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Kahne benefits from Hamlin miscue for NHMS win

NASCAR Sprint Cup
Sunday, July 15, 2012

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Kasey Kahne
Getty Images for NASCAR

Kasey Kahne spoiled Denny Hamlin's heroic drive through the field and held on to win Sunday's Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, all but securing a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with his second victory of the season.

Kahne led the final 66 laps, as fast-closing Hamlin ran out of time after starting deep in the field on a restart on Lap 240. Hamlin had dominated the race, but a miscommunication on pit strategy cost him track position in the late going, and Hamlin ran out of time after securing the runner-up spot.

Clint Bowyer ran third, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski. Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle and Ryan Newman completed the top 10.

The victory was Kahne's first at the Magic Mile and the 14th of his career. Kahne is 12th in the standings -- and the only driver in positions 11-20 with two victories -- with seven races left before the Chase field is set at Richmond.

The two drivers in positions 11-20 with the most victories qualify for the Chase as wild cards, with the tiebreaker being position in the standings.

With a Chase spot likely in his future, Kahne already is looking ahead to the next race at the 1.058-mile track, which hosts the second race in the Cup series' 10-race playoff.

"We feel good about where we were when we got here," Kahne said. "We know what we need to work on, as far as taking notes from today, what the track did and how it changed. The track will be a touch different when we come back, but a lot of the characteristics will be the same.

"We'll be able to look at this track and really have a good game plan going into the Chase race here. We know some of the other cars that are going to run well, too, when we come back, so we need to be a little better, and I've got the right guy to work on that (crew chief Kenny Francis)."

After a cycle of green-flag pit stops just past the halfway point, Hamlin stretched his lead over Kahne to 5.5 seconds, as small rain cells moved toward the speedway. Hamlin then began picking off competitive cars, lapping Tony Stewart, Jamie McMurray and Paul Menard in quick succession.

As Hamlin worked traffic, however, Kahne made inroads into his advantage, cutting the margin between the top two cars to 2.601 seconds on Lap 187. Hamlin's entire lead disappeared two laps later when NASCAR called a debris caution.

With a light drizzle misting the race track, pole-sitter Kyle Busch stayed out while the rest of the contenders came to pit road to refuel. Busch led the field to a restart on Lap 197 but quickly gave way to Hamlin, who opened a lead of 2.304 seconds over his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate by Lap 211.

Racing on tires that were 32 laps older than those of his rivals, Busch kept the rest of the field at bay, but he overshot his pit stall slightly during a green-flag stop on Lap 231 and lost second to Johnson, who short-pitted on the same lap.

A caution on Lap 232 for David Reutimann's blown engine scrambled the field. Hamlin, who took four tires on Lap 235, lost 12 spots on pit road and restarted 13th as Kahne and Earnhardt led the field to green with 62 laps left.

By Lap 253, Hamlin had climbed to sixth. On Lap 257, he got by Biffle in Turn 1 for fifth. Harvick succumbed to Hamlin's superior speed on Lap 263, and the No. 11 Toyota was fourth. Earnhardt was the next victim, surrendering third place on Lap 272. Five laps later, Hamlin ducked to the inside of Bowyer through Turns 1 and 2, took over the second position and took off after Kahne before he ran out of time.

Kahne was acutely aware of where Hamlin was but was confident in his ability to hold the lead as the laps ran down.

"I was definitely focused on the lapped cars I was going by and how I could clear them quick," Kahne said. "But I lost a ton of forward drive, and I was getting pretty loose, and Denny was coming on four (tires).

"So I was paying attention to where he was, but I felt pretty good about the lead we had."

The miscommunication between Hamlin and Grubb centered around whether to take two tires or four on the final stop. Grubb wanted to go with two tires, which would have kept them on par with the rest of the field, but he thought Hamlin wanted fresh rubber on both sides -- hence, the four-tire call.

"Darian asked me how much of the tires I felt like I used up," Hamlin said. "I said I felt like I used them up a substantial amount. I'd been on the lefts for quite a few laps, and so my information to him was that, yeah, we'd used up the tires. He said, 'I think two's the call.'

