Close But No Cigar for Truex

Denny Hamlin (No. 11) passed Martin Truex Jr. (No. 56) with 31 laps to go to win at Kansas.Truex, who led a race-high 173 of 267 laps and posted his series-high sixth top-10 finish (photo courtesy: Jerry Markland, GETTY IMAGES SPORT)

By all accounts, it appeared that lap leader Martin Truex Jr. was set to win his second career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory, this one at Kansas. But when the Sunday afternoon sun came out, the handling on Truex’ car went away, allowing Denny Hamlin to zip to the lead for his 19th career victory after winning Race 8 of 36 en route to NASCAR’s series-crowning Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 16-18. Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 16-18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—go on sale May 1. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.

Truex Jr. was obviously disappointed after leading the most laps but took solace in taking over the  second spot in the NASCAR championship standings.

“We had them,” Truex said. “I don't know what happened with that last set of tires, they were terrible.  I couldn't go at all -- was just dead sideways, wrecking.  At the end of the run, I was back to being okay again, but by then he (Denny Hamlin) had already passed me and clean air is everything."

The race began with A.J. Allmendinger on the pole and he led a handful of laps before the first round of pit stops. From there, the “Dinger” had mechanical woes, winding up deep in the field. Five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson led for a while, as did Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski, but Truex Jr. had everything working correctly to dominate the field.

That is, until the weather changed slightly, allowing Hamlin a shot at the front. 

“Great day for our race team,” Hamlin said. “The pit crew did amazing there on that green flag pit stop. Darian (Grubb, crew chief) made a great call to bring me in one lap early and just a great team effort today. This has been a great weekend and we just had a solid car all week."

Avoiding the engine troubles that hampered the other manufactures, two Roush Fenway Racing Fords were able to grab Top 5 finishes. Kenseth finished fourth and Greg Biffle finished fifth. 

Once again, owner Rick Hendrick will have to wait another week or more to land that elusive 200th team win. Jeff Gordon ran among the Top 10 until late in the race, when he lost a cylinder in his No. 24 car. Biffle remains on top of the points charts by 15 over Truex Jr. with Kenseth just a couple of points farther back in third. The Top 12 drivers in points after Race 26 qualify to contend for the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship, to be crowned in Miami on Nov. 18. Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 16-18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—go on sale May 1. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.

Driving the No. 11 car to Victory Lane, Hamlin gave the car number its 199th victory in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series history. The victory at Kansas made it the winningest car number in the sport. All of Hamlin’s 19 career wins have come in the No. 11

"It's kind of a tribute to them,” Hamlin said when told that this win allowed the No. 11 to pass the No. 43 with 199 wins. “They're the ones that put this car number on the map -- Ned Jarrett and those guys.  I was just a small part of that history of this car number.  I just hope that I live up to the standards of the number 11 car because there have been some great drivers to drive it and I'm just living on the legacy."

Next up for the Sprint Cup Series drivers is Richmond on Saturday, April 28 (7:00 p.m. ET, Fox TV, MRN Radio) —Race 9 of 36 en route to Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 16-18). Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 16-18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—go on sale May 1. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.
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