Denny Hamlin overcame an early spin that put him a lap down and charged into the lead on the final restart to win Sunday’s MyAFibRisk.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.
Hamlin, driving with a torn ACL in his right knee, advances to the second round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Carl Edwards, who overcame a speeding penalty, finished second and was followed by Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth. Hamlin’s victory marked the eighth in the last 10 races for JGR.
Reigning champion Kevin Harvick crashed shortly after contact with Jimmie Johnson on a restart and lost more than 50 laps while his crew made repairs in the garage. He finished 42nd and all but needs to win one of the next two races to advance to the second round. Afterward, Harvick struck Johnson in the motorhome lot after Johnson went to discuss their incident.
The key moment for the win came on a debris caution with nine laps left. Busch was in front but didn’t pit, leading him to say on the radio after several others stopped: “I can’t believe we stayed out.”
Busch was one of three drivers not to pit. The others were Jeff Gordon and Hamlin. Gordon faded on the restart and finished 14th. Hamlin charged into the lead and was not challenged for his second win of the year.
HOW DENNY HAMLIN WON: While the focus will be on crew chief Dave Rogers’ decision not to pit Hamlin on the final caution, allowing Hamlin to restart third, what happened earlier in the race should not be overlooked. Hamlin fell a lap down after he spun on the second lap after hitting AJ Allmendinger’s, causing the No. 47 to spin in front of him. What followed was the longest stretch of green-flag racing all season and Hamlin managed to stay only one lap behind. He got that back when he didn’t pit during a caution on Lap 131. Hamlin then got to pit under caution when Kevin Harvick crashed to bring out the caution on Lap 139 after contact with Jimmie Johnson. That put Hamlin back even with the leaders and gave him the chance to win.
CHASE DRIVERS WHO HAD A GOOD DAY: Carl Edwards overcame a speeding penalty – his fifth of the season – and running out of fuel as he came down for a pit stop on another occasion to finish second. … Where have we seen this before? Ryan Newman scored a fourth-place finish, putting himself in a good spot to advance to the second round after not running in the top five most of the day. … Kurt Busch’s third-place finish was his best result since placing second at Sonoma in June.
CHASE DRIVERS WHO HAD A BAD DAY: The Chase took a dramatic turn when Kevin Harvick crashed just past halfway. He hit the wall after a left-rear tire blew. That came a few laps after contact with Jimmie Johnson on the restart. Harvick finished 42nd. … Clint Bowyer was never a factor and finished 19th, placing ahead of only Harvick among Chase drivers. … Kyle Busch led a race-high 121 laps but fell back late and finished ninth – a bad day considering where he spent much of the day.
NOTABLE: NASCAR’s restart policy – which officials reminded drivers of before the race – was tested when Jeff Gordon took the lead from Kyle Busch on a Lap 145 restart. NASCAR announced it was reviewing the restart but decided no infraction had been committed. No other restart was reviewed Sunday. … Kyle Larson was the highest-finishing non-Chase driver, placing seventh. … Aric Almirola was the only other non-Chase driver to place in the top 10, finishing 10th.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I just held my ground and he slammed into the side of the door like I wasn’t even there,” Kevin Harvick on the incident with Jimmie Johnson that led to Harvick crashing. They later met in the motorhome lot and Harvick struck Johnson.
NEXT: The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races Sept. 27 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the second race of the Chase.