NASCAR Winners and Losers: Denny Hamlin Wins … and No One Cares, Thanks to Noah Gragson
I’m as ambivalent as they come when it comes to the ending of the NASCAR Cup Series AdventHeath 400 at Kansas Speedway. Denny Hamlin probably didn’t need to help Kyle Larson into the wall to win, but it’s understandable that he wasn’t going to take any chances.
That being said, Hamlin will have two tasks on Monday:
- Recording his Actions Detrimental podcast, which figures to generate its largest audience of the season.
- Buying a box of No. 2 pencils. After all, there’s a lot of paperwork involved in renouncing everything he’s ever said about the way Ross Chastain races people.
Denny Hamlin stalking Kyle Larson was compelling viewing
The hunt was on from the moment Denny Hamlin passed William Byron on Lap 241 of the scheduled 267, putting him in second place and 1.3 seconds behind Kyle Larson. The rest of the day was a two-man race, and it came down to negotiating lapped traffic and wondering if there was enough left on the No. 5 Chevy’s tires to complete the job.
In the end, Larson couldn’t maintain the gap. The No. 11 Toyota was on his tail with the white flag flying, and Hamlin tapped the left rear of the leader, putting Larson into the wall. Hamlin went on to victory, though Larson was able to save the car and finish second.
Hamlin and Larson both have their detractors. But there are some fans out there who do like Larson, so tempers flared on social media after the race. That ought to make Hamlin’s podcast on Monday a must-listen.
More winners from the Cup Series race at Kansas
William Byron – As captivating as Denny Hamlin vs. Kyle Larson was, the No. 24 Chevy was even more interesting on his way to third place. Byron started from the front row and almost immediately slipped off the pace by getting loose on Turn 2 of Lap 3. A speeding penalty followed on Lap 36, followed by a brush with the Turn 2 wall on Lap 70. By the time Stage 1 ended, he was two laps down. Still, he fought his way back and even took the lead on Lap 213. With one more set of tires, he could have pulled off the first Cup win from two laps down since Carl Edwards at the 2015 Southern 500.
Bubba Wallace – After a miserable opening two months of the season, Wallace is back on schedule. He ran near the front most of the day and matched his season best with a fourth-place showing. He’s finished in the top 12 in four of his last five races.
Martin Truex Jr. – Speaking of streaking, MTJ, who finished eighth, has the Dover victory and three other top-10 results in his last five finishes.
Noah Gragson – For a guy who finished five laps down, he made fans forget Hamlin captured the checkered flag. Kurt Busch said before the race that a veteran needed to steer Ross Chastain in the right direction, but the brash rookie wasn’t going to wait for some old guy to inform the driver of the No. 1 Chevy that enough is enough. Darlington races are usually fun, and the Goodyear 400 just got a whole lot more interesting.
The day’s losers
Lead changes – Yes, the 37 lead changes set some sort of record for a 400-mile race on a 1.5-mile Cup Series oval, but that’s going to happen when you’re bunching up the pack with 11 cautions. The more important stats were the 57 laps run under cautions and an average green-flag run of just 17.5 laps.
Kyle Busch – The No. 8 Chevy crashed on the restart after Christopher Bell’s Lap 159 spin, sending Busch home in 35th place. His average finish the past five weeks is 27.5 … and that’s despite winning at Talladega and starting from the pole at Dover.
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