Denny Hamlin spins and then wins at Chicagoland

Denny Hamlin came back from an early spin to punch his ticket into the second round of the Chase.

What could have turned into a disastrous Chase for the Sprint Cup opener, evolved into a victory for Denny Hamlin on Sunday.

Although Hamlin started 29th and spun on Lap 2 as he slowed to avoid AJ Allmendinger, the No. 11 Fed Ex team came from 42nd-place and a lap down to win at Chicagoland Speedway. 

With the victory — his second of the season — Hamlin transfers to the Contender round of the Chase. 

An impressive comeback

“This is unbelievable,” Hamlin said. “Our Camry was so fast today. I told them when they changed it – they changed it to FedEx Ground just for this race because we needed consistency and reliability and that’s what FedEx Ground is and that’s what we were today.

“Coming back from a lap down – we had a fast car. We were running under green over and over and over and I thought we would never get back on the lead lap. Thanks to all of our partners at JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) for building a fast race car. Everyone that helps support this. Can’t thank Sprint and the fans enough – this was a great race to start the Chase.”

Hamlin was running 24th when the second caution ignited on Lap 123 and enabled the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing team to take the wave around and return to the lead circuit for the Lap 129 restart. Two laps later, Austin Dillon plowed into the Turn 2 wall to bring out the third caution which allowed Hamlin to pit and restart 15th. 

Harvick vs. Johnson

But on that restart, Jimmie Johnson dove low and made contact with Kevin Harvick entering Turn 1. Harvick, who was the control car and had led twice for 10 laps prior to the restart, noticed smoke from his tire and plowed into the Turn 3 wall four laps later. The defending Sprint Cup champion returned to the track on Lap 193, but finished 42nd and fell to 16th in the Chase standings.

After the race, things got physical between the two drivers when Harvick punched Johnson in the chest.

Hamlin restarted 11th following the fourth caution. He worked his way into the top five by the fifth caution on Lap 191 and took the lead for the first tim on Lap 240 during pit stops. After relinquishing the lead to pit, Hamlin cycled back into the top five with Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch battling out front. Kurt Busch had led 15 laps and built a four-second lead over the No. 24 car when NASCAR called the sixth and final caution on Lap 258 for debris. 

The winning call

Hamlin did not hear the directive in time to pit, so lined up behind Busch and Gordon as the other drivers on the lead lap came down pit road. On what Hamlin referred to as “a ballsy" move he passed Busch for the lead with his teammate Carl Edwards in tow. Although Edwards and Busch tangled initially, the No. 19 Toyota bested the No. 41 Chevy and Hamlin held the point for the final five laps.

“I’d been stuck so many times three-wide in the middle," Hamlin said. "The front cars almost have a disadvantage to the back cars the way it all plays out. We got a great restart and I just held it wide open through (turns) one and two and it stuck. We were able to get in that clean air and take off.”

Edwards' comeback was masterful as well. After speeding on pit road on Lap 52, he served a drive-thru penalty and dropped to 29th prior to recovering for a podium finish. 

"I didn't see in the front for a while, but looked like Kyle (Busch) was fast," Edwards said. "He had a really fast car there for a long time.  That gave us a lot of hope.  

"We knew if we maybe we get our lap back, get back up there, we'd be all right.  I had a speeding penalty.  I set us back there."

Ryan Newman, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Kyle Larson, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch and Aric Almirola rounded out the top 10 finishers in the myAFibRisk.com 400. 

For Hamlin, his 26th career victory tied him on the All-time win list with NASCAR Hall of Famer Fred Lorenzen, who attended the race on Sunday. He also moved into second in the point standings, two points behind teammate Kenseth. 

PosDriverTeamCarTimeLaps
1 Denny Hamlin  Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry 2:51:30.0 267
2 Carl Edwards  Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry +0.962 267
3 Kurt Busch  Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet SS   267
4 Ryan Newman  Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet SS   267
5 Matt Kenseth  Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry   267
6 Joey Logano  Team Penske Ford Fusion   267
7 Kyle Larson  Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet SS   267
8 Brad Keselowski  Team Penske Ford Fusion   267
9 Kyle Busch  Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry   267
10 Aric Almirola  Richard Petty Motorsports Ford Fusion   267
11 Jimmie Johnson  Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet SS   267
12 Dale Earnhardt Jr.  Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet SS   267
13 Martin Truex Jr.  Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet SS   267
14 Jeff Gordon  Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet SS   267
15 David Ragan  Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota Camry   267
16 Jamie McMurray  Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet SS +1 lap 266
17 Paul Menard  Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet SS +1 lap 266
18 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.  Roush Fenway Racing Chevrolet SS +2 laps 265
19 Clint Bowyer  Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota Camry +2 laps 265
20 Casey Mears  Germain Racing Chevrolet SS +2 laps 265
21 Greg Biffle  Roush Fenway Racing Ford Fusion +2 laps 265
22 Brian Scott  Circle Sport Chevrolet SS +2 laps 265
23 Justin Allgaier  HScott Motorsports Chevrolet SS +2 laps 265
24 Kasey Kahne  Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet SS +3 laps 264
25 Tony Stewart  Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet SS +3 laps 264
26 Danica Patrick  Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet SS +3 laps 264
27 Landon Cassill  Hillman Smith Motorsports Chevrolet SS +4 laps 263
28 Trevor Bayne  Roush Fenway Racing Ford Fusion +4 laps 263
29 Cole Whitt  Front Row Motorsports Ford Fusion +4 laps 263
30 Sam Hornish Jr.  Richard Petty Motorsports Ford Fusion +5 laps 262
31 Brett Moffitt  Front Row Motorsports Ford Fusion +5 laps 262
32 David Gilliland  Front Row Motorsports Ford Fusion +5 laps 262
33 Josh Wise  Go FAS Racing Ford Fusion +6 laps 261
34 Michael Annett  HScott Motorsports Chevrolet SS +6 laps 261
35 J.J. Yeley  BK Racing Toyota Camry +6 laps 261
36 A.J. Allmendinger  JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet SS +7 laps 260
37 Alex Bowman  Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet SS +8 laps 259
38 Jeb Burton  BK Racing Toyota Camry +8 laps 259
39 Matt DiBenedetto  BK Racing Toyota Camry +9 laps 258
40 Reed Sorenson  Phil Parsons Racing Ford Fusion +9 laps 258
41 Timmy Hill  Premium Motorsports Chevrolet SS +12 laps 255
42 Kevin Harvick  Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet SS +58 laps 209
43 Austin Dillon  Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet SS +69 laps 198

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Event Chicagoland
Sub-event Sunday race
Track Chicagoland Speedway
Article type Race report