Hamlin Leads Late, But Comes Up Short In Las Vegas Interstate Batteries Driver Finishes Solid Second in Sam's Town 300 Denny Hamlin drove his No. 20 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry to the lead late in Saturday's Sam's Town 300 NASCAR...
Hamlin Leads Late, But Comes Up Short In Las Vegas
Interstate Batteries Driver Finishes Solid Second in Sam's Town 300
Denny Hamlin drove his No. 20 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry to the lead late in Saturday's Sam's Town 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but the Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) driver was passed by Kevin Harvick on a restart with 25 laps to go and had to settle for second.
"We gave it all we had," said Hamlin, who has finished 12th or better in four of his five career Nationwide Series starts at Las Vegas. "We just couldn't get him (Harvick) at the end. We had a good Interstate Batteries Toyota and I know Norm (Miller, chairman of Interstate Batteries) was watching. I wish we could've got the win."
Hamlin started fourth in the 200-lap race and had a solid car in an event that was delayed nearly two hours due to rain and was run in windy and cold conditions. Despite battling a tight handling condition for much of the first 150 laps, Hamlin managed to stay in the top-10 for all but a handful of circuits around the 1.5-mile oval.
During a caution on lap 146, Hamlin made his final pit stop of the day whereupon crew chief Kevin Kidd called for just two tires and a track bar adjustment. The strategy worked as Hamlin exited pit road first as most of his competitors opted for four tires and a lengthier stay.
Hamlin led the next 29 laps and appeared to be on his way to victory before a caution came out on lap 170 for an accident involving James Buescher and Tony Raines.
Harvick was in second and lined up next to Hamlin for the lap-175 restart, which both drivers knew could ultimately decide the race.
Despite Hamlin's best efforts, Harvick was able to get past him and then cruised to a 1.316-second margin of victory as the race went green for the final 25 laps.
"Those four tires got us there at the end," Hamlin said. "Congratulations to this entire Interstate Batteries team for putting a good car under me. We didn't have the best car all day. I felt like we had the best car at the beginning of the race, but we didn't have the track position to go with it. Once we had the track position it took off, but then those new tires got us at the end.
"I tried to drive in as hard as I could, but I wasn't risking tearing this Interstate Batteries car up. We never got on the same cycle as those guys. Kevin had a good car for most of the day. We fought track position. As soon as we'd get to someone, we'd just get aero-tight. Overall, it was a good day. I started running back to them there at the end. We have something to at least build on."
Hamlin's JGR teammate, Kyle Busch, finished 16th.
The victory was the 35th of Harvick's Nationwide Series career, his first of the season and his second at Las Vegas, as he also won in March 2004.
Finishing third behind Hamlin was Carl Edwards, while Brad Keselowski and Brian Vickers rounded out the top-five. Trevor Bayne, Justin Allgaier, Paul Menard, Greg Biffle and Steven Wallace comprised the rest of the top-10.
The race featured eight caution periods for 39 laps, with 14 drivers failing to finish the 300-mile race.
While Hamlin is not running the full Nationwide Series schedule, the No. 20 Toyota is competing for the owner's title, and it is second in points after round three of 35, just 16 points back of the No. 60 car from Roush Fenway Racing. JGR has won the past two Nationwide Series owner's championships.