Hamlin pull away late to win NASCAR race at Pocono Raceway
LONG POND, Pa. (AP) — Denny Hamlin had enough fuel in the No. 11 Toyota to pull away off the final restart in an overtime finish Sunday for his fifth victory at Pocono Raceway.
Hamlin raced to his third victory of the season and 34th overall in NACAR Cup Series race, giving Joe Gibbs Racing its 11th win in 21 races this season.
Hamlin held off teammates Erik Jones, who needed a win to secure a spot in the playoffs, and Martin Truex Jr. to secure the victory that eluded him last week at New Hampshire.
With the leaders running low on fuel, Hamlin had enough left to get a good jump off two late restarts that made the difference.
“I was really worried,” Hamlin said. “We just did a great job with the car.”
Hamlin seemingly had the race won in regulation when he took the lead off a restart with four laps to go after Kurt Busch slammed into the wall to bring out another caution. Hamlin, Jones and Truex made it a 1-2-3 running order for JGR as the race headed into OT. That’s the way it shook out after three extra laps.
Hamlin swept Pocono as a rookie in 2004 and won two straight races over the 2009 and 2010 seasons, but often struggled in recent seasons to seriously compete for a win on the tri-oval track.
In Sunday, the Daytona 500 winner had the right combination and figured out how to conserve his gas to the very end.
“We’re running our best right now,” Hamlin said. “There’s no doubt about it.”
William Bryon was fourth, and Kyle Larson finished fifth.
Here’s what else happened at Pocono.
JOHNSON FOR THE WIN
Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson still hasn’t won a race since June 4, 2017, at Dover, but he did win the second stage of the Pocono race. Johnson won a stage from the first time this season and only the second in the three seasons since NASCAR implemented the manufactured breaks.
F FOR FAIL
Johnson, Austin Dillon, William Byron, Michael McDowell, Ryan Blaney, Chris Buescher, Corey LaJoie, Ross Chastain and Reed Sorenson all failed pre-race inspection and were dumped to the rear of the field.
Pocono held its final July race for the foreseeable future. The track has held two NASCAR Cup weekends since 1982, but will move to one race weekend next season. NASCAR will run two Cup races at Pocono on the same weekend, one Saturday and one Sunday, both expected to run around 350 miles.
Pocono fans raised their glasses on the 11th lap to toast the memory of Nick Harrison, a popular crew chief who died last weekend in his sleep after the Xfinity Series race. He was the crew chief of the No. 11 car.
The series shifts to Watkins Glen were Chase Elliott scored his first career Cup win last season. Elliott’s race at Pocono ended early because of a blown right tire that sent the No. 9 Chevrolet into the wall.
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