HAMLIN HAS SUFFICIENT SPEED AND FUEL AT END TO STOP HARVICK IN SUBWAY FRESH FIT 500
Denny Hamlin, a new resident of the Valley of the Sun, had just enough fuel in his FedEx Office Toyota to make it to the checkered flag in first place in Sunday's SUBWAY Fresh Fit 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Phoenix International Raceway.
Kevin Harvick, nearly on Hamlin's back bumper, ran out of fuel with slightly more than a lap to go but coasted home in second place. Greg Biffle finished third, Jimmie Johnson fourth, and Brad Keselowski fifth.
The win in some manner redeemed Hamlin's heartbreak of November 2010, when he had to abandon the lead in the Kobalt Tools 500 at PIR to take fuel late in the race. His 12th place finish that afternoon damaged his shot at winning that season's Sprint Cup championship.
"This is a bittersweet track (for me)," said Hamlin. "This is not really my type of race track; a new surface is not my forte.
"It (now) feels like 2010 when I started winning at tracks we weren't expect to win at," said the new series points leader after two events in 2012.
Johnson dominated a big portion of the middle of Sunday's race, building a lead of nearly four seconds over Kyle Busch before a wreck among A.J. Allendinger, Paul Menard, and Jamie McMurray brought out the yellow flag. A loose lugnut forced Johnson to pit twice during that caution period that came 22 laps before halfway. The Lowe's/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet never again was scored higher than Johnson's fourth place finish.
Most of the other leaders at the time stayed on the track. Not choosing to pit, Kyle Busch took over the front in his M&Ms Brown Toyota, and he soon was scored the mid-race leader.
Busch had his hands full, however, and Harvick and pole-sitter Mark Martin both passed him on lap 169. Green-flag pit stops starting on lap 181 shuffled the field with Martin Truax, Jr., and McMurray remaining as the last holdouts still on the track in the top two spots through lap 208. McMurray, after successful repairs to his car after the previous accident, was the leader when he came to pit road on circuit 208, but soon blew his engine.
Meanwhile, Harvick regained the lead after the green-flag stops and motored to nearly a five-second edge. Fluid on the track in turn 3 on lap 248 brought out the sixth caution. On the restart on lap 254, Hamlin jumped to the lead by powering fast on the outside of Harvick coming off turn 2.
Hamlin held off an aggressive attempt for the lead by Keselowski on a lap 261 restart, and Keselowski washed up the track off turn 3 to fall to sixth. From that point on, Hamlin enjoyed clean air at the front of the field, and any chance Harvick had of winning died when his fuel ran out.
Optimistic Hamlin, along with new crew chief Darian Grubb, already were looking forward to this season's next to last race when the series returns to PIR for the November 9-11 weekend. Fans also looking ahead to thrilling racing may purchase tickets now on-line at www.phoenixinternationalraceway.com.