Sunday, April 22, 2012

Gibbs Garage: The sun shines on Denny Hamlin at Kansas Speedway

Denny Hamlin celebrates in Victory Lane at Kansas Speedway
Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images
If Denny Hamlin picked a theme song for this week’s Sprint Cup race, “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles would be a good tune. After a cloudy start to the race, the sun came out over Kansas Speedway with 31 laps to go, and Hamlin blazed by Martin Truex Jr. for the lead. Whether the warmer track conditions truly helped the No. 11 or hindered the No. 56 is anybody’s guess, but it sparked a heated competition between the two cars.

Hamlin started the STP 400 in fourth position and ran in the top five all afternoon. With about 100 laps to go, Hamlin was running third behind Martin Truex, Jr. and Jimmie Johnson as they battled for the lead. The No. 11 was in second spot going into the last pit stop where the speedy crew gained them a second of time on pit road. Shortly thereafter Hamlin took the lead. For the last ten laps, Truex Jr. charged forward, diving low on the race track twice in attempts to pass. Hamlin held him off and took the checkered flag for his first win at Kansas Speedway.

The No. 11 crew during a pit stop
Photo by Boris at 
Praising his crew in Victory Lane, Hamlin said, “Great day for our race team. The pit crew did amazing there on that green flag pit stop. Darian made the great call to bring me in a lap early. Just a great team effort today.”
Kyle Busch's No. 18 M&M's Toyota
Photo by Boris at
Kyle Busch hoped to win at Kansas before the repave, like he did at Michigan. Although the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota was one of the fastest cars in practice, it qualified 25th. When the green flag dropped, Busch drove forward at a steady pace, gaining 14 spots by Lap 90. He finished 10th for his third top 10 of the season and his second top 10 at Kansas.
“We fought hard all day with our M&M’s Camry,” Busch said. “All we had was about a 10th-place car, and that’s where we ended up. We just kept fighting tight all day.”

After qualifying third, Joey Logano had to go to the rear for an engine change. In a pre-race interview with MRN, Logano said he planned to start passing other cars right away and that’s exactly what he did. The No. 20 Home Depot Toyota went from 43rd to 28th in the first ten laps, a gain of 15 spots. After going a lap down around the halfway mark, Logano got the Lucky Dog on the third caution. He ended up 15th for his best Sprint Cup finish at Kansas.

Fans who follow Logano on twitter, take note that he changed his handle from @JLogano to @joeylogano. You can also follow Joey’s English bulldog puppy at @IslaTheBulldog. Joey and Isla did a photo shoot this week and will be featured in a future version of the Greg Biffle Foundation NASCAR Pets Calendar.

Each of the three JGR drivers moved up a position in the points standings this week. Current rankings are:

Denny Hamlin – 5th
Joey Logano – 12th
Kyle Busch – 13th

Beth Bence Reinke writes "Gibbs Garage," Joe Gibbs Racing Sprint Cup team recaps, for the 2012 season. Her Skirts and Scuffs column, “Faith on the Frontstretch,” explores the role of faith in motorsports. Beth is the author of RaceFans’ Devotions to Go, a devotional book geared toward female NASCAR fans. Follow her on Twitter at @bbreinke or reach her at


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