Denny Hamlin held off Matt Kenseth in the final laps on Sunday at Michigan International Speedway for his first win of the season and 17th of his career.
“Today, we didn’t look as strong as we normally do here, but we got it going there at the end.” Hamlin said.
“We finished — that’s the thing. We got it done. Happy for all this team. They all got sons or daughters and everything, so it’s a big Father’s Day for all them and my dad, Dennis. He paved the way for me to get here, so I can’t thank them enough and all the fathers out there.” Hamlin added.
[media-credit name=”CIA Stock Photo” align=”alignright” width=”213″][/media-credit]Kenseth made a final run on Hamlin in the closing laps but was unable to get close enough to make a move. On the final turn on the final lap he almost lost it and got sideways before crossing the finish line.
“I just couldn’t quite get Denny. After restarts we were kind of slow and tight in the middle which isn’t a good thing to be in a short shootout. We had a great car in the long run though. I tried what I could to get around him but I slipped on the restart. I just needed more laps to get it going.” Kenseth said.
Kyle Busch finished third, Paul Menard fourth and Carl Edwards finished fifth.
Edwards appeared to have the race won if the race stayed green. Edwards was leading when a late caution flag came out when Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran into the wall, forcing a caution flag with only nine laps remaining.
“This is a great race track and track position is so important. Sadly, down force is such a big factor in these cars and I am really hoping that NASCAR will take the opportunity in 2013 to take down force away so the fans can see the guys race, race cars and not race down force. That would be cool.” Edwards said.
Edwards’ top-5 finish increased his Sprint Cup Series points lead to 20.
Menard started ninth and had a strong car all day. Menard got his first top-5 finish at Michigan and also his best finish so far this season.
“The guys gave me some good pit stops and the last one we kind of went back and forth about whether to take two (tires) or four and ‘Slugger’ (Labbe, crew chief) made the right call to take two. Clean air is so important. I was still a little bit too tight at the end but we definitely needed a good run and we got one today.” Menard said.
Earnhardt Jr. was forced into the outside wall by teammate Mark Martin. With less than 10-laps to go, Earnhardt Jr. brought out the final caution flag of the day when he hit the outside wall after his tire blew from the earlier contact with the wall. He finished 21st but still holds third place in the standings.
“I don’t like putting up with carelessness. I try really hard not to be careless and that really pissed me off what happened out there.” Earnhardt Jr. said.
“I don’t have a history of having problems. I don’t think I have one now. I think we will get it sorted out. I feel like I give everybody on the race track respect. I made a mistake.” Martin said.
Last week’s winner, Jeff Gordon started 31st. Gordon battled an ill-handling race car most of the race and finished 17th.
Jimmie Johnson spun on lap eight, causing front end suspension damage that put the team two-laps down early. Johnson finished 27th and fell three positions to fifth in the standings.
“We got turned around early and ground the sway bar off the right front and we lost a couple laps from that and we were just kind of in a hole at that point and couldn’t get caught back up. Its just part of it.” Johnson said.
The Sprint Cup Series goes to Infineon Raceway next weekend for the season’s first road course race of the year.
|Unofficial Race Results|
|Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400, Michigan International Speedway|
|21||15||88||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Chevrolet||23|
|26||11||56||Martin Truex Jr.||Toyota||18|
|36||36||71||Andy Lally *||Ford||8|