Red Bull 79/0 199 Running
29 33 21 Bill Elliott Ford FordParts.com 76/0 199 Running
30 29 26 David Stremme Ford Air National Guard 78/5 199 Running
31 31 38 Travis Kvapil Ford Long John Silver's Ice Flow Lemonade 70/0 199 Running
32 16 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet U.S. Army 67/0 199 Running
33 30 7 Robby Gordon Toyota SpeedFactory.tv 69/5 199 Running
34 35 6 David Ragan Ford UPS 61/0 198 Running
35 32 37 David Gilliland Ford Taco Bell 58/0 197 Running
36 36 83 Casey Mears Toyota Red Bull 55/0 149 Accident
37 37 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota FrontRowJoe.com 57/5 66 Electrical
38 38 09 Landon Cassill Chevrolet Phoenix Racing 49/0 51 Rear Gear
39 39 46 J.J. Yeley Dodge TheSpeedPlant.com 46/0 47 Overheating
40 40 34 Kevin Conway * Ford Extenze 43/0 38 Engine
41 41 71 Bobby Labonte Chevrolet TRG Motorsports 40/0 31 Overheating
42 42 164 Todd Bodine Toyota Gunselman Motorsports 37/0 20 Rear Gear
43 43 13 Max Papis Toyota GEICO 34/0 8 Overheating

* Denotes Rookie

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