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Truex dominates but Hamlin wins in Kansas

NASCAR Sprint Cup
Sunday, April 22, 2012

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Denny Hamlin
Getty Images for NASCAR
Denny Hamlin overcame a dominant day by Martin Truex Jr. to notch his second win of the season, grabbing the checkered at Kansas Speedway and gave Toyota 1-2 finish. 

Taking advantage of changing conditions Sunday at Kansas Speedway, Hamlin held off Truex Jr. over the final 30 laps to win the STP 400, his second victory of the season, his first at the 1.5-mile track and the 19th of his career.

The victory was the 199th for cars bearing the No. 11, breaking a tie for the all-time lead with the No. 43, made famous by Richard Petty, who drove to 192 of his record 200 wins with that car number.

Jimmie Johnson finished third, followed by Roush Fenway Racing teammates Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle. Truex moved into second place in the Sprint Cup series standings behind Biffle, who leads by 15 points.

After a late round of green-flag pit stops put all the contending cars on the same sequence, the sun broke through the clouds for the first time all afternoon and changed the complexion of the race.

To that point, Truex had been dominant, having led 173 laps, but the changing conditions made Truex's Toyota "wrecking loose" in the words of the driver. Hamlin passed Truex for the lead through Turn 4 on Lap 237 and began to pull away, with Johnson pursuing from the third position.

To Hamlin, the sunlight was a welcome game-changer.

"Whether it was coincidence or not, our car definitely seemed like, (relative) to the field, was better once the sun came out," Hamlin said. "I felt like our car lost a lot of grip when the sun came out, but I guess a lot of guys did when that happened. I felt like all day I was behind the 56 (Truex), and his car looked so superior to the field.

"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. In overcast conditions, the cars run a little bit tighter, the grip level's higher in the racecar, and it's more of a track-position type race. When the sun's out, the drivers, in my opinion, are more prominent.

"You move around, find the grip, do things in the car to make up for what you don't have. The slicker the conditions are, the better it tends to (be) for our race team. Luckily, we had that run in sunshine."

As clouds covered the sun once again, however, Truex began to close on Hamlin and widen his advantage over Johnson. With 10 laps left, Truex trailed Hamlin by .772 seconds. Five laps later, Truex had closed to .489 seconds behind.

Truex tried to dive beneath Hamlin in Turn 3 twice in the final three laps but couldn't stick the pass.

"Desperation," Truex said wryly. "I was a little bit faster than Denny at the end, but he was running against the wall right where I needed to be, and I was just trying to gain a little bit of ground.

"It was desperation -- last-ditch effort -- just trying something. There was no chance to make it work."

Though Truex's handling ills and Hamlin's surge to the front coincided with the appearance of the sun, Truex blamed his problem on a bad set of tires for the final run.

"I'm just not really sure what to think of that last set of tires," Truex said. "The car had been really good all day, we put the last set on, and I was just 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. The car got better longer in the run, and I was able to get back to him, but I'd get three or four car-lengths from him and pick up the aero push . . .

"I guess if we can be this disappointed with second, it kind of shows how far we've come as a race team."

Results

FIN ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 4 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Ground 47/1 267 Running
2 6 56 Martin Truex Jr. Toyota NAPA Auto Parts 44/2 267 Running
3 15 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's "Chevrolet Mountain Green" 42/1 267 Running
4 18 17 Matt Kenseth Ford Ford EcoBoost 41/1 267 Running
5 17 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M Novec 1230 39/0 267 Running
6 2 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Rheem 38/0 267 Running
7 7 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet Diet Mountain Dew / National Guard 37/0 267 Running
8 9 5 Kasey Kahne Chevrolet Farmers Insurance 36/0 267 Running
9 21 99 Carl Edwards Ford Aflac 36/1 267 Running
10 25 18 Kyle Busch Toyota M&M's 34/0 267 Running
11 11 2 Brad Keselowski Dodge Miller Lite 34/1 267 Running
12 39 42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet Target 33/1 267 Running
13 23 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Office Depot / Mobil 1 31/0 267 Running
14 36 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet McDonald's 30/0 267 Running
15 3 20 Joey Logano Toyota The Home Depot 29/0 267 Running
16 28 9 Marcos Ambrose Ford Dewalt 28/0 267 Running
17 14 51 Kurt Busch Chevrolet Phoenix Construction Services 27/0 267 Running
18 19 27 Paul Menard Chevrolet Zecol / Menards 26/0 267 Running
19 10 12 Sam Hornish Jr. Dodge SKF 0 267 Running
20 13 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet Haas Automation 24/0 265 Running
21 20 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet Drive to End Hunger 23/0 264 Running
22 12 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Caterpillar 22/0 264 Running
23 26 43 Aric Almirola Ford STP 21/0 264 Running
24 29 78 Regan Smith Chevrolet Furniture Row / Farm American 20/0 263 Running
25 35 93 Travis Kvapil Toyota BK Tropical Mango Smoothie / Dr Pepper 19/0 263 Running
26 40 13 Casey Mears Ford GEICO 18/0 263 Running
27 22 38 David Gilliland Ford Front Row Motorsports 17/0 263 Running
28 42 32 Reed Sorenson Ford FAS Lane Racing 0 263 Running
29 16 10 David Reutimann Chevrolet Accell Construction 15/0 262 Running
30 27 34 David Ragan Ford Barrett-Jackson 14/0 262 Running
31 31 249 J.J. Yeley Toyota JPO Absorbents 13/0 261 Running
32 1 22 AJ Allmendinger Dodge AAA 13/1 257 Running
33 5 55 Mark Martin Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine 11/0 255 In Pit
34 32 83 Landon Cassill Toyota BK Strawberry Banana Smoothie / Dr Pepper 10/0 214 Running
35 30 47 Bobby Labonte Toyota Reese Towpower / Highland 9/0 132 Running
36 8 15 Clint Bowyer Toyota 5-hour Energy 8/0 125 In Pit
37 33 36 Dave Blaney Chevrolet Tommy Baldwin Racing 7/0 82 In Pit
38 24 30 David Stremme Toyota Inception Motorsports 6/0 80 In Pit
39 38 26 Josh Wise * Ford Morristown Driver's Service 5/0 65 In Pit
40 37 98 Michael McDowell Ford Curb Records 4/0 58 In Pit
41 41 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota AMFMEnergy.com / Pellet & Wood Stoves 0 47 In Pit
42 43 119 Mike Bliss Toyota Humphrey Smith Racing 0 27 In Pit
43 34 23 Scott Riggs Chevrolet North Texas Pipe 1/0 18 In Pit

* Denotes Rookie

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