[media-credit name=”Kirk Schroll” align=”alignright” width=”225″][/media-credit]Denny Hamlin clearly had the dominant car today at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, but it was a miscommunication during a pit stop that proved costly and gave Kasey Kahne the opportunity to win.
At the start of the race, polesitter Kyle Busch lead the first green flag run with ease with Hamlin running second for most of the run. Followed by a Hendrick Motorsports parade behind them.
On lap 66, the first round of green flag pit stops started. Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart and Brad Keselowski were among the first of the leaders to come to pit road. Leader Kyle Busch had many problems on pit road all day and this stop was awful. First, his right rear tire changer had a huge hiccup while changing the rear tire. It took him about 10 extra seconds. On top of losing all that time on the racetrack, he got nabbed for a pit road speeding penalty. He was too fast entering. Once everything cycled out, Busch was 22nd in the running order and some 44 seconds behind the race leader. All others were relatively clean on pit road and mostly took on four tires.
Brad Keselowski came out in sixth position after starting in 22nd spot. That was a sign of a strong day to come. Also, the Hendrick cars were second, third, fourth and fifth after it cycled out. That was also a sign of a strong day to come.
On lap 89, the first caution of the day flew for debris. Since track position at this track is critical, everyone pitted and took only two tires except for Jeff Gordon. Gordon stayed out and eventually ended up pitting on lap 145, off sequence, because he did not pit for fuel under the first caution. Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer also pitted relatively early because the Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR) cars were not getting full of fuel for some reason. Eleven laps later, leader Denny Hamlin pitted and everyone else followed. Once everyone cycled out, Hamlin was still the race leader.
On lap 188, caution number two came out for more debris. Most of the cars took two tires, except for Jeff Gordon. He took four to get back on sequence, but dropped back to ninth. On the restart, Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) teammates Kyle Busch and Hamlin battled for the lead, which Hamlin eventually took. Brian Vickers also settled in sixth spot for that run. It seemed like whenever he gets in that No. 55 car for MWR, he runs well.
On lap 232, green flag pit stops started, but not for long. David Reutiman blew an engine and the caution came out. Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch came in for service. Johnson ended up being the lucky dog and Busch got the wave around, so both of them were back on the lead lap.
Here’s when things got interesting. Under caution, everyone came and took two tires except for the race leader Hamlin, who took four tires. Everyone was scratching their heads as to why he took four when, being the dominant car all day, he really didn’t need to. It turned out to be a costly miscommunication between Hamlin and his crew chief, Darian Grubb. After Grubb took the blame for being mired back in traffic, Hamlin let out a sigh on the radio and from there on, he was on a mission.
On lap 264, Hamlin was all the way up to fourth, passing Harvick. Eight laps later, he took away third from Dale Earnhardt Jr. With ten laps to go, Hamlin was 1.7 seconds behind the race leader, Kahne. While they both were in lapped traffic, Kahne maintained a steady lead, and ended up being able to close the deal and win his second race of the 2012 season. More importantly, he is now in a very good spot for the wild card spot to get into the chase.
In victory lane, Kahne said “We ran top five the whole race […] Denny was obviously the best car.” He also added “I feel like we’ve been pretty tough all year. I can’t wait for some of these races coming up.” A dejected Denny Hamlin was able to put a smile on his face after the race. He had this to say: “It was just a miscommunication. We still had a shot at the win.” He also added, with optimism that: “We’re gonna win the one [Chase race at Loudon] that counts.”
Jeff Gordon ended up sixth, but he knows that he needs to win soon if he wants any shot at making the chase.
Another disappointing finisher was Kyle Busch, who ended up in 16th after having one of the strongest cars all day long.
There were not really any major points shakeup this week, however, fan favorite Earnhardt Jr. had another solid top five. He could get that points lead from Matt Kenseth soon.
Today’s race was great, and everyone can’t wait to get to Indianapolis in two weeks.
|Unofficial Race Results|
|LENOX Industrial Tools 301, New Hampshire|
|4||9||88||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Chevrolet||40|
|11||4||56||Martin Truex Jr.||Toyota||33|
|22||24||22||Sam Hornish Jr.||Dodge||0|
|32||43||33||Stephen Leicht *||Chevrolet||12|
|37||32||26||Josh Wise *||Ford||7|