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Archive for Sunday, August 19, 2007

Hamlin cruises to Busch victory

Nextel Cup driver turns back challenge from Kenseth

August 19, 2007

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Denny Hamlin celebrates after winning the NASCAR Busch Series Carfax 250. Hamlin won the race Saturday in Brooklyn, Mich.

Denny Hamlin celebrates after winning the NASCAR Busch Series Carfax 250. Hamlin won the race Saturday in Brooklyn, Mich.

— Denny Hamlin fought off a midrace challenge from Matt Kenseth, then drove away for a dominating victory Saturday in the Carfax 250 NASCAR Busch Series race at Michigan International Speedway.

Hamlin, who also will race in today's 3M Performance 400 Nextel Cup event, picked up his second Busch win of the season and the fourth of his career. His victory gave Cup regulars 22 victories in 25 tries on the Busch circuit this season.

A crash in Friday's practice forced Hamlin's crew to scramble to get his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Chevrolet back in shape for racing. But it was ready for the start of the 125-lap race and so was Hamlin.

Kenseth swapped leads with him a couple of times before the 26-year-old took control, turning the race on Michigan's two-mile oval into a snoozer. Hamlin led four times for 69 laps, including the last 40 laps.

There were three caution flags, all during the first 36 laps, and Hamlin took advantage of the green flag racing the rest of the way. He steadily pulled away, beating Kenseth to the finish line by 6.988 seconds - the length of the front straightaway.

Mark Martin, who had just taken fourth place away from Greg Biffle, ran out of gas on the final lap and wound up 14th.

Hamlin saw that other drivers were trying to stretch their final load of gas, and he was so far in front on the last lap, he pulled a fast one on his crew chief, telling him, "Hey, we're running out of gas." Seconds later, with a stunned silence on the other end of the radio, Hamlin said, "Just kidding."

Later, the winner said, "We ran out (of gas) at Indy, and it wasn't so funny. This one, we could have coasted if we had run out."

He then praised his crew, saying, "I can't say enough for those guys for putting this car back in one piece. It was even better than it was before."

Kenseth was disappointed he couldn't stay with Hamlin.

"We were having a lot of fun and a heck of a battle with Denny in the middle of the race, going back and forth. But we just got a little too tight when it got overcast later in the race. I got a little behind on that (last) green flag pit stop and could never catch up."

Cup drivers took the top seven places, with Kevin Harvick, who had won the last two Busch races, third, followed by Jeff Burton, Biffle, Brian Vickers and Paul Menard. Todd Bodine in eighth was the top non-Cup finisher.

Runaway series leader Carl Edwards spun after being hit from behind by Reed Sorenson and wound up 28th, a lap behind the leaders.

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