Denny Hamlin continued his march toward a potential Championship 4 appearance with his fifth win of the season Sunday afternoon at Kansas Speedway.
It came in dramatic fashion as Hamlin had to survive two overtime restarts. Just barely making it to the white flag in the first overtime when a crash occurred off Turn 4, Hamlin led the field again for the second attempt and this time raced his way back to the checkered flag ahead of Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch.
Hamlin led a race-high 153 laps after taking control in the second half of the Hollywood Casino 400. Taking the lead with 34 laps to win Stage 2, Hamlin won the stage and then continued to flex his muscle. The victory is his second at Kansas Speedway and the 36th of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career.
“This is a great feeling,” said Hamlin during his frontstretch interview. “That car was awesome to dominate that whole second half. I have to thank everyone who pushed me there on the restarts — it was Kyle (Busch), the 19 (Martin Truex Jr.), and the 9 (Chase Elliott) there at the end.
“Hey, I’m just really happy for this whole FedEx team; this has been great. Been running really good. Cannot wait to get to Martinsville.”
Kurt Busch finished fourth and William Byron fifth. Rounding out the top 10 were Martin Truex Jr., Erik Jones, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, and Jimmie Johnson.
After the second stage, both Hamlin and Truex had clinched their spots in the next round of the playoffs.
It was the final two cautions that changed the complexion of the postseason and who advanced. The caution to set up the first overtime attempt included Joey Logano, who was able to put fresh tires on under yellow and get back on track. Logano, who scored stage points in both stages including winning Stage 1, finished 17th and advanced.
However, ending up behind Logano on the playoff grid was teammate Brad Keselowski who took the wave around to get back on the lead lap under the caution that set up the first overtime. When the caution came out again, Keselowski pitted for fresh tires to make a run toward advancing, but finished 19th at the end of the second overtime and missed the transfer spot by three points.
As former champion Keselowski faltered, Elliott’s run into the top three pushed him into the Round of 8. He is the only remaining Hendrick Motorsports car in the playoffs.
Also failing to advance were William Byron, Clint Bowyer, and Alex Bowman. All three found themselves needing to win the race to advance.
Pole-sitter Daniel Hemric did lead the race early on. Other leaders included Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr. In all, there were 12 leaders with 15 lead changes and seven caution flags.
The Round of 8 begins next weekend at Martinsville Speedway.