Sunday, March 4, 2012

Hamlin Hangs on to Win at Phoenix, Takes Points lead

NASCAR Wire Service

Denny Hamlin captured his first Phoenix win and 18th overall (Getty)
AVONDALE, Ariz. -- At the race track that dashed his championship hopes in 2010, Denny Hamlin found redemption in Sunday's Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

In his second race with 2011 Sprint Cup championship crew chief Darian Grubb on his pit box, Hamlin held off Kevin Harvick in a 53-lap green-flag run to finish the 312-lap race at the one-mile track. Hamlin took over the series points lead for the first time since surrendering it in the final race of 2010 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Harvick lost fuel pressure with fewer than two laps left but had enough to retain the second position, 7.315 seconds behind the race winner.

Greg Biffle came home third, followed by Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski. Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Jeff Gordon, pole-sitter Mark Martin and Joey Logano completed the top 10.

Hamlin surged into the lead after a restart on Lap 254, passing Harvick and pulling away. Ryan Newman's hard contact with the Turn 4 wall two laps later caused the seventh caution of the afternoon, but Hamlin again stretched his advantage over Harvick after a restart on Lap 260 and held on the rest of the way.

Post-Race Notes
• Denny Hamlin earned his 18th career victory in his 225th start.
• This is Denny Hamlin's first career victory at Phoenix in his 14th start. He finished third four times before winning.
• Denny Hamlin is the 23rd different driver to win at Phoenix in 32 races at the track.
• Joe Gibbs Racing earned its 94th Cup victory and second win at Phoenix. All three JGR cars finished in the top 10.
• Toyota earned its second win at Phoenix -- both coming on the track's new configuration.
• Kevin Harvick (second) scored his second top-10 finish in 2012. He finished seventh at Daytona.
• Greg Biffle (third) earned his second third-place finish in two races in 2012.
• Jimmie Johnson (fourth) has finished in the top five in 11 of the past 12 races at Phoenix. He has never finished worse than 15th in his 18 races.
• Brad Keselowski (fifth) earned his best finish and first top-10 in six races at Phoenix.
• Kyle Busch (sixth) scored his first top-10 finish in his past six Cup starts.
• Martin Truex Jr (seventh) has finished 12th or better in six of his past seven Cup starts.
• There were a record 15 different leaders in this race breaking the old track record of 13.
• This is the 198th victory for the No. 11, tying the No. 43 for the most in NASCAR history.

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