|Big win for Kahne|
The best team doesn’t always win, nor the fastest race car.
Denny Hamlin was clearly the class of the field in Sunday’s 20th annual Lennox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. But miscommunication between Hamlin and crew chief Darian Grubb on a late-race pit stop allowed Kasey Kahne to claim a critical win at “The Magic Mile.”
A misunderstanding between Hamlin and Grubb prompted the No. 11 Fed Ex Toyota team to change four tires on their final pit stop, rather than two. Hamlin restarted near the end of the lead-lap cars on a track where track position has always been paramount. He slashed his way back through the field, but simply ran out of time and laps to overhaul Hamlin. Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Brad Keselowski completed the Top-5, followed by Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle and Ryan Newman.
“We had a little miscommunication, and that one mistake cost us the race today,” said Hamlin afterward, trying to put a positive spin on the one that got away. “We didn’t get the trophy and we missed out on three (bonus) points, but that was it. When we come back again in September, we will be pretty strong.”
|Costly miscue for Hamlin, Grubb|
Kahne’s second victory of 2012 places him in position to claim the first Wild Card berth in the upcoming Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup; now just seven races away.
“My luck changed today,” said a smiling Kahne in Victory Lane. “I will take them any way I can. It feels good to finish one off.”
Sunday’s race was a good one for Hendrick Motorsports. Led by Kahne, HMS drivers Earnhardt (fourth), Gordon (sixth) and Johnson (seventh) all cracked the Top-10. For Gordon, however, the day did nothing to bolster his bid for a spot in this year’s Chase. The four-time series champion remains a distant 17th in championship points, an insurmountable 89 points behind tenth-place Keselowski. With a maximum of 48 points available per race, Gordon’s hopes for a playoff berth lie entirely in his ability two win two (or preferably three) of the next seven races; a lofty goal for a team that has just two Top-5 finishes this season.
Carl Edwards is also in need of a miracle, after recording a lackluster, 18th-place finish in New Hampshire. The Roush Fenway Racing driver lost last year’s championship to Tony Stewart on a tiebreaker, but is now a whopping 46 points out of the Top-10. Worse, he remains winless on the season and trails Kahne, Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman and Joey Logano for a Wild Card berth.
For both Edwards and Gordon, nothing short of multiple wins in the next few weeks will do.
Photo Credits: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images, Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR