Denny Hamlin knocked Kyle Larson out of the lead and headed into the final stretch of the final lap on Sunday, giving him a clear path to the finish line at Kansas Speedway and ending Hamlin’s 33-race winless series drought. of the NASCAR Cup.
Hamlin surged to the front with the 38th lead change in a chaotic race at Kansas for his fourth win at the track and the 400th win overall for Joe Gibbs Racing. It was Hamlin’s first trip to victory lane since last year’s Coca-Cola 600.
«I was trying to push him sideways and I hit his left rear end,» Hamlin said of the final lap pass. «I’m glad he was able to finish.»
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Larson had held off Hamlin for around 30 laps, despite battling a rapidly slackening car. Hamlin had stopped to his bumper with three laps to go but fell off crossing the start-finish line, then lined up for one more try which he managed.
«He was really loose,» Larson said. «He was finally able to get my inside two out. It looked like he was aggressively drafting me on the side. I don’t know if he finally flipped me on the side, but he flipped me onto the outside wall and got the win.»
William Byron spent over 50 laps lapping two laps before recovering on the lead lap, and even fighting for the lead down the stretch before finishing third. Bubba Wallace, who won the fall race at Kansas, was fourth and Ross Chastain rounded out the top five.
Chastain, who has drawn the ire of many drivers this season with his aggressiveness, found himself in another heated confrontation on pit road after the race. He had picked on Noah Gragson with about 60 laps to go and sent him for a spin, and Gragson approached the Trackhouse Racing driver afterward to let him know of his displeasure.
Chastain finally landed a right hook, Gragson attempted to land his own punch, and crew members had to separate them.
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«I’m sick and tired of it,» Gragson said of Chastain’s driving style. «The guy meets everybody. When you have guys like Chase Elliott and other guys telling you to beat the shit out of him, everybody’s sick of him.»
Chastain accepted some of the blame for the spin, but didn’t have much to say about the hit.
«I got tight on four for sure,» he said. «Noah and I have a very similar attitude on the racetrack. We train together, we prepare together, we know everything about each other. I definitely beat him in four.»
Hamlin took the opening stage for the second time this season, with Martin Truex Jr. finishing second following his victory in last Monday’s rain-delayed race at Dover. The first four places and six of the first seven belonged to Toyota.
The second stage ended in a mess when a caution flew and the leaders pitted with eight laps to go. Joey Logano took the lead, tying the Kansas Speedway record with the 26th gear in the race. And when the green flag dropped, Kyle Busch got stuck behind a moving four-wide and spun, bringing out another caution and giving Logano the stage win.
THE BUSCH BEEP
Busch took offense over the radio to several drivers, including Chastain, before his accident. He then took aim at the Next Gen car’s performance, which he said made it too difficult to pass.
«Not racing like before,» Busch said after swearing into the air. «You’re quicker than a guy, you run him over three-tenths a lap and stall when you get there. Part of that is the car. They can lock you up aerodynamically, pinch you, burn your tires and do everything else to hold their position and then they pass you. from behind. Very frustrating.»
Tyler Reddick’s car failed inspection twice on Saturday, resulting in car chief Michael Hobson being ejected, while Brennan Poole lost car chief Dave Jones when his car also failed twice. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. started at the rear after having to change his water pump gauge and was joined at the rear by Corey LaJoie after making some pre-race adjustments.
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UNTIL NEXT TIME
Next week is «Throwback Weekend» in Darlington, and it’s becoming more and more of a family affair. Elliott’s No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports will look like his father Bill Elliott’s car from 2003; Ryan Blaney’s No. 12 will pay homage to father Dave Blaney’s old sprint car; and Harrison Burton’s No. 21 will resemble Father Jeff Burton’s old paint scheme.