"I said 'OK, just give me tires and no adjustments.' He took that as I meant four tires. Just that small communication messed us up a little bit, but nothing's a given. Even though it was pretty obvious that we had a win in the bag if we took two tires, you never know what could have happened.

"Either way, we had a great day, and we're going to build on it."

Notes: Matt Kenseth, who finished 13th Sunday, held the series lead by 16 points over second-place Earnhardt, with Biffle in third, 40 points back . . .  Carl Edwards ran 18th and remained 11th in the standings, 46 points behind 10th-place Keselowski. Edwards, however, is winless this season and needs a victory to enter the wild-card conversation.

Results

FIN ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR LAPS STATUS
1 2 5 Kasey Kahne Chevrolet HendrickCars.com 301 Running
2 3 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Office 301 Running
3 5 15 Clint Bowyer Toyota 5-hour Energy 301 Running
4 9 88 D. Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet National Guard / Diet Mountain Dew 301 Running
5 22 2 B. Keselowski Dodge Miller Lite 301 Running
6 8 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet Pepsi Max 301 Running
7 7 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's 301 Running
8 12 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Budweiser Folds of Honor 301 Running
9 11 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M 301 Running
10 6 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet Aspen Dental 301 Running
11 4 56 Martin Truex Jr. Toyota NAPA Batteries 301 Running
12 10 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Mobil 1 301 Running
13 27 17 Matt Kenseth Ford NESN 301 Running
14 16 20 Joey Logano Toyota Dollar General 301 Running
15 15 55 Brian Vickers Toyota MyClassicGarage.com / Aaron's 301 Running
16 1 18 Kyle Busch Toyota Interstate Batteries 301 Running
17 13 27 Paul Menard Chevrolet Quaker State / Menards 301 Running
18 21 99 Carl Edwards Ford Fastenal / Lenox 301 Running
19 20 9 Marco Ambrose Ford DEWALT 301 Running
20 28 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / NRA Museum 300 Running
21 25 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Wheaties 300 Running
22 24 22 Sam Hornish Jr. Dodge Shell / Pennzoil-AAA 300 Running
23 18 47 Bobby Labonte Toyota Kingsford 300 Running
24 14 51 Kurt Busch Chevrolet Phoenix Construction Services 299 Running
25 31 42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet Target 299 Running
26 17 78 Regan Smith Chevrolet Furniture Row / Farm American 298 Running
27 39 38 David Gilliland Ford Glory Foods 298 Running
28 23 43 Aric Almirola Ford U.S. Air Force 298 Running
29 29 83 Landon Cassill Toyota Burger King / Dr Pepper 297 Running
30 30 93 Travis Kvapil Toyota Burger King / Dr Pepper 297 Running
31 37 32 Ken Schrader Ford Federated Auto Parts 294 Running
32 43 33 Stephen Leicht * Chevrolet Little Joes Autos.com 293 Running
33 26 10 David Reutimann Chevrolet CarportEmpire.com / TMone.com Call Centers in America 229 Engine
34 19 34 David Ragan Ford MHP / 8 Hour Alert 139 Engine
35 40 30 David Stremme Toyota Stock Car Steel and Aluminum 101 Vibration
36 33 13 Casey Mears Ford GEICO 91 Vibration
37 32 26 Josh Wise * Ford MDS Transport 82 Brakes
38 34 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota AM / FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves 71 Brakes
39 35 36 Dave Blaney Chevrolet Golden Corral 68 Brakes
40 36 98 Michael McDowell Ford Phil Parsons Racing 63 Vibration
41 41 23 Scott Riggs Chevrolet North Texas Pipe 32 Vibration
42 42 179 Kelly Bires Ford Team Kyle / Bestway Disposal 19 Brakes
43 38 249 J.J. Yeley Toyota Robinson-Blakeney Racing 4 Engine

* Denotes Rookie

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