For Denny Hamlin, visiting victory lane was worth the wait. A day after the scheduled start of the Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Speedway, Hamlin took advantage of a dominant car and cruised to his first win of the season.
Hamlin started sixth and led most of the first half of the race but he dropped back in the field during mid-race pit stops. He worked his way back towards the front near the end of the race and jumped up to second on a restart on lap 188. Hamlin took the lead from Clint Bowyer with 10 laps to go and pulled away from the field in the closing laps for his third career win here.
"We've come close in a lot of races this year but came up short," said an emotional Hamlin, who lost his grandmother late last week. "We definitely had some angels with us today."
Juan Pablo Montoya trailed Hamlin near the end of the race but couldn't get close enough to challenge for the win. One week after looking like he could have won at Indianapolis, Montoya picked up his first top five finish of the season.
"To get ground back, it's so hard to pass people (here)," Montoya said. "We had a great strategy and we had good fuel mileage."
Bowyer held on for a third place finish and moved up one position to 15th in the championship standings.
"We were good, we just kept losing track position," Bowyer said. "I felt like we had a lot better car, but that's what we needed. We need these top fives to try to get back into the Chase."
Sam Hornish Jr. finished fourth for his best ever finish in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
"We didn't have a good car all day," Hornish said. "We were pretty good to start off the race but then got really loose during the middle portion. We kind of ran out of things to try. We got some track position and were able to hold on. We took a car that was probably a 15th place car and at the end and got us up to fourth."
Kasey Kahne was strong all day and finished fifth.
"Denny - he was the car to beat all day," Kahne said. "The guys did a good job. We just have to keep working and we should stay in the hunt. I thought we had a shot at winning but Hamlin was the quickest."
Points leader Tony Stewart inherited the pole when qualifying was rained out on Friday but he crashed his primary car in practice and had to start at the back of the field after switching to a backup car. His car looked awful early in the race and his team made dramatic changes to the set-up. He took advantage of a better handling car and worked his way up to a 10th place finish.
Jimmie Johnson started on the front row but had to make some changes on pit road at the midway point of the race and dropped back three laps behind the leaders. He worked his way back onto the lead lap and starting making up ground on the leaders in the closing laps.
"I assume it was a spark plug issue," said Johnson, who rallied for a 13th place finish. "That's the last thing we started changing and then the car started running better. I'm just so proud of the fight that this race team has. For us to come back from three laps down and salvage a 13th place finish means a lot to me."
Kyle Busch moved to within 101 points of Greg Biffle for the 12th place in the standings with five races to go before the Chase for the Championship.