Denny Hamlin hung around the front of the pack all night, avoiding trouble that cost several playoff contenders in the final stage, then breezed past Kevin Harvick for the lead in the closing laps. Hamlin then held off charging Brad Keselowski for his NASCAR Cup Series-leading fifth victory of the season and 42nd overall. He also won for the second straight time at Kansas Speedway on Thursday night.
Hamlin had struggled the past three weeks, failing to finish better than 12th. But after showing good speed early, his Joe Gibbs Racing team made all the right calls during a crash-filled final stage. Keselowski finished second and Martin Truex Jr. came across third. Harvick wound up sliding to fourth and Erik Jones capped a big day for the Gibbs boys in fifth.
William Byron led the race as he chased his first career race, but he slide backward after a late caution and wound up finishing 10th. Alex Bowman also made a charge to the lead but finished behind Aric Almirola and Cole Custer in eighth.
Truex may have had the fastest car on the track by the end of the night, which began with temperatures in the mid-90s and a heat index approaching triple digits. But he ran out of time trying chase down his teammate.
Joey Logano led early before his night really ended in disaster — and took some playoff contenders with him.
His problems began when a tire got loose on pit road during the first stage, sending him to the back.
He was working his way forward early in the final stage when his left front tire went down, sending Logano into the outside wall. Matt DiBenedetto and Jimmie Johnson, the last two drivers on the good side of the playoff cut line, sustained heavy damage as the field checked up. So did Austin Dillon, who was the surprise winner last weekend at Texas.
Kyle Busch finally had something go right during his frustrating season. The defending series champ, whose only win in his last 41 starts in the Cup Series came in last year’s finale, held off Hamlin and Truex to win his first stage this year.
It was another race between teammates on Stage 2. This time, it was Keselowski getting around Team Penske teammate Ryan Blaney — who was dominant at Texas but failed to win — on the penultimate lap to take the stage.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s challenging year continued when he went to the garage early with a mechanical problem. It also was a rough night for Bubba Wallace, who spun early in the race coming out of Turn 4 and then plowed into Matt Kenseth when he spun in the middle of the same turn early in the final stage.