By Toby Christie (Originally appeared on RubbingsRacing.com)
Denny Hamlin dominated the Gillette Fusion Proglide 500 at Pocono, and was up front at the end of the race when it mattered. Hamlin was able to cruise to victory, while there was a huge pileup going on behind him in the field. Winning the race appeared simple for Hamlin, however his victory burnout didn’t go so smoothly. Hamlin actually crashed into the outside wall damaging his spotless No. 11 Toyota.
This win is Hamlin’s fourth of the season, and his fourth in his career at Pocono. Hamlin now has 12 career victories in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series after he led 88 laps in Sunday’s race.
Denny Hamlin broke down how despite being the dominant car, he couldn’t divert from the team’s gameplan coming into the race.
“We just conserved for most of the day. I wrote it on the dash because I knew I was going to have to use it all at the end.” Hamlin said, “Races don’t come easy when you run first or third and you get the win at the end. There’s always a wrench that kind of gets thrown in there and messes up your whole plan.” It was a long day that was even delayed due to rain, and as a result it was hard for teams to keep up with changes to the cars. Hamlin’s crew chief Mike Ford explains, why it is so hard to tune the car during a 500-mile race at Pocono.
“You know, the first hundred laps went pretty eventless. I knew Denny was making laps, trying to work on our car, wasn’t really pushing the car. But made it difficult to adjust knowing that he was leaving a little bit out.” Ford said.
The big pileup on the final lap came when Kasey Kahne got a run on his teammate A.J. Allmendinger down the backstretch. Kahne pulled to the inside to make the move, but Allmendinger blocked this move, and sent Kahne into the grass which spun him into oncoming traffic. Kahne was t-boned and sent flying almost out of the race track. Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Marcos Ambrose and a whole bunch of other cars were caught up in this horrifying crash.
According to Kahne, the crash will give him reason to talk more with his Richard Petty Motorsports teammate.
“We had a fast car all day; it is just a shame that it had to end the way that it did. It was looking like we were going to finish decently, I thought we had a better car than where we were going to end up, but still we would have been better than how it did end up.” Kahne said, “I don’t know what AJ was doing there. I don’t ever really talk to him much, but you can bet I will be talking to him this week.”
Allmendinger flat out said he wasn’t sure what happened on the last lap.
“I am not really sure what happened.” Allmendinger said, “Kasey had such a run on me and I went to defend. By the time I defended he was in the grass. That is my bad. I feel bad about that, I really do. It is what it is though.”
Kyle Busch finished runner-up, Tony Stewart finished third, and Kevin Harvick finished a controversial fourth.
The reason Harvick’s finish was controversial was because he tapped Joey Logano while racing for the fourth spot to bring the caution out with two laps remaining. It was because of this incident that we even had the green white checkered finish at the end of the race. Logano was dumped back to 30th, but would rebound in two laps to finish 13th on the day.
Logano was very frustrated after the race, and pulled alongside Harvick’s car to have a word with the driver of the 29 car.
Harvick with his fourth-place finish maintains his points lead, that he has held for the majority of the season. Going into next week Harvick sits 19 points ahead of Kyle Busch in the standings.
Jimmie Johnson, who started deep in the pack in 26th, ran well all day long and shook off the bad luck that has plagued him recently. Jimmie was able to come home a very strong fifth, which stops the bleeding in the points race. Going into Sunday Johnson had dipped to seventh in the point standings, but his top-five finish moves him up a spot to sixth overall.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 18th Sunday, and you wouldn’t know it by looking at the result, but his team made major gains this week. The driver of the National Guard Chevrolet remained upbeat on the radio the entire race (something that has been a rarity lately), and at one point he even changed his point of view on the car-of-tomorrow.
“All in all one hell of a car, this COT.” Earnhardt said to his crew.
Earnhardt started third on the day, but dropped like a brick early. However they kept digging and through the course of the day he and Lance McGrew got back in to the top-ten. They even solved the issue they have had where the right front “rolls over”. This issue has plagued the team for over a year now.
This Pocono race was the snoozer we have become accustomed to at Pocono, that is until that green-white-checkered finish.