Hamlin paces the field to Pocono victory

Denny Hamlin's success at Pocono Raceway is bordering on the ridiculous.

Hamlin passed Sam Hornish Jr. for the lead with 12 laps to go and then held off the pack in a green-white-checkered finish to win the Gillette Fusion ProGlide 500 at Pocono on Sunday. It was his fourth win in nine races here including a sweep of both events as a rookie in 2006.

Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
Photo by Action Sports Photography.

"We just flat drove through those guys," said Hamlin, who leads all drivers with four wins this season. "It was similar to what our win here last year - it was just a great car. The best (the car) was all day was in that last run."

Hamlin started fifth and took the lead for the first time on lap 17. He led a race-high 88 laps in the win.

"We had a good run," Hamlin said. "We knew right from the get-go on the first run that we had a good car. Our car stayed pretty consistent and we just conserved for most of the day. I wrote it on the dash because I knew I'd need to use it up at the end. There's always a wrench that gets thrown in at the end of the day."

The race was delayed by more than 90 minutes by rain and then officials needed to patch a hole at the end of pit road that was opened up by a jet dryer.

Kyle Busch led the field to the green flag in his 200th career Sprint Cup Series start and led the first 16 laps. He finished second behind his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate.

"It wasn't too bad - we had to come back and battle back through some of the cars that took fuel before us," Busch said. "It was a great car by (crew chief) Dave Rogers and the whole team. We just bid our time the whole day. We just kind of rode around out there and tried to make some good adjustments and try to keep up with the track.

"But we couldn't keep up with the 11 (Hamlin) - that's hard to do. To come home with a second place finish to our teammate - that's pretty cool."

Tony Stewart finished third and point's leader Kevin Harvick finished fourth and held on to a 19 point lead over Busch but created some fireworks when he got into Joey Logano just before the white flag came out.

"It was just racing," said Harvick, who led five laps midway through the race for the first time in his career at Pocono. "I got in there and thought I held a straight line and he wound up coming down. I hate that it happened."

Logano used a similar car set-up to Hamlin's and was making a bid to put all three Gibbs cars in the top five before he got together with Harvick to set up the green-white-checkered finish. An incensed Logano stopped his car next to Harvick's on pit road after the race to confront Harvick about the incident.

"It's disappointing," Logano said. "We had a top five run going and for us that was going to be awesome and we were pretty pumped up about it. He let me go in the middle of the straightaway and decided to dump me on the next turn. I don't know what his problem is with me."

Jimmie Johnson started 25th but made a late charge to finish fifth.

"It was a great effort," said Johnson, who was also in Watkins Glen this weekend competing in the Grand Am series. "We had a great race car. I really tried hard not to be uncomfortable and take any unneeded risk. It was the right call. I'm very proud of the effort and it was nice to get a top five today."

Several cars got caught up in an incident on the final lap of the race. Kasey Kahne was forced into the grass and then came back up the track and nearly vaulted over the wall on the back stretch.

Jeff Burton finished seventh while Clint Bowyer led 59 laps during the race and finished ninth to put all three Richard Childress Racing entries into the top 10.

Hornish led 16 laps after leading just seven laps in his entire Sprint Cup career coming into today's race. He finished a season-best 11th.