NASCAR & Auto Racing

Fast stop helps Hamlin collect Saturday's win

KANSAS CITY, Kansas - Denny Hamlin finished what Kevin Harvick couldn't Saturday to win the Kansas Lottery 300 in the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Kansas Speedway.

Harvick started first and led 88 of the first 93 laps. But Hamlin beat Harvick's car off pit road and took complete control. Harvick later had a problem with the alternator in his car just past the halfway mark and had to rally to finish 13th.

Hamlin wound up having to hold off Nationwide Series points leader Clint Bowyer at the end of the race, winning by 1.4 seconds to give Joe Gibbs Racing the remarkable total of 17 victories in the secondary series this year.

"Since we took the magnets off the gas pedal we can really push the accelerator down now," Hamlin joked after his fourth Nationwide Series win this year.

That was in reference to an incident after a race at Michigan last month. Magnets were placed under the accelerators in two of the Gibbs-owned Nationwide cars in an attempt to alter the results of a NASCAR dynamometer test following a rules change aimed at trimming horsepower from Toyota engines.

Two crew chiefs, including Jason Ratcliff of the No. 18 team for which Hamlin drove Saturday, drew indefinite suspensions from NASCAR that the Gibbs team decided would last at least the rest of this year.

But it hasn't appeared to matter much. Kyle Busch won last week at Dover in the No. 18 and then Hamlin backed that up here.

"I've never seen a team get penalized for doing such hard work," Hamlin said after his victory clinched the manufacturer title for Toyota in the Nationwide Series. "It's just the details of our team that are making us so strong."

Hamlin's chief obstacle once Harvick had dropped back was a restart on Lap 165 on which he found himself behind several cars trapped on the end of the lead lap. It was difficult for even a car as strong as Hamlin's to clear that traffic without clean air on its nose.

"With the spacer on these cars it's hard for anybody to get a run and pass you," Hamlin said. "I knew if I got in front of Harvick he'd have to be significantly faster to get by us."

The same held true for Bowyer, and while he closed on Hamlin near the end of the race he could never mount a serious challenge. The Kansas native had to settle for a runner-up finish that leaves him 196 points ahead of Missourian Carl Edwards atop the Nationwide Series standings.

"We just need to keep knocking on the door," said Bowyer, who now has finished in the top five three times in the Nationwide Series and once in Sprint Cup without winning at his home track. "We keep getting closer. It would have been a heck of a party if we had won."

David Ragan finished third with Edwards and Matt Kenseth rounding out the top five. Busch, who has eight Nationwide wins this year, finished 35th Saturday after getting drilled by Mike Bliss as Busch was trying to come back to pit road to fix a missing lug nut.

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