Denny Hamlin believes his team can win on any given weekend, and he did so for the fifth time this season on Thursday night at Kansas Speedway.
With 13 laps to go, Hamlin motored around the outside lane in Turns 1 and 2 to get a run on Kevin Harvick going down the backstretch. Hamlin then cleared Harvick off Turn 4, and set sail for his third win at Kansas and the 42nd of his NASCAR Cup Series career.
“I don’t know that we had the best car, we definitely had a top-three car all day,” said Hamlin. “(I) just went and got it there at the end. I saw the 4 [Kevin Harvick] get loose and usually when you’re loose, you’re not able to run up high. That was a benefit for us to be able to get that momentum going.
“The pit crew did an amazing job getting us out there ahead of everyone else that had four tires – proud of this whole team. We’ve had a rough three weeks. We were leading at Indy when we blew a tire, and this team is really hitting on all cylinders right now.”
Brad Keselowski took the second spot from Harvick with nine laps to go, but never got within striking distance of Hamlin. Martin Truex Jr. took the third spot in the final rundown.
Before losing the lead, Harvick reported he was “sideways” in his No. 4 Ford Mustang. With a loose race car, he faded to a fourth-place finish after taking the lead off the race’s final restart with 22 laps to go. Harvick restarted third on the inside lane but jumped to the outside in Turn 1 to steal the top spot from Alex Bowman.
Erik Jones completed the top five. Aric Almirola finished sixth, with the rest of the top 10 being Cole Custer, Bowman, Kurt Busch, and William Byron.
Kyle Busch won the first stage, earning his first playoff point of the season, but finished 11th after hitting the wall and having to pit under green on lap 227. Busch fell a lap down because of the unscheduled pit stop and later took the wave around to rejoin the leaders.
“I thought Denny and I were probably pretty close to equal the second half of the night,” said Keselowski, who won the second stage. “It was just a matter of who got out in front. We didn’t get out in front on the restarts there, and he was able to take advantage and bring home the win. All in all, it was still a really good day.”
A spin by rookie John Hunter Nemechek set up the final green-flag run to the finish. Hendrick Motorsports teammates Bowman and Byron restarted on the front row, but Byron faded on the outside lane, allowing Harvick to jump and challenge Bowman, while Hamlin went to the bottom to grab the second spot.
Hamlin led a race-high 57 laps. Keselowski led 30 laps, and Truex led 44.
There were 21 lead changes among nine drivers and 11 caution flags in the 267-lap race.
“We can win any given week and that’s something that is really hard to come by,” said Hamlin. “This team is good at short tracks, intermediates, superspeedways. I have to thank all of our partners at JGR. They’ve done a great job at building us fast cars.”