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NASCAR Cup Kansas II

Hamlin admits he was too focused on Larson during final restart

A late-race caution cost Denny Hamlin another NASCAR Cup playoff victory but he still ended up celebrating a win – as a team owner.

As Sunday’s race at Kansas Speedway drew to a close, Hamlin was in solid command of the lead over Tyler Reddick, who drives for 23XI Racing, which Hamlin co-owns with NBA legend Michael Jordan.

Chris Buescher’s wreck with about six laps remaining sent the race into a two-lap overtime and with new tires such a big advantage, several teams took varying pit strategies.

Hamlin and Reddick both pit for four new tires, but Daniel Suarez stayed out. Three drivers – Erik Jones, Joey Logano and Kyle Busch – took only two new tires. That left four cars in front of Hamlin and Reddick.

On the restart, Reddick got a better start than Hamlin and took Jones and Logano three-wide off Turn 4 to grab the lead on the inside lane. He then deftly held off Hamlin on the final lap to secure the win.

“Yeah, certainly it stinks. It certainly flipped the results from first to second,” Hamlin said of late-race change of events. “But that’s part of racing, right; our sport is different than others.

“It is a sport of chance at times, and luck does play a factor, and we were unlucky to get that caution. We knew that there was going to be a handful of cars that was going to do the opposite of what we did.

“I think the right call was four tires.”

Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, Yahoo! Toyota Camry

Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, Yahoo! Toyota Camry

Photo by: David Rosenblum / NKP / Motorsport Images

Hamlin said he got held up on the restart by Kyle Larson.

“Well, [Larson] was just laying back so much. I was trying to back up to him,” he said. “Should have just kind of focused forward probably.

“It gave [Reddick] an opportunity to get up there in front of us. Just kind of sleeping on the restart, looking in the rear view instead of looking in the front.”

Still, Hamlin credited his driver for the stellar performance at the right time.

“It was a great job of executing,” he said of Reddick’s overtime run. “They executed the restart really, really well.

“It makes me happy that if it wasn't us, it was them. It’s still a decent day.”

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