Hamlin Enjoys the Sunshine at Kansas
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Denny Hamlin drove to victory in Sunday's STP 400 holding off Martin Truex Jr. the final 30 laps. The win is Hamlin's second of the season, his first at the 1.5-mile Kansas track, and the 19th of his career.
Jimmie Johnson took third, followed closely by Roush Fenway Racing drivers Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle. Truex moved into second place in the Sprint Cup Series standings behind Biffle, who leads by 15 points.
A late cycle of green-flag pit stops put all the contenders on the same sequence. Then, for the first time all day, the sun broke through, changing the track dynamics and the whole complexion of the race.
Before the sun came out, Truex had dominated the race, leading 173 laps. The shifting track conditions changed the handling on Truex's Toyota to "wrecking loose." Hamlin got past Truex for the lead on Lap 237 and began to drive away with Jimmie Johnson pursuing from the third position.
To Hamlin, the sunlight was a welcome game-changer.
"We just needed some kind of change — weather or adjustments or something to get where he was at — and we kind of got both of them. In overcast conditions, the cars run a little bit tighter, the grip level's higher in the race car, and it's more of a track-position type race. When the sun's out, the drivers, in my opinion, are more prominent," Hamlin said.
"You move around, find the grip, do things in the car to make up for what you don't have. The slicker the conditions are, the better it tends to be for our race team. Luckily, we had that run in sunshine."
When clouds returned to cover the track again, Truex found handling and began to close on Hamlin. Truex tried racing beneath Hamlin in Turn 3 twice in the final three laps but couldn't get the job done.Continued on the next